Meet Asmaa – 15-Year-Old self-taught artist, gamer and an entrepreneur
Asmaa Arif seems to be an ordinary teenager from Karachi, Pakistan. In many ways, she is. Asmaa goes to school at Beaconhouse, where her O-level subjects were the three sciences and sociology. She has three siblings, no pets, and likes to journal, paint and watch Netflix in her free time. Additionally, she loves Fortnite and likes to read murder mysteries/biographies. Interestingly, she moved to Pakistan from Qatar just three years ago. Fairly ordinary teenage stuff, right?
Yet, in many ways, Asmaa is also not an ordinary teenager. For one, she runs a highly successful art business, a product of pandemic-induced boredom. It seems that Asmaa was always interested in art as she participated in many art challenges and was a proud member of her school’s art club. All this for someone who claims that her favorite subjects are history and chemistry! Yet, it just took a few months of well-placed holidays to launch her art-based career. When I started chatting with her, she seemed very enthusiastic to detail the early stages of her hobby turned business.
“During the middle of lockdown, when boredom started to take a toll on me, I decided why not start posting something online?” she says. She already made art videos in the past, so pivoting to art content on Instagram was a breeze. After posting on TikTok, Asmaa gained inspiration from her fellow Instagram-based artists and decided it was time for the next step. After watching many “how to grow your account” videos and gleaning support from family/friends, Asmaa was able to launch her Instagram account. Initially, her posts were re-shared by friends or family only. Additionally, her art supplies were already paid for in full by her father, which made the first few posts easier.
Slowly, Asmaa realized that she needed to invest some of her own money and time to ensure the success of her newly-formed business. She began to post consistently and started to interact with other creators on the app. Moreover, she also invested in better lighting, a tripod, and props for the background of her posts. These expenses totaled roughly 5000, a sound investment considering how much she’d make in the coming months.
As Asmaa found her niche, she slowly started to prioritize Instagram only. She used to post on TikTok in addition to Instagram but didn’t find the app’s audience to her liking, and the algorithm refused to pick up her videos. Slowly, as demand for her art increased, Asmaa found a second home in Karachi’s “Paras Art Fever” and “Asim’s Bookstore”. Unfortunately, she doesn’t go to these places frequently since she doesn’t need to replenish her art supplies too often. “Since I’ve been painting for a while, I don’t find the need to buy new paints every month except the most used (whites, blacks, blue),” she says. Ever the resourceful entrepreneur, she only buys canvases when needed, limiting the expenses for those to roughly 2000 per month. After a few months, when resources have bled completely dry, Asmaa takes more expensive trips that cost around 6000. These are few and far between, though.
As time went on, Asmaa also started experimenting with different outlets. She tried making key chains and struck a chord with her C-D painted art. Currently, she is trying to expand to tote bags as soon as she finds an inexpensive retailer for them.
I slowly absorb this information and decide to go in for the all-important question. “How much do you make per month?” I ask. Asmaa replies immediately. According to her, she gets at least 1-3 orders per month. The ambiguity in the number of orders means that the amount Asmaa makes varies month to month. She claims that the key to getting more orders is to remain consistent, even if it just means posting on Insta’s stories. To further her reach, Asmaa has planned collaborations with other artists. It seems that Asmaa’s techniques have started attracting other accounts. She has already done brand deals with various Instagram-based businesses, and this helps to bring in more money and free promotion.
“Where does this money go?” I ponder out loud. It turns out that Asmaa uses her hard-earned money to purchase journaling supplies. She also uses a portion to order new canvases, try different brushes, and stock up on paint varnish. By smartly reinvesting in her business, Asmaa has become completely self-sustainable without needing to rely on outside monetary help. Despite these expenses, she still manages to save at least half her monthly income and transfers the remaining money to her personal savings account. At the end of the day, though, Asmaa is still a teenager, and she loves splurging on fast food, clothes, and books. In that sense, she is just like any Pakistani teenager. "Honestly, it’s not much, so I use it on random stuff like ordering food.” she confesses.
Asmaa isn’t just good at arts either. Despite being fifteen, she is already in the final year of her O levels, proving that having a side hustle does not mean getting bad grades. As Asmaa’s account gains momentum, the GenMo fam steadfastly stands behind her. She has proven that with determination and creativity, there are no limits to what teenage entrepreneurs can achieve - all from the comforts of their bedrooms!