A nonprofit microlender presented LaGuardia Community College student Nadira El Khang with the Award for Integrity at its second annual Access to Opportunity Awards Luncheon on Thursday, Apr., 15.
Accion East, a microfinance lender presented Nadira El Khang, owner of the handmade leather bag company NadiraBag, with the award for her unwavering dedication to her Moroccan roots and her embodiment of the entrepreneurial spirit that her father’s example instilled in her at a young age.
El Khang is a self-taught artist from Morocco who grew up fixing vintage leather bags in her father’s store in Marrakesh. Over time, she developed a passion for designing and fabricating her own leather bags for family and friends. In April 2009, she moved to New York to challenge herself and pursue an education in accounting at LaGuardia Community College. While she remained committed to her educational goals, El Kang continued to pay tribute to her Moroccan heritage by crafting leather bags as a hobby. After she decided to turn her passion into profit, she opened a shop on the online retailer Etsy in November 2011–and started selling to rave reviews.
“I took advantage of being in a country where people welcome ideas and push me hellip; to dream bigger,” said El Kang, who will receive her degree from LaGuardia in June.
On the LaGuardia campus, El Kang spotted a flyer for a program that would serve as the catalyst her business needed: the Capital One Entrepreneurship Program, a biannual entrepreneurial training program for LaGuardia students who want to start a business. Now in its sixth year, the 12-week program is sponsored by Capital One. It offers business workshops and mentoring from Capital One bankers and partners with LaGuardia’s NYDesigns, an incubator for design businesses ranging from fashion to architecture. To date, 75 student entrepreneurs have participated in the competitive program.
The Capital One Entrepreneurship Program concludes with a business pitch competition where the students pitch their business plans to a panel of judges for up to $1,000 in start-up capital. After applying for the program in January 2012 and being one of only eight students selected to participate in the class that semester, Nadira won the top prize of the $1,000 award.
“As a local bank, we are committed to investing in Queens and helping our community to grow and thrive,” said Colleen Taylor, EVP, Head of Treasury Management and Queens Market President at Capital One Bank. “By fostering entrepreneurship and enabling students like Nadira to gain realworld business experience, we are working to develop the future business leaders of our community.”
Investing her grant from Capital One, El Kang bought a camera to take photographs of her products. The higher-quality photos, paired with search engine optimization (SEO), enabled her to increase her online annual sales revenue by 40% from 2012 to 2013. Since completing the program in June 2012, she registered her business and developed a logo and brand.
Earlier this month she was accepted to NYDesigns’ highly competitive business incubator program, making her the first NYDesigns resident to come from the Capital One Entrepreneurship Program. She will be moving into a subsidized studio space with access to business advisors and technical assistance, ready to take her business to the next level, just as she was honored by Accion.
As Accion shined the spotlight on women in business and celebrated the female entrepreneurial spirit at its luncheon, El Kang’s award is a fitting tribute to her professional achievements and eternal sincerity in the face of numerous hurdles along the way, and to the inspiration she brings to other immigrant women entrepreneurs.