The Rise of Female Entrepreneurship in Turkey: Interview with Demet Sabancı

April 11, 2024


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In the continuing evolution of Turkish business, female entrepreneurs are increasingly emerging as key contributors to the country’s economic growth and innovation.

Turkey has a diverse economy, with a GDP of approximately $800 billion, and it is considered one of the world’s fastest-growing economies. 

We had the opportunity to speak to Demet Sabancı, one of the company’s leading female business leaders.

Demet was first Turkish woman inducted in the International Women’s Forum Hall of Fame, and she is a third generation member of the Sabancı Family. The family founded the Sabancı Holding, one of the two largest Turkish conglomerates, with companies operating in sectors from banking to energy.

What was your dream/goal when you founded Shopsa?

In my project planning, I always prioritise social output. Shopsa was a project offered to us by the conjuncture. We wanted to do something in the field of e-commerce and about women. With the pandemic, e-commerce moved in one year the way it would take in ten years. There has been a great awareness in this field. With Shopsa, we brought this demand and supply together. Shopsa is essentially a women’s project. It uses e-commerce as a tool. We bring women to the market, individually and corporately. We train and motivate them in this process. Municipalities, professional organisations and non-governmental organisations also support us in this effort. Our members are only women and women’s co-operatives. We make the labour of these brave and hardworking women available to consumers. We also realise their individual marketing projects. As Shopsa, we prioritise the labour of women rather than our own brand. This responsible approach is therefore very much supported. My dream was to create a channel for women to enter the market, thus expanding the economy and spreading income to the bottom line. This rapid development of e-commerce gave us a strong support to realise our vision. We climbed the steps two and three at a time. The results we have achieved are pleasing.

Do you think you have achieved the company’s dream/goal?

There is no clear goal to stop at. Our dynamism is determined by women. As long as they produce. This platform will grow as we enter the market. Women’s participation in the economy is a global goal. E-commerce has created a great opportunity for entrepreneurial women. Shopsa has become their marketplace. As they produce, we bring them to the market. We’ll grow as long as they want us to. Shopsa did not establish a growth strategy independent of women. We have not and will not say, “We have reached a certain size, let’s make a new plan”. The important thing is to increase the participation of women’s co-operatives and women’s unions. Thus, we will be able to gain many more women and bring them into the economy. 

Will Shopsa be limited to Turkish women only? Will it go global? Which countries/regions are planned?

There are no limits to e-commerce. We dream big. But at the moment we are still developing the brand. We are trying to make local products glow, to grow small producers and to spread all over Anatolia. We have opened our global store. Our infrastructure works are in progress. We will become active in the following process. When we reach our targets domestically, we can expand this business in the Turkic Republics, the Middle East and the Balkans. However, we have an understanding of lasting for a long time rather than going fast. If we proceed gradually, our members will be happier.  

Is Shopsa only in e-commerce? Where can we see Shopsa products?

We are pleased to say that shopsa is available with online and offline sales. In order to deliver the products of our female producers to all parts of Turkey and to support local producers, we have signed a cooperation with Turkey’s major supermarket chains. Available for sale In addition, there are still market chains and home textile – decoration companies that we are still negotiating for co-operation. 

Apart from Shopsa, you have many companies and social responsibility projects that you are affiliated with. Isn’t it difficult to have time for it all?

I would like to state with great care that I am a person who devotes a significant part of his time to social responsibility projects. I volunteer in many social responsibility projects ranging from the needs of talented children, supporting women entrepreneurs, promoting Turkey and protecting our historical artefacts. It’s an energy that comes from within me. That’s how I feel happy. You cannot persuade anyone to work as a volunteer, but it must come from within that person. But I want to draw attention to something. If you have a sense of social responsibility, you are standing at the doorstep of new and important initiatives. Together with Tikad (Businesswomen’s Association of Turkey), Creative Children’s Association, I try to stand by our women and children. It is women who make up societies. The more educated, strong and self-confident a woman is, the happier she raises her children. At this point, healthy societies are in the hands of our women. That is why I care a lot about women and children, I try to take part in almost every useful project.

This article includes a partner of an Espacio portfolio company


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