Soul Searching

How knitting project created a new career
After 13 years of running two restaurants, Aycan Yeniley walked away from the food service industry when she came to the realization the business of managing a restaurant was not for her.  During a two year period of soul searching and then recuperating from surgery for a torn achilles tendon, Aycan began to knit for an upcoming event at her young son’s school, which led to a revelation: wanting to create a workspace for women where they can earn a fair living wage, succeed and create stunning hand-knitted and woven products. 
 
After studying interior design and working on a handful of projects, Ayat preferred working with handcrafts. Running with that idea, b-aşka came to life. It’s name has two meanings: “B” represents where the company is based—in Bordrum, Turkey; “aşka” has two meanings: unique or love. Both perfectly apply to the business. The year-old company follows the principles of fair trade and is run 100 percent by women. Weavers and knitters are from Yali and Pınarlıbelenthe— neighboring Turkish villages of Bodrum and Milas. The women are able to work at home and care for their young children. “My aim is to work with as many women as possible who need the income.” 
 
In developing b-aşka’s home accessories collections, Aycan creates the pattern and then either knits or weaves the sample herself. Two employees duplicate the designs and show the other knitters and weavers how to make item. “The design process starts with me and sometimes it involves many trials to accomplish what I really want in the sense of softness or a new look in weaving. When it is done, I visit all the weavers at their homes, drop off materials materials and the designs they will be weaving. I had most of them buy phones so that they can send me the images of their process so I can see the outcome.”
 
As a start-up, the company experienced some bumps along the way. Among those roadblocks was a questionable economy; funding came from her own pocket. Yet, social media has played an important role for Aycan. Early on, she posted her first handknit pillow on Instagram, capturing the attention of Nicole Pitter-Patterson, an international business developer who works on a number of women’s projects. After several conversations an introduction to a major carpet designer whom Aycan admires was made.  
 
Aycan’s plans for the young company currently centers on expanding her market and selling products internationally. Pitter-Patterson recommended that to generate interest Aycan should start exhibiting at trade shows. Aycan’s first stop will be NY NOW’s Artisan Resource February 4-7 at New York City’s Jacob Javits Center. She will be displaying  b-aşka’s collection of handknit throw pillows and bags. 
 
 And now, as she prepares to fly to new York City, she looks back to those two years of soul searching and says, “Now I can create nonstop, try anything I want, no one is under appreciated nor underpayed. We still have long way to go, but I am happy.”
 
To learn more, please visit www.b-aşka.com.
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