Following the devastating diagnosis of a rare type of head and neck cancer (Adenoid Cystic Carcinoma) back in 2012, Zeynep was forced to consider alternatives to her successful sales career. Following a painful four months of treatment, Zeynep was left without the ability to speak. It completely turned her family’s life upside down. Her career came to an abrupt halt as she was no longer able to communicate with customers and make sales.
Motivated to provide a brighter future for her son, Zeynep came up with the idea of selling locally produced leather goods and vintage kilims online. This business model enabled her to communicate to customers solely via email. She was able to make a name for herself, turning an obstacle into an opportunity. Fortunately after a year, Zeynep’s speech returned but by this point, she was steadfast on her new entrepreneurial path.
She brought her brother Yusuf onboard but it wasn’t long until a new obstacle spurred them to consider another interesting business opportunity. Her husband asked for a leather journal for his Moleskine notebook and iPad but their vendor wasn’t interested in helping. Zeynep knew changes needed to be made. They started taking classes to learn leather crafting from some of the best leather crafters in the area, as well as from YouTube videos, so they could start producing their own unique leather goods. It took several tries to create exactly what her husband had been looking for but they finally managed it, much to his satisfaction.
From here, the duo started designing their own line of products and rebranded to Galen Leather. The challenges, however, didn’t stop there. In 2016, PayPal stopped their services in Turkey. This forced them to look for alternative sales channels to Etsy and Ebay that didn’t rely on this one payment gateway. They decided to simply create their own online store through the Shopify platform.
Business really took off during the 2017 Christmas season when they designed a wooden writing box which sold over 1000 pieces. As they continued to tweak and refine their e-commerce strategies, their online store experienced a 55% increase in conversions and a 138% increase in revenue over the following year. Since launching on Shopify, they’ve created over $1 million worth of product from their very own hands.