LONDON: A UK-based Pakistani chef has been named among the world’s most impactful and game-changing entrepreneurs by Forbes — an American business magazine.
Hailing from Lahore, Zahra Khan has made it to the Forbes 30 Under 30 Europe List in the retail and E-commerce category.
Khan founded Feya and Dyce cafes near the iconic Harrods and Selfridges retail stores in the upscale part of Central London in Knightsbridge and Oxford Street after graduating from celebrity chef Gordan Ramsay’s culinary academy.
"At the age of 13, I was told to study sciences because I could not achieve a worthy career out of baking. I was repeatedly told that women are homemakers, only belonging in kitchens at home. I had fallen into a cultural stereotype; in Pakistan where I was born, women historically remain at a disadvantage due to cultural and religious barriers leading to setbacks like gender discrimination, unemployability, and mental health issues," Khan said while speaking to Geo.tv.
Khan said she founded Feya café in Central London at the same time that she became a mother. She established and drove her business to success — increasing team size from 5 to 30 staff.
“I have received 100 plus franchise applications from countries like UK, UAE, KSA, Qatar, Kuwait, Canada, and that too without any formal listing.”
During the pandemic, Khan launched an initiative to empower women and reduce the gender gap, with 10% of the profits from Feya’s retail line of chocolates, jams, and teas funnelling into the cause. Each product carries its unique message of empowerment, self-awareness, and motivation developed by a team of female illustrators.
According to Khan, Feya is on track to open new retail outlets in 2021.
“I am in the process of expanding Feya’s retail network and targeting further 25 sites outside UK via franchise agreements. By 2025, I am expecting to create 400 job opportunities for women and spread the message of empowerment: promoting UN’s Sustainability Development Goal 5," she said.
Khan claimed she was the first and the only Pakistani woman to ever attend the prestigious Gordon Ramsay’s Tante Marie Culinary Academy since its opening in 1954.
“Moving to the UK and pursuing an independent career came with significant challenges, which in turn became my motivation to combat societal pressures and prove that women of any background can take professional leadership roles and empower other women, especially mothers," she said.
The young entrepreneur said she feels incredibly proud to have established three eateries in the UK’s male-male-dominated industry, whilst becoming a mother of two and battling postpartum depression.
"I believe the success of the company, the global franchise and the stakeholders' interests reflect the competencies of the company’s diverse 75% female workforce — the core of my business values and growth strategy," she said.
According to Forbes, there were tens of thousands of nominations and recommendations from industry experts and former Under 30 alumni were reviewed to make up a shortlist.
The finalists were selected with the help of a judging panel that included Russian E-commerce billionaire Tatyana Bakalchuk, founder of Wildberries, French jewelry entrepreneur Valérie Messika, and Pascar Sivam, founder and CEO of Danish watchmaker Nordgreen and 2019 30 Under 30 Europe alum.