Donna, the Designer Queen

Donna, a mother of three from south Lebanon, is a testament to resilience. Despite the country’s economic and currency crisis, which significantly impacted her husband’s military income, she has remained steadfast in her commitment to providing for her family, including their daughter with a disability.  

Before Near East Foundation met Donna, she had been employed making candles for a nearby church where she earned less than $2 per day. She longed for a fresh start. When she expressed an interest in starting her own candle-making business at home, Donna’s supportive husband spent a month’s salary to purchase the materials and equipment needed to sell her candles at a local fair. 

At first, Donna didn’t think she could succeed. However, her belief that “nothing is impossible, and a woman can make it” helped her overcome this self-doubt. She began making and selling colorful and unique candles and decorations, which attracted a lot of interest from her community. This marked the start of her small business, Designer Queen. 

Donna’s business was so popular that she soon faced challenges keeping up with the growing demand for her products. In 2022, she enrolled in NEF’s livelihoods program, based out of the Siraj center in Saida, where she received training and support to help her grow her business more sustainably.  

Upon completing her online training with remarkable speed, NEF supported Donna in developing a business plan for potential funding. With the approval of her $650 grant, she purchased additional molds and supplies to start making recycled candles from sourced wax scraps found in local churches, a venture she sees as a promising opportunity

Donna also diversified her offerings to include resin and concrete décor items. Before the program’s intervention, her business made a modest monthly profit of $25-$30. However, since completing the program and receiving her grant, Donna’s monthly profit has soared to an average of $80 – reaching as high as $200 during busier months. 

Grateful for the support from the program, Donna shared, “The training was really lovely. There was information I never knew before,” such as effective expense management and profit tracking. Donna shared how NEF has encouraged her to become involved in her community as a business mentor and is interested in assisting others starting similar businesses by sharing the knowledge she has learned in the trainings.  

She also expressed her appreciation for the opportunity to participate in group psychosocial support sessions through the Siraj center, where she formed new friendships and business connections with fellow project participants.  

Always thinking ahead, Donna is now considering investing in soap souvenirs for events. She and her husband hope to further invest in and expand the business by purchasing more raw materials and equipment so they can increase production and distribute to shops across Lebanon. As for her children, Donna also sees her business as a good opportunity for her daughter one day, as the work suits her abilities and would provide a way for her to earn an income from the comfort of their home


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