• Yasin Almaz | IOM Communications Specialist

Elif was living in Adiyaman Province with her family, unhappy in her career as an architect. She started making chocolates for her daughter and realized that she enjoyed making it. Following her talent and passion, she decided to start a business making handmade chocolate. As she received more and more orders, she started dreaming of establishing her own chocolate brand. 

Unfortunately, Elif's exciting new venture was interrupted by the 6 February earthquakes that struck southeast Türkiye. 

"I was making chocolate the night of the earthquake and was awake when it hit us at 4:17am," she recalls.  

Elif could not return to her heavily damaged home, instead moving to Istanbul with her husband and two-month-old daughter to stay temporarily at a relative's house. She gained inspiration to revive her growing business idea when she witnessed on social media people's desire to support affected entrepreneurs. 

After connecting with several social media accounts, some celebrity networks and buyers, she received her first order shortly after, from a company that supports producers in the earthquake zone. 

Elif describes the hustle of those days as she worked to deliver the first order of 860 boxes of chocolate, without equipment and still in distress from what she went through: "No raw material, no equipment, nothing. We found a way and managed to deliver, but until the last moment, everyone at home, my husband, and relatives, were folding boxes, tying ribbons and the children were helping us. As survivors of the earthquake, maybe it was good for us." 

After establishing her business a year ago, Elif has already managed to reach a large number of individual and corporate customers. Photo: IOM 2024/Yasin Almaz

Elif encountered Innovation for Development (I4D) on her way to scaling up her business. I4D's Social Chain Project, supported by the International Organization for Migration (IOM), promotes the concept of 'social purchasing' by connecting earthquake-affected producers with consumers. 

Producers receive training to expand their businesses and expand their networks through trade fairs and networking opportunities. The project aims to create income sources for small producers and transform the purchasing behavior of both individual and corporate consumers into social benefit. 

After the earthquakes, I4D contacted Elif to help her access more individual and corporate buyers. Through the platform, Elif connected with 12 buyers and enhanced her business prospects by reaching a wider market. She has also taken the initiative to reach more customers by sending product samples to corporate clients 

She further benefited from a series of training sessions, increasing her knowledge of sales planning and supply chain management. 

"There was hope in every sample we sent. My family's effort is in every product we make, and I am proud of it," she expresses. 

Elif credits her husband Murat for her success. Even when he lost his job after the earthquakes, he never stopped supporting Elif. Photo: IOM 2024/Yasin Almaz

Today, what started as a hobby at home has transformed into the Munch brand. Since the earthquakes, Elif and her husband have produced over 370,000 pieces in more than 25 different chocolate varieties. 

Moving forward, Elif and her husband plan to institutionalize their brand by increasing their production capacity and product variety. 

Their story is an example of the solidarity that emerged amidst the rubble – people of all walks of life coming together to support each other in recovery. 

Referring to all the assistance she has received along her journey, Elif says: "It's nice to feel that they are with us every step of the road we've taken. They're shining a light for us, and we're following it." 

IOM Turkiye supports earthquake-affected businesses through the 'Early Recovery for Rural Producers through Market Access and Production Restructuring' project, with financial support from the United States Government.