Buqa Woman Profiles
Xi'An China, Graduate Student
"If you think you are thinking big, think bigger"
Milka Santana is an Economics master student at Xi’An Jiaotong University, writing a thesis on China Energy markets with a concentration on China/Latin America relations. She has a deep-rooted passion for China and studying Chinese; her goal is to become an expert on China markets and economy. During her studies, she founded Xi’An Dreams, an organization which mission is to support and provide educational opportunities to the children of an orphanage located in Shaanxi Province. This year, she also won the Shaanxi Province "汉语桥", a Chinese Language CCTV national competition for foreigners. Before moving to China, Ms. Santana worked for Goldman Sachs in Hong Kong and London, and for JPMorgan in New York. She was born in a small village in the Dominican Republic, but immigrated to New York at the age of 11. She speaks Chinese, Spanish, English and some Portuguese.
Define beauty in a couple of words or sentences: Beauty is courage, giving, passion and knowledge.
Define what makes a modern day heroine in a couple of words or sentences: A woman that gives away her life for a higher purpose than herself.
What is your style: professional
What was the biggest challenge you had to overcome in your professional career: Looking different than everyone else in the room and constantly having to disappoint people on what a Latin woman is supposed to be like, and how high are her dreams supposed to reach.
What are your personal goals for the next couple of years: Attend the best MBA school in the world and continue to learn China economics and Chinese.
Who has been your most significant mentor: Her name was Ana Soto. She taught me that I was enough.
Advice to the next generation of women in a couple of words/sentences or motto in life: You were put on this earth for a specific purpose. Learn what that purpose is. Follow that purpose. There lies true happiness.
What or who inspired you to set up your own NGO: After a few months of volunteering at the orphanage, the inspiration came one day when one child told me during crafts class, “I will continue painting, but my Mom is still not going to want me. She doesn’t love me anymore”. I was paralyzed. At that moment, it dawned on me the pain he felt being five years old and being taken away from his parents. Taken away to a strange place, to share a room with strange kids and have absolutely no control over when he would see his mother again. Could you imagine the pain? I realized that needed to do something for her and for the other kids. After some thought, it was clear that the way to most effectively impact their lives was through education.
Please tell us more about the NGO: Xi'An Dreams believes that education is the best way to make an impact in the lives of underprivileged kids. The purpose of our organization is to try to help the 70 orphans at the Children's Village Orphanage. We do this by (1) Having foreign students visit the orphanage and teach english and crafts classes every weekend (2) By raising funds in order to fund their educational future. We now are raising funds to help the orphanage start an internet center where the children can study, research and learn.
How can people support this NGO: They can visit chinadreams.org and make a donation. By making a donation, they will directly contribute to the internet center, which will help give kids training for their high school and college admissions test.
Additionally you are studying. How do you juggle being an NGO/Fundraiser and an academic: This is the most difficult part. I am constantly pulled in many different directions and I have to reserve time for each one of them. I handle it by being very strict with my schedule. Daily, I know how much time I can invest in the NGO, studying Chinese and studying economics. It's difficult, but hopefully, the work will pay off if we can make an impact in our kids' life.
Your advice to our Buqa Women: We are each more powerful than we think, we constantly underestimate our ability to change the world. One thing that I keep reminding myself is: If you think you are thinking big, think bigger.
Please visit chinadreams.org to make donations to this very worthy charity.
ABO London, Creative Director / Founder
"I like reading stories where women started out from their little kitchen and created something big in their journey"
Aliya’s first degree is in communications and media, later she completed an MBA in Finance at Wales University. Aliya subsequently worked as a journalist, editor, PR/Marketing manager, Business development manager in various industries and countries. Aliya is originally from Kazakhstan and came to the UK more than seven years ago. Aliya had a passion for art, had several exhibitions of her work around London including Banqueting Hall and The Bolton's church. One day she decided to use her paintings as designs and transfer them into fabrics and make different accessories out of these images. Aliya originally started the business with her friend. They called the company ABO London and they started with scarves. But soon the partnership separated and her friend left the company. Now the range includes cushions and greeting cards. ABO was featured on Channel 4 and won Brand to Watch nomination from Ethical Fashion Forum. Everything is ethically made in the UK.
Please Define Beauty from your perspective: Beauty is creative simplicity and elegant aesthetics, it can be anything and everywhere that makes you feel happy and relaxed.
Define what makes a modern day heroine: She is confident and strong, funny and stylish, she knows what she wants and to go for it. At the same time she helps other people, is kind and passionate about life.
What is your personal style: I like a classy style mixed with casual. So my usual outfit would include classy jacket, jeans and scarf.
What or who inspired you to set up your own company: Various female entrepreneurs that I met in London. I like reading stories where women started out from their little kitchen and created something big in their journey.
How would you define the style of your products: The style of my scarves is elegant beautiful classy and makes you feel feminine. The style of my interior accessories is very arty and colourful which will liven up any room.
What has been the biggest challenge you have had to overcome in your professional career and/or as an entrepreneur: Juggling several projects at the same time. Like making accessories, writing articles, running a conference and negotiating with a private client the colour of the curtains.
What are your goals for the next couple of years: I would like to extend my range of products, increase the number of stockists and take part in trade shows in Paris.
Additionally you are a mother. How do you juggle being an entrepreneur and a mother: When my baby was small I would work when he slept. It's a bit easier now as I manage now only on five hours of sleep and I'm used to it now. I would also take my baby to the meetings with clients or to projects. That was wonderful in a way, and we enjoyed it.
Your advice to our Buqa Women: Be yourself and do something that makes you happy and passionate.
You can visit www.abolondon.com to view ABO London products.
Political Adviser, UK Parliament
"Look beyond yourself and the confines of your environment to make a difference to your world and that of others."
Tell us briefly about yourself Komal: I have a BA (Hons) Economics and an MA (Econ) International Development.
Professional expertise in PR and Comms, with experience of running numerous successful advocacy campaigns in the fields of health, international development, political engagement and human rights.
Professional experience includes working with the UK Parliament, the UK Department of Health, Political Adviser to Arab Embassy’s in London and managing international development projects for various NGOs.
In a voluntary capacity I have supported numerous local and international initiatives; the steering committee of the Bereavement and Donor Committee at Bolton General Hospital. Executive Committee member engaging the Labour Party on its Policy on the Middle East, Member of the NBTA (National BAME Transplant Alliance) secretariat and supporter of the local initiatives aimed at engaging young people especially from BAME communities into involvement in mainstream politics,
Define Beauty: Beauty is emotional , intellectual, kind, compassionate and somewhat aesthetic
Define what makes a modern day heroine: Looking Beyond yourself and making a positive contribution to the world, Achieving your goals and helping others to do so.
What is your style: I was raised with 3 brothers therefore comfort and simplicity always trumps high fashion.
What has been the biggest challenge you have had to overcome in your professional career: Believing in myself and that is ok to take credit for achievements. People seeing beyond my gender and age.
What are your goals for the next couple of years: I would like to spend more time exploring the world and myself.
Who has been your most significant mentor: The late European Parliament Candidate Del Singh. As a best friend , partner and colleague, Del opened my eyes to a much bigger world, intellectually, emotionally, politically and in so many more ways. Del’s success and humility and ability to smile through most things was astounding. He extended compassion and kindness to people from all walks of life. He made time for life long (and new) friends, juggled and international political and charitable career alongside countless volunteer commitments which is an inspiration in the truest sense of the word.
Advice to our Buqa Women: Life is too short. Love as much as you can- yourself and others. Look beyond yourself and the confines of your environment to make a difference to your world and that of others.
Marketer and Consultant- Businesswoman (former Barrister)
"juggle responsibilities, manage the curveballs that life will throw at you, leverage the little that you have, be kind and never, ever , give up."
Tell us briefly about yourself Jada: I read English and French at University of Cambridge and Queen Mary, University of London. Currently undertaking CIM Introduction to Marketing course. I have recently changed careers. My background is within the legal profession (qualified as a barrister). Subsequently pursuing an entrepreneurial career in marketing and consultancy. Responsible for marketing for SME clients, organising marketing and promotional events, identifying and securing sponsors and producing and implementing marketing strategies.
Define beauty: genuine beauty transcends time and space.
Define what makes a modern day heroine: An ability to juggle responsibilities, manage the curveballs that life will throw at you, leverage the little that you have, be kind and never, ever , give up.
What is your style: To be honest, it changes so much depending on activity but overall I would say tailored. The way a garment is cut makes all the difference to me.
What was the biggest challenge you had to overcome in your professional career: The barriers and walls that I set up in my mind.
What are your goals for the next couple of years: To create a profitable business and a not for profit organisation to combat one of the many of the problems facing our society today.
Who has been your most significant mentor: To date, I would say an old colleague of mine, Jessica Huie, really inspires me. She was a teenage mother and when we worked together, she was juggling two jobs, an internship, studying and raising her daughter. Today, 10 years on, she has two successful businesses.
Advice to our Buqa Women: Nothing will work unless you do. Look after yourself.
MORE INSPIRATIONAL PROFILES TO COME...
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