How much money do you spend every day? So, let’s count! Starbucks coffee in the morning plus your favorite journal, Amazon deal of the day (for this price you’ll buy anything!), new piece of clothes, a game from App Store, lunch from McDonalds, petrol for your car (and snack from gas station). This consuming list can be endless! And I didn’t mention expensive items like smart phones or vacation trips!

If you’re like most Americans, you spend approximately $90 daily! Are you surprised? What if I say that approximate average income per month in Palestine is $166! So, you can imagine how tough citizens’ life is. But new generation of internet-savvy youth doesn’t give up and finds ways to earn money online.

Here’re stories of young entrepreneurs from Gaza, one of the biggest Palestinian cities. These people decided to change their lives and start business through social media.

 

Gaza

Gaza is a Palestinian city in the Gaza Strip, with a population of 515,556 citizens. It is the largest city in the State of Palestine. Inhabited since at least the 15th century BC, Gaza has been dominated by several different peoples and empires throughout its history. The Philistines made it a part of their pentapolis after the Ancient Egyptians had ruled it for nearly 350 years.

Since 2007 Gaza has been besieged by an Israeli and Egyptian blockade and the heavy-handed rule of the Islamist Hamas. Because of this, Palestinians can’t simply import or export products from anywhere in the world, as the typical e-commerce model envisions. Instead citizens create their own internet-based domestic economies through social media, at once connected and disconnected from markets outside of Gaza.

 

Mohammed Hammed

If you are looking for exclusive personalized designed notebook , Dfter shop created by 24-year-old Mohammed Hammed is something that you need. “I decided to use my design talent to start my own business rather than waiting for a job in the government, as there are no jobs or salaries,” – Mohammed shares.

Mohammed runs his business through Instagram and Facebook. Notebooks’ price ranges from $2 to $5, depending on the size of product. With the help of local delivery service, every order is delivered to the door.

Mohammed has big dreams for his business, but short-term barriers like paper shortage slow down the process of creation. Still, by this time he has already repaid the money he borrowed from friends for initial startup costs. His most popular prints are of the galaxy, names, and the phrase “I want to travel” in Arabic, a statement that is barely impossible to turn into life for most most Gazans under siege.

Amany El Kahlout

Amany El Kahlout is 24 year old entrepreneur, who launched her own insta-business. Amany sells imported goods and other daily products. First she used Instagram for fun to share pictures of her coffees and meals.  But soon, Amany was gaining followers, who were asking her for recommendations and recipes. Now she still posts beautiful food photos along with kitchen tools and decorations, among other items, that she imports from Israel, Turkey, and Palestinian cities in the West Bank.

 

“People start to like the idea of shopping from the home,” – Amany says. “And they’ve started to trust this. Because of the siege and the electricity problems, people started to like Instagram.”

El Kahlout has family connections that help her to import products that she sells. But it’s still not a reliable process, so she’s studying the market and looking for other options to keep her business plans profitable.

 

Ahmed Naim Tarabish

Ahmed Naim Tarabish is 31 years old barber from Gaza’s Jabalia. He had to create something to support his 13 family members. Along with a friend, he started a Facebook page , where users can buy and sell second-hand goods. Now the Facebook group has more than 23,000 members, who trade everything from electronics to agricultural animals. Other friends run similar sites for renting used cars and female clothes. For some, it’s their only form of employment. For others, one of many side hustles.

“In order to live we always have to find a substitute,” – Ahmed says about the importance of the second-hand market. Tarabish pays about $55 monthly to rent his salon, and estimates he makes anywhere from $80 to $100 monthly by refurbishing and reselling used electronics through his page.

 

Ensaf Habib

Ensaf Habib is a journalism student, who tries to experiment with new kinds of markets. Her Instagram account has more than 105,000 followers. Many followers came for the reports about Palestinian life and history that Ensaf  and her friends compile and post from places all around Gaza. Then the account drew attention of companies and businesses in Gaza, which started to request advertisements for their products and services.

Now businesses, from pharmacies to furniture companies to restaurants, pay Ensaf about $13 a post–a small amount, she notes, because the practice of paying for online advertisements is still new to Gaza. She also advertises the accounts of lesser known businesses and products she likes for free. “Of course there’s no financial return, but it’s motivated by social responsibility,” – she explains.

 

Online platform VS real shop

The choice between online business and shop in the city is very simple. Most of people can’t afford to rent a shop and can’t build their own because of Israel’s restrictions on construction materials. A traditional business also requires electricity, which only works six to eight hours a day in Gaza.

Online business  is “a natural development,” says Gaza-based Palestinian economist Omar Shaban.  “Gazans are educated and connected to Israel and international markets, so they know what’s going on. Still, they are limited because of the situation, the blockade, the checkpoints, and difficulties in importing.”

“Technology-related work is an increasingly common outlet for Gaza’s thousands of unemployed college graduates. Groups like the accelerator Gaza Sky Geeks and Gaza Gateway have pioneered outsourcing technology services to international companies and organizations. But inside Gaza, social media-based commerce and advertising are also creating new, albeit still limited and unmeasured, market opportunities”, – Shaban explains.

The price of success

Certainly, creating new business is something that makes life a little more manageable for besieged Gazans. But what is behind these projects?

Dftar store’s success is bittersweet. Mohammed’s brother isn’t here to see it. Two years ago, he joined the refugee trail, escaping to Egypt and boarding a boat headed to Italy in search of a safer life. The boat sank. Hammed and his  family has heard nothing of his brother’s whereabouts since, but he hasn’t been able to confirm if his brother survived or not. Mohammed hopes his brother, who first noticed how popular personalized notebooks were on the internet, will see how far they’ve come now.

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