Building Hopes and Saving Dreams: A Gazan Architect
Aya Kishko is an architect from Gaza. She is one of the entrepreneurs who join the project Business Startup Incubator Support project, funded by the EU and implemented by Belgian Development Agency through the consortium led by B&S Europe.
About Aya Kishko
Aya Kishko is a 26 year old architect from Gaza, Palestine. She is the founder of ‘Basata Up’, a startup where pallets are turned into furniture and antiques. After graduating from the Faculty of Architecture at IUG in 2015, she worked as a lecturer there. When she first started working on her startup, she was incubated by IUG’s Business and Technology Incubator ‘BTI’. The BTI offered Aya counseling, mentorship, and assistance in setting business and marketing plans; and will be helping her startup become officially registered. “If it were not for the guidance BTI offered me, Basata Up would have been just a dream,” she said.
After her work at IUG, she started working as a designer at a furniture factory, where she designed bedrooms, chairs, and made interior designs for famous restaurants and figures in the Gaza Strip. Although she lived far from the factory, she said she loved going and seeing people working and wanted to have something similar one day.
It was the factory that made the idea of ‘Basata Up’ bloom into existence. She saw the great number of pallets that were thrown everywhere, and saw potential. “I always dreamed about becoming a doctor to save the world. I did not become a doctor, but I still found a way to save people’s dreams,” she looked with eyes full of aspiration. To her, those pallets could be recycled and be used for making different furniture and house antiques. It was a simple idea (Basata) to upcycle (Up).
The costs of wood used at the factory were high, which meant expensive furniture. Aya said that she saw how poor people felt whenever they heard the prices, and that it always broke her heart to see someone’s house of dreams fall apart because they could not afford furnishing it. That was her main motive. She felt that she could give something equally good, if not better, at much cheaper prices. No more dreams had to fall apart for the lack of money. It is worth noting that Aya always participates in different humanitarian activities such as visiting orphanages and nursing homes. She said that doing these things were as important to her as Basata Up was.
In 2016 BTI launched the Business Startup Incubator Support (BSIS) project, funded by the European Union and implemented by Belgian Development Agency through the consortium led by B&S Europe. Aya was one of the entrepreneurs who submitted to join the project. Her project was one of 12 entrepreneurial ideas which got seed fund through collaboration between BSIS and the Islamic Relief – Palestine Office. She got about $3,000 grant, and she informed them she wanted a workshop not an office, because her work required certain equipment and space.
One year later, she participated in Gaza Innovation Challenge 2017 and although she participated for the same reason, she was awarded second place. Everyone commended her work and praised her innovative ideas. She also won a Facebook competition called ‘She Leads the Way’, with 5K likes. The last competition she participated in was ‘Taawon’, and she will receive the grants the beginning of April.
What distinguishes Basata Up from other existing workshops in Gaza is that it is run by an architect. Others are workers who have one idea that they keep implementing. However, Aya’s workshop brings new designs based on carefully studied data such as the place, its size and the clients’ budgets. Also, her love for the environment made her go forward with this environmentally friendly project, which makes use of natural wood and creates something beautiful and creative. She says that she would be very happy if others followed her footsteps since her higher purpose is to help people and change lives.
The most challenging obstacle for her was being a female engineer working as a manager of a workshop, being responsible for the workers, and carrying out business deals with other merchants and traders. Another obstacle was the fact that the equipment she has in the workshop is very conventional. She had hoped to receive extra funds from the BTI to buy new equipment that would make the work easier and more productive. She had to pay for the rent and the workers’ wages from her own savings. Also, she cannot offer health insurance and one of her workers was recently injured on duty. Sometimes she has to work at night until late hours due to electricity cuts.
Her parents’ support and the excellent quality of her work helped her prove herself and made her overcome whatever obstacles she faced; “My designs speak louder than words”, she said and pointed out that she hopes to start her own production line, have tens of workers, and go internationally. Today Gaza, tomorrow the world.