What do you do?

by Tara Agacayak on September 18, 2009

Person I Just Met: It’s nice to meet you.

Me: Me too.

PIJM: Since you’re American, do you give English lessons? My daughter is in fourth grade and she’s just started learning English in school but I want her to have private lessons.

Me: Oh, I would love to help you, but I’m so busy with work.

PIJM: Oh, where do you work?  What do you do?

Me: I work at home.

PIJM: Oh, so you’re a housewife?

Me: No, I work for myself, but my office is at home.

PIJM: Yeah right –  you’re a housewife.

Me: No, really. I got started selling pashminas from the Covered Bazaar on eBay. It was going really well, but something was missing, so I took a little detour to figure it out. That detour was women’s leadership training from the Global Women’s Leadership Network, and they introduced me to the idea of social entrepreneurship.

PIJM: Hmmm.

Me: With the idea that I could use business and commerce to improve my community and build a business for myself I set to work developing my website selling authentic Turkish handmade products.

PIJM: I see, so you’re a salesperson.

Me: Yes, but as the business-owner I also end up being accountant, designer, PR director, office manager, marketing director and community relations representative.

PIJM: Oh, but you basically just sell stuff that housewives have crafted.

Me: Well, yes and no. I like to source handmade products that are well-designed and well-crafted that have been inspired by authentic Turkish culture but that have been revamped for modern western tastes.

PIJM: I see. That’s cool. You must really enjoy that.

Me: I do! And with all the experience I earned, I started a little consulting company with my friend Figen Cakir. We work with creative people who want to build businesses our of their art and craftsmanship. We even sell some of their things to help raise money for a microcredit program.

PIJM: Really. Hmmm.

Me: Yes, we have developed some training seminars, we have a blog where we share resources, we source product, connect with experts and other things. In fact we’ve done a lot of work with a small artist collaborative in a local town where we live. Our objective is help them turn their skills and hobbies into viable businesses.

PIJM: That’s nice.

Me: In June we were hired to put together a tour of entrepreneurial women artisans in Istanbul to coincide with the inagural International WEL Summit. It was a great success and even made it into the newspaper. We worked really hard to make it happen and received such positive feedback that we decided to offer the tours on a continual basis.

PIJM: So you go to standard tourist places like Sultanahmet and the palaces, right?

Me: Just the opposite – we go where standard tours don’t go. We take our guests to the ateliers and galleries of independent artists and designers in Istanbul so visitors can see a more authentic side of the city. It’s a great opportunity for visitors to meet artists face to face. And it’s in line with our mission to promote and support the development of creative entrepreneurship.

PIJM: Wow, that’s really interesting.

Me: We really enjoy it.

PIJM: At least you have something to keep you occupied.

Me: For sure. After I left my career in California it took me awhile to find something I loved that I could make a living doing. The profits aren’t huge yet, but we’re growing all the businesses and we are very optimistic about the future.

PIJM: Good for you. That’s very exciting.

Me: Thanks. My only problem is that I don’t know what to call myself – what title I should use. This is such a long explanation, it won’t fit on a business card! My new friend Michelle calls me a Creative Entrepreneur Endeavor Developer and she’s a creative career coach, so maybe I could use that – but how to translate that into Turkish??

PIJM: Yeah, I don’t even know what you just said.

Me: I know. I mean, am I a consultant? An entrepreneur? A tour provider? I just can’t find the right term. If you can think of the perfect title I can call myself, please let me know, I would be ever so grateful.

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