Women are the largest under-utilized asset in the world. In Turkey, less than 9% of entrepreneurs are women. Turkey’s only women-focused investment platform, the Arya Women Investment Platform, wants to change this. Balkan Diskurs spoke to Ahu Serter, founder of the Arya Women Investment Platform, about the platform’s work, its ongoing projects and its future plans.
As a female entrepreneur and investor, Ahu Serter feels that female potential has been greatly overlooked for a long time. She decided to do something about it and, in turn, founded the Arya Women Investment Platform. Named after her youngest daughter, Arya, Ahu Serter started the platform in the beginning of 2014. The founding vision behind Arya was to bring successful women and men, particularly fathers of daughters, to invest in ambitious female entrepreneurs.
Further explaining her motivations for founding Arya, Serter says, “I have three daughters and I want to raise them as strong, independent women. When my youngest daughter, Arya, was born, I realized that doing what I could for my own family was not enough. I wanted to do something more to help ambitious women and to leave a true legacy to my daughters, something to remember their mother by and continue the work to help other ambitious women fulfill their dreams.”
As a businesswoman, Serter looks at every problem as a potential opportunity. “We saw that there was a huge gap between what women did, and what they actually could do. By creating a place where they can feel that they belong, we could build trust and provide women entrepreneurs with opportunities that they would not normally seek or receive. These entrepreneurs need access to investment, and people who see them as such,” she says. However, her goal was not only to invest in women, but also to inspire other women to become investors, since she believes that women make prudent investors and invest diligently in causes that matter to them.
The biggest challenge they meet in their work is the psychological barriers that some entrepreneurs set up in their mind. “That’s why building trust is so important for us. Because when women trust in something, they jump into it.” This is not only trust in the work or project, but also trust in each other. “Another challenge is to teach women to trust each other, to objectively assess their strengths and weaknesses and to bring on board people to do the tasks they are not so good at as well as to trust them further to do their job, to learn to be a team.” She explains that entrepreneurs at Arya rise as they lift up other entrepreneurs, focusing on providing support and collaborating before asking for favors. Beyond building these business networks, she emphasizes that the biggest reward is to see women thrive and have control of their own assets and their own lives.
Serter also points out that the positive returns from her platform are not just for the women being invested in. One of Arya’s goals is “to show the investors, women as well as men, that women are a great opportunity for investment, and, since it has been overlooked for such a long time, the first ones to realize this opportunity will assume great returns.” The great returns she is referring to are not only material capital, “When you invest in women, your returns are not only in monetary form. More importantly, by investing in women you also invest socially, which will benefit our society.” She adds, “Studies show that successful women end up spending more of their income on education and family before any other luxury goods.”
Serter emphasizes that there has been ever-growing support for the platform since its founding. “This support comes especially from the fathers of daughters. Most of our investors and supporters are my male colleagues who really appreciate what we are doing for women in Arya because they are smart enough to understand that a society without women would be an incomplete one.”
One of Arya’s annual activities is the ‘’Women Retreat’’ which combines leisure activities with interactive sessions that give participants a chance to connect, collaborate, meet potential investors and share their stories. Last year, the “Women Retreat” gathered 78 women and men from 11 countries around the world. Highlights from the Women Retreat 2016 can be seen in the video below. The Women Retreat 2017 will take place in Casa Dell’Arte in Bodrum, Turkey from 2 – 4 June 2017.
Since its inception, Arya has invested more than $500K in women-led business and interest in the platform is growing every day. This interest is not only coming from Turkey, but also from its neighboring countries. “We have received interest in starting Arya chapters from Georgia, Azerbaijan and Nigeria,” Serter told Balkan Diskurs.
“Our aim is to mobilize our second chapter in Georgia in 2017. Five years from now, we want to see Arya recognized as the strongest platform for up-and-coming female entrepreneurs in the Middle East and North Africa region. We see ourselves as strong female entrepreneurs in a challenging region and we want to make a change for our society by becoming the best examples of a creative economy.”