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Zeynep started Galen Leather in 2012. They detail the beginnings of their company in their Starter Story interview: 
Q: How did you get started on Galen Leather?
The idea for our business came out of a serious personal setback. It wasn’t a, ‘let’s sit down and brainstorm new ideas because I hate my job’ scenario. I loved my job at the time. I didn’t want to pursue anything else. But when life deals you an unfavorable set of cards, you just have to find a way to work with them.
In 2012, I was diagnosed with a rare type of head and neck cancer (Adenoid Cystic Carcinoma). Doctors warned the cancer treatment might leave me incapable of speech. This forced me to consider alternatives to my burgeoning career in sales. I had to undergo a painful four months of treatment and was heartbroken when their prognosis became reality. That’s right, I lost my ability to speak. It completely turned my family's life upside down.
Without being capable of speech, I was no longer able to communicate directly with customers and make sales as my job at the time required. My career was over.
I was, however, motivated to not let this setback defeat me as I wanted to provide a brighter future for my son and show him that life is full of surprises, whether for good or bad, but even the bad can be turned into something good. Although it was hard to see at the time, but such obstacles are also blessings in disguise because they’re opportunities for new beginnings and creative problem solving. This forced me to look for a new job model that would allow me to work without speech.
So I came up with the idea of selling locally produced leather goods and vintage kilims online. Both are readily available here in Turkey, and obviously, something we’re quite well known for.
The best part of operating an e-commerce business for me at the time was that it enabled me to communicate with my customers solely via email! I made a name for myself and sold through my Etsy and eBay stores which also exposed me to an international audience.
Fortunately, after a year, my speech returned but by this point, I was already steadfast on this new entrepreneurial path. There was no turning back. But I also knew the business needed something more to succeed and grow.
At this time, my brother Yusuf graduated and was looking for a job. He wasn’t interested in pursuing a traditional 9-5 job. He had a real eye for photography so he jumped on board and started out taking beautiful photos of our products.
Contributors to this article:
- Pat Walls, Founder @ Starter Story
- Wiki Updater