A successful entrepreneur, Saeeda Ahmed, has over two decades worth of experience in solution-driven projects, creating award-winning projects, businesses, and programmes to meet the needs of specific industries.
The businesswoman undertook a degree in accountancy but quickly realised there was limited scope for creativity and personal freedom and so left the industry to establish Trescom in 2001, a company that worked with partners from different industries to bring about positive social change.
In 2005, she completed a postgraduate degree from the University of Cambridge on women’s leadership in the enterprise sector and since 2013, has worked as an advisor on educational, accreditation and quality issues for the Prince of Wales Mosaic charity.
Ms Ahmed has delivered over forty speeches at home and internationally at events and conferences, including at the United Nations in 2019 as an ambassador for inclusive and sustainable development.
The entrepreneur spoke most recently at the World Halal Summit on how the halal economy must lead on social and environmental sustainability.
Ms Ahmed is from Bradford but lives in Halifax and works internationally.
With an office in Manchester, the entrepreneur liaises with international governments to promote women’s involvement in national economies, is the founding director of Education Partnerships UK and is the Founder of Global Islamic Trade Investment and Investment Forum.
The ‘Muslim lifestyle’ is not just about following Islamic regulatory requirements, but leading on core values of social justice, creating opportunities for women’s empowerment, and tackling poverty through ethical and fair business, says Ms Ahmed.
The entrepreneur said: “I got involved with the halal economy quite early on, it is a global movement. If you take ‘halal’ in a literal sense, it means ‘permissible’, and people normally think it is about meat or food, but it is a value base.
“The value base is that you eat halal, but it is not just about the food you eat, it is living a clean, fair and ethical lifestyle.
“For example, it doesn’t matter if I buy halal meat, if I’ve stolen money to pay for it, I can’t buy it, because it is supposed to be clean, honest, and nutritious, so it is not halal, even if it has been certified as halal.”
According to stats by Adroit Market Research, the global halal market was worth £5.3 trillion in 2020, with it set to soar to £8.2 trillion by 2028, meaning that the halal industry is big business. However, despite the industry including at least a fifth of the world’s population, Ms Ahmed believes that it is undercapitalised by the western economy.
Ms Ahmed added: “The halal industry is not embraced by the global community, there is a misalignment.
People think that the halal industry is about animal cruelty or this and that, they don’t see the bigger picture behind it.
“The halal lifestyle represents a Muslim lifestyle that is socially and environmentally conscious and doing the right thing and doing the bare minimum that God asks us but doing what is right for the community, the environment, and animal welfare.”
Ms Ahmed believes that Brexit will provide an opportunity for people in West Yorkshire, and across the UK, to export good quality products and be able to import good products and diversify supply chains.
Currently, Ms Ahmed is working on a vehicle around women’s enterprise and giving back to micro-businesses and platforming them on the local, national, and international supply chain.
“If women in West Yorkshire are making cheeses or crafts from home, then they will have the opportunity to be able to showcase their skills and products in the global market”, she said.
Notably, the businesswoman is the specialist advisor to the President of the Puntland State in Somalia and is a former ambassador and member of the Strategic Partnership for Higher Education Universities and Further Education Colleges in Yorkshire and the former Director of the University of Leeds and Former Director of Adventure Capital Fund.
She said: “My work for international governments is about looking at how do you enable youth and women to participate in the economy and benefit from it.
“My journey probably doesn’t make sense to people, they must think ‘how can she be involved in so many different things?’ and ‘how is she the expert in this?’
I don’t see myself as an expert, what I’ve always been good at saying I don’t need to be the expert, I need to know how to access the experts and develop the dream team.
“What I do is design the whole structure and bring the team together, I’ve brought projects together on education, construction, healthcare, and sustainability.
“I like to think I am the catalyst, I am not important in the grand scheme of things, there are much important people than me, but I recognise their skills and put people together.”
Since the pandemic, Ms Ahmed has also been working on projects on health and wellbeing, with many of the products being pro bono. She has been working with international governments, most notably, the American and Canadian governments, on Covid-19 recovery social and economic strategies.
The strategies include giving people hope and building resilience in terms of health and economic opportunities. “Now is the time to reap immense benefits on what is coming. There is going to be products and services for people to lead a healthy lifestyle, set up new businesses, work in new areas, and live a happier and healthier life.”
Ms Ahmed is a prime example of Yorkshire grit and determination, promoting sustainable business and feminism internationally. She has multiple exciting projects in the pipeline that will inject small businesses from across West Yorkshire and beyond into the global marketplace and provide an international platform to women.