From a young age being hard of hearing made it difficult for me to communicate with my teachers at school, and having speech difficulties created problems with my peers as well. My studies suffered and I failed multiple times.
I would frequently become depressed. My family was a constant pillar of support during these times, especially my father. He kept telling me to believe in my abilities and keep going, to keep pushing. With his support, I persevered and was able to complete my O Level exams.
One day I was sitting at home with my father, thinking of how he has been successfully running his tailoring business for the last 45 years, despite his hearing disabilities. I decided that if he could do it, then so could I.
Me and my sister were already cooking at home and had gotten pretty good at it. I thought of starting a food business that only hired deaf people to provide employment opportunities for the deaf community. That’s how the idea of Abey KHAO was born.
When we started, the neighboring shopkeepers used to come over and ridicule us; saying that our business would fail, that it wasn’t sustainable, and how would we even communicate with customers with a staff who could not talk.
I was confident in my idea and was determined to make it work. I didn’t answer the naysayers because they didn’t know. They would get their answer when the time came. My plan was to go for a franchise model. Unfortunately, we had a breach of contract with our first franchise because of some dishonest practices, and that betrayal left me heartbroken.
I was crestfallen. As always, my family was by my side to support me; they pointed out that this is part of the entrepreneurial journey; people disappoint, setbacks happen but you must beat all odds and keep believing in yourself. During this phase, I was also diagnosed with clinical depression and sought professional help, which enabled me to learn from my experiences and get better.
Around this time, Ayesha, my sister, applied for mentorship programs and we finally got incredible mentors who believed in Abey Khao, and encouraged us to learn from the past and move on. With renewed vigor we raised investment and I got back to work, vowing to make full use of my experiences.
We have gotten immense opportunities for growth at the NIC and we have been assigned a hospitality expert with whom we are now working on expanding our business.
This isn’t just about Abey Khao or hiring deaf people. This is part of our long-term vision to empower the deaf community. We want to create opportunities for millions of people. Our aim is to bridge the social gap that prevents the disabled from reaching their full potential. Indeed, we can truly rise as a nation if we believe in empowerment and inclusivity.
Founder and Managing Director, Abey KHAO