Being a low profile insurance company executive and the lone earner of her four-member family, Rawsan Ara from Rangpur had been struggling hard to meet daily expenditures for nearly two decades.
But the mother of two children had cherished a dream to become an entrepreneur.
Five years ago, Rawsan participated in a training on handloom, and afterward she launched a small production house of handicrafts and boutique items. Initially, her capital was Tk10,000.
At present, the micro-entrepreneur is using a capital of Tk50,000. She has now engaged 30 women like her in the handloom business.
Lovely Halder, another emerging micro-entrepreneur from Barishal, started her handloom business with merely three Nakshikantha (embroidered quilt) she had stitched herself by investing Tk3,500.
With a loan of Tk30,000, Lovely expanded her business in 2016. Now, she has engaged 20 more women.
Having difficulties while approaching the male-dominated market, both Rawsan and Lovely are now seeking a smooth market access facilitated by the government.
To uplift the micro-entrepreneurs across the country, the state-owned Palli Karma-Sahayak Foundation (PKSF) has been organising Unnayan Mela (development fair) for nine years.
The fair this year that began on November 14 has brought an enormous scope to explore the market for Rawsan, Lovely and others like them participating in such arrangement for the first time.
Till November 20, the last day of the fair, the duo will be available at the fair stall of Social Development Foundation (SDF) at the Bangabandhu International Conference Centre, Dhaka.
On the opening day, the total sale of SDF's products was Tk62,000.
"I am happy with the first day sale. In my locality, the return would have been less than the investment," Lovely told The Business Standard.
This year, around 200 organisations like SDF are taking part in the fair, said PKSF Assistant General Manager Md Habibur Rahman.
Among the products on display, handicrafts, boutique, jute products, dairy items, snacks, chemical-free vegetables and fruits, alloy and gold-plated ornaments and footwear are manufactured by micro-entrepreneurs at rural regions.
The fair organisers expect that the arrangement would provide the marginalised entrepreneurs with an opportunity to connect with prospective buyers.
Md Aktaruzzaman, a banker, is a regular customer of local products. As the Unnayan Mela brings local products at reasonable prices, he visits the fair every year.
He said, "Quality of the exhibits are quite good. The products, if promoted, could compete with those of popular brands."
On the second day of the fair, Aktar bought a full-sleeve formal shirt at Tk600 from the stall of Organisation for Social Advancement and Cultural Activities (Osaca), a partner organisation of the PKSF.
Since 2017, Osaca's Mini Readymade Garments Project has been strengthening capacity of at least 10,000 marginalised garment producers and mechanics of Pabna and Natore.
Previously, some of the target people tailored low-priced items or repaired old-fashioned sewing machines. With the Osaca's intervention, they are now manufacturing fine-cut and well-stitched garment products for local and foreign brands while the mechanics become wholesale dealers of modern sewing machines.
Nasir Uddin, a sewing machine mechanic in Pabna, is among the Osaca-supported entrepreneurs.
"I started my small business of machine repair centre with an investment of Tk2 lakh. After getting technical support by the non-government organisation, I have invested Tk15 lakh, expanded the services and now looking forward to having a dealership for China-based sewing machines," said Nasir who had a dream of working as an immigrant worker.
Recently, Nasir has launched at his home a T-shirt factory managed by his wife.
On the first day of the fair, the total sale of Osaca's products was Tk55,520.
Osaca Project Manager Abdul Wazed Biswas said garment products by the project beneficiaries are now exported to India, Malaysia, Singapore and the United Arab Emirates.