Monday, August 5, 2013

From Doctor to Designer: Hana's Journey to Business - @HanaAwwad

Working in design was a dream for Hana Awwad that she thought she would never realise having started to establish a career path in medicine.

Photography by Deana Kay Photography
Hana reflected: “I was always good at sciences and very academic, and as I enjoyed being around people it seemed the natural step for me to train to be a doctor. After 6 years of medical school and 4 years as a practicing doctor I came to the realisation that it just wasn’t the career for me.”
Some people were shocked to learn of Hana’s plans to change her career, but she knew it was a case of ‘now or never’ if she wanted to turn her dream into reality.

Liverpool resident Hana said: “I had a long standing passion for design, but I didn’t want to just give up on a career I had worked hard for. I stuck it out for 10 years, I didn’t want to make a rash decision. I realise now it took courage to admit it wasn’t for me and decide to follow my dream. Some people were shocked, but I had a lot of support from my family and friends, and most people were very encouraging.”

Hana took the brave step of returning to University to re-train, and graduated from a degree in Textiles in 2012. It was during her studies that her business idea started to form.

 “Where I went to University there was a large Muslim community.  I noticed a gap in the market for high quality greeting cards recognising different cultural and religious celebrations than those we usually see in the shops. While at Uni I used this idea to trial a few designs in Muslim bookshops around the UK.  The response was positive and so I was keen to take it further.”

Hana contacted The Women’s Organisation for help to take her idea to the next level and establish a design business.

She said “I have always wanted to work for myself. I found the idea of business exciting, and being creative I wanted to combine the two to start a business that utilised all my skills.  The Women’s Organisation gave me a lot of help and advice.  They got me started on a business plan.  I didn’t have a clue.  They suggested I research my competitors and suppliers. Once I got started it was straight forward.”

Hana set up ‘Chocolate Envelope Designs’ which has built on her original idea and expanded to provide surface patterns and designs for a range of other products and. She offers greeting cards, wedding stationery and now prints her own range of wrapping paper. Hana has just designed a bespoke mural for a 9 metre wall in an exciting new Liverpool restaurant opening in August 2013.

“My designs are inspired by traditional decorative and ornamental surface patterns from the Middle and Far East but with a contemporary twist. I aim to create beautiful patterns and prints that could be used on a range of surfaces.”

Reflecting on her decision Hana said “I am the happiest I have ever been. The reaction I get to my designs is really exciting. I am constantly buzzing with ideas. When I was deciding to change careers I was afraid of having regrets. Now my only regret is that I didn’t do it sooner!”

Looking back at her journey Hana thinks if other women are considering following in her footsteps and setting up a business her advice would be:

“It’s great to have supportive friends or family but if you’re not sure then speak to one of the business advisors at The Women’s Organisation. You don’t need to turn up with anything more than your idea and they will give you all the support you need to take that idea and turn it into a reality. And they will let you do this at your own pace without pressure. You have to be patient and realistic and get used to rejection! It’s not easy having your product/service rejected without taking it personally but it makes it all the more worthwhile when people want to buy into it too. Get advice to ensure your business is viable. If you need to ease yourself in gradually starting part time while working part time, then do that. Follow your dreams, but be realistic. Choose something you are happy and excited about, because then you will be motivated to work hard at it. When you are motivated you can push your business forward. Keep at it and believe.”

For more information on Hana’s designs contact or visit and you can follow her on Facebook  or Twitter @HanaAwwad 

And if like Hana you are a woman considering changing or starting a new career working for yourself, contact The Women’s Organisation for free help and advice on 0151 706 8111 or


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