Inspired by the women of Centro and how they thrive to succeed – Martine

Meet Martine

My name is Martine Zaarour, I am an architect and entrepreneur from Lebanon. I joined Centro in August 2022 as a fellow through IREX’s Community Solutions Program (CSP) part (sponsored by the US Department of State on Community Solutions).

When I first heard that I was joining Centro, I got very excited. It was the perfect opportunity for me to meet women entrepreneurs, and a team of experts who offer support and are fully committed to helping people scale up, guiding me in my expansion plan, and practicing my Spanish.

One of my highlights has been participating in the Small Business Advisor Program, where I had the opportunity to meet many encouraging women, who all share similar experiences.

Inspired by Women at Centro

The diversity of participants in the program made me realize that no matter where we come from and what our backgrounds are, we can all relate to each other and join efforts to find the best practices and solutions for our daily challenges.

The women were all inspiring, but Kimberly, owner of Barcuterie, has really impressed me with her motivation and how focused she is on her mission. She has shown great commitment and eagerness to work and develop her business. She also works with food, and I could relate to every detail she had in mind and how outsourcing many products, designing packaging, creating the identity, can be a pleasant journey rather than a task.

Leveraging Previous Experience

I am the owner and CEO of Jar Thuraya, a community driven by women from all around Lebanon who specialize in making handcrafted gourmet preserves made of locally sourced materials and inspired by the traditional Lebanese “mouneh” ( artisanal handmade preserves made of natural ingredients: jams, molasses, etc.) Working with women has taught me patience, credibility and commitment. 

For the last two years, I worked with women of all ages, religions, and social backgrounds. Together, we created a portfolio of over 50 handcrafted products. Their motivation to invest in their skills and their willingness to become more financially independent has led me to grow the business and scale it during my fellowship journey. 

Small Business Advisor Program Take-Aways

I have been inspired by the women of Centro and how they thrive to succeed, especially since the majority of them are not young, and yet they have invested time and energy in keeping up with the modern trends and tools to stay in business and develop their ideas.

The Small Business Advisor Program taught me to become a better and more empathetic listener. It was a major change in communication that I learned to apply and appreciate as it created better relationships between myself and the women and a more empowering environment.

Alongside being trained on advising techniques, and how to listen and support without being biased, the communication methods we were taught have allowed me to become a better listener and guide entrepreneurs to do what they think is right by asking the right questions. 

I never thought I would be working in anything besides architecture, but the importance of the impact we create has led me to develop my skills as a leader and embark on the entrepreneurship journey. I challenged myself in work I haven’t done before, I also worked on reporting which led me to complete an elective for my CSP Fellowship in Monitoring and Evaluation. I felt the impact of data and how useful it can be when used properly. I learned how to approach people who are very different from me without any bias, and assess serious projects and how I can contribute to supporting them.

What really caught my attention was the number of people eager to learn and enroll in programs. Working on other projects as well, I got the chance to discover the resources that the state of California has to offer and how opportunities are available for everyone equally.

It has been enlightening to learn more about the cultural differences, the challenges, and most importantly the success stories that have inspired me and many other women at Centro to not give up.

You can also get involved with Centro

If you resonate with Martine’s testimony and would like to be part of our community as a volunteer Small Business Advisor, explore how you can get involved here. We offer programs in English and Spanish. We’re looking forward to meeting you!