I was 14 when I came to Sydney from Sudan, via Egypt. My dad wanted us to study and to create a better future for us. When I arrived, I had to go to the English centre just to get my school work done. It was difficult, but that didn’t stop me.
I did an apprenticeship and worked as a chef for nearly a decade, but I never felt comfortable working for someone and I never saw myself going anywhere. Then, I attended a church service and one of the men of God said ‘Go out there and see what the community needs.’ It changed the way I thought. It brought a desire to do something different. I thought, ‘Ok, if I’m going to have a business, it can’t just be anything.’
I have more and better opportunities here, but for me, home will always be home. I looked for a local store that provides Africans with something they can identify with, but I couldn’t find any. I was a personal trainer, but it was hard for me to find activewear that fit me. So, I decided to do activewear inspired by African print. I called my idea Frika Activewear.
I’d never done this before – I did textiles in year 12 but it wasn’t in depth! After work I would go to the library, it took a while to do the research to find the right suppliers and fabric. I discovered Global Sisters during lockdown. It took me a year to contact them, and when I went online, they had a program, Sister School. I joined that and it opened my mind. It helped me understand my business and gave me the base and foundation I needed.
I’m not afraid to contact them – it is as if I am asking for help from my sister. You can always find someone that you can relate to and there is a variety of help and information. I feel comfortable and accepted. They don’t charge you, but for me it’s priceless.
I launched my first product between 2021 and 2022 and it feels good to know that I am capable of something, that I have achieved something.
Financial safety means I don’t have to worry about paying bills or about taking time off. It’s being comfortable, having that peace of mind and also being able to help others.
My message to young girls? Don’t give up, believe in what you want. I could have said, ‘I don’t know English, I don’t think I’m going to make it, I don’t know where to start.’ I could have just shut the inspiration off because of fear, but I believed that I could do it and, even though I have faced challenges, I know that I will get there.
”Yes, it’s going to be tough, but you will conquer what you put your mind to. People will say it’s impossible. It’s not.Alies BolFrika Activewear