EDF Innovation

Black Ace - Sulaymaniyah

As a university student at American University of Iraq, Tara Muhammed worked two or three jobs at a time, in addition to taking a full course load. She was saving to buy a car, which she imagined would grant her more independence.

But when the time came to actually buy the new vehicle, Tara was at a crossroads. She’d promised herself that after finishing college she would start her own business within five years—and that self-imposed deadline was looming.

So, instead of using her savings to buy the car, she decided to invest $10,000 in an IT Solutions startup called Black Ace in July of 2019. “I knew I was going to be an entrepreneur,” Tara, now 27, said from behind her sleek desk. “I just know myself. I always had more to offer.”

At first, the stress of her loved one’s doubts felt too much to deal with on top of the formidable task of starting a new business. So Muhammed decided not to tell people, besides her business partner, Nali Qadir, who has worked at Black Ace from the beginning.

“She’s a leader, not just a boss if you know what I mean,” Nali said as he sat behind stacks of paper in his office, next door to Tara’s.

By 2021, Black Ace was not only thriving, it was operating at a profit.  “It works like magic,” Tara said. “People started to consider you … they find you.

Two years after founding Black Ace, Tara had made enough money to buy the car she’d foregone two years earlier—though she’d worked such long hours since starting the business that she still hasn’t found time to get her driver’s license.

Black Ace now employs 10 workers, 6 of which were hired after the company received a $23,100 EDF grant that was distributed from March to November of 2021. Tara’s team works diligently, washed in the glow of their computer screens as they write code and run simulations of new apps and site designs.

“It feels really good when you create opportunities,” Tara said, “Two years ago I was working a job and now I’ve created nine positions.”

In the office, Tara’s team speaks highly of her leadership, and her skills as a programmer. Areen Muhammad, 24, has worked as a backend developer at Black Ace for 18 months. “It’s been amazing,” he said. “For me, as a male, it’s important to see that Tara is a role model for other women.”

Valan Luqman, 22, works as a sales agent. She was hired as part of the EDF grant expansion in mid-2021. “Since getting here, I’ve learned things I would have never learned anywhere else.” she said. “I really admire Tara personally … her work ethic, as well as her intellect. She’s brilliant. She helps us with every step we take.”

Tara has ambitions of continuing to expand Black Ace to Baghdad.

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