When Safia Ali started her own bakery, named Safia's Cakery, she found her passion. Previously she made cupcakes and brownies for get-togethers and birthday parties as a hobby, but after urging from a friend, she decided to turn her love for baking into a business.
"I always dreamed of owning my own bakery ," Ali told the Africa Review.
But Ali did not have the start-up capital for a business in an expensive city like Khartoum so she turned to networking site Facebook where she started a free page, "Safia's Cakery". She then added a detailed menu and began selling her bakery online.
"Facebook is an excellent marketing tool as it reaches a diverse group of people while at the same time offering a line of communication," Ali who has a phone number on her Facebook group for orders and asks her clients to call 48 hours in advance, said.
Another young woman, Rimaz Hashim, started an online wedding planning business with a friend in 2009 to organise weddings.
"I chose Facebook to start my business because it is free and effective," Hashim, one of the founders of Wedding Planners Sudan, a boy and girl team, told this writer.
Hisham has organised a number of high-profile weddings even though she is still an engineering student at a Khartoum university.
Power of the net
A well-known business man and restaurateur, Moataz Salah spoke about his belief in the power of the internet.
"Sudan is a big country and it is difficult to brand your name here, especially when your business is specialised , but online businesses can directly target their customers through direct communication with clients," said Salah who owns an upper-scale restaurant and boutique called Tangerine.
He added that a wedding planning business like Hisham's can target clients for a good number of years, as the younger generation are attracted to new ideas.
In Sudan, it takes at least five weeks to start a business. But this is not the only discouraging factor for young entrepreneurs. Ali, for example, was discouraged when she could not find information about starting a business in Khartoum.
"I feel that the process is unnecessarily complicated and of course with the rising costs it will be very difficult to come up with the necessary capital," she said.
Mayan Bella* on the other hand spent a significant amount of time doing research and after reading a study by the Sudanese Micro-finance Unit, she was surprised by how confusing it seemed to start a business.
"I couldn't find out how much I was going to end up paying for my business because not only does it vary from one business to another but also from one locality to another and from one area within that locality to another," she wrote in an e-mail.
These young women do not face the obstacles that men do not face in starting a business, however, the small market they are targeting makes it difficult for them to give up their day-jobs.
Ali, for example, has college loans and obligations that makes it a necessity to have what she calls a "reliable source of income".
Bella has a demanding day-job and her business is based on a passion.
A 2011 article by the International Trade Center explains that some women in North Africa "grasp business potential online" because it is flexible and helps them meet family obligations.
Naturally, in a country like Sudan, structural barriers are sometimes more difficult to deal with than family obligations. A recent world bank document entitled "Doing Business" completed in 2011/2012 placed Sudan at number 126 out of 183 economies worldwide for ease to do business. In comparison with its neighbours, except for Eritrea, it is lagging behind.
To start a business whether its a company or store, the entrepreneur is required to get electricity and construction permits, register property and pay initial taxes among other tasks.
A number of procedures have to be completed and their process time takes from one to four days. The document estimates that just to pay taxes, you need 180 hours per year and 42 payments must be made on an annual basis which makes this a time-consuming process for a single-headed business.
The document explains that the "the best performer globally is the economy that has implemented the most efficient practices in its tax system."
Bella discovered a frightening reality when she looked at Sudan's tax system after the idea of starting a clothing and makeup business came to her.
"I realized that I could never have a proper business plan which accurately estimates how much I'm going to end up paying on customs, taxes, locality fees, popular council fees," she stated.
During her research, she visited a bookstore and found out that there are no set taxes and if you fail to pay bribes to certain people, your products are held by customs.
Because she considers opening a store too "risky", Bella is setting up a website to sell her products.
Meanwhile, seven-month-old Safia's Cakery has received almost 400 likes on Facebook and Khartoum is being steadily fed with lime cupcakes and cinnamon rolls.
Salah, whose restaurant became a popular hang-out spot since it opened late last year, believes that the idea of going to a shop to buy something is not there anymore.
"Samsung Galaxy phone for example had millions of online orders because as a business, it branded itself online," he said.
Hashim on the other hand has opted to rent a place as her business and list of clients grew. However, the Facebook page remains active in attracting clients, in fact ,nearly 7,000 people are part of the
She currently secures services such as invitation cards, car rentals, make up artists, honeymoon arrangements and of course, renting a hall for the actual wedding.
Online businesses show that young women are choosing creative ventures as opposed to the traditional line of work in Sudan, engineering and medicine.
Ali thinks its because the society is evolving in a path that is leading youth to pursue other avenues.
On the other hand, Sudan has lost 75 per cent of its oil revenues when South Sudan became independent last year dealing a severe blow to the Sudanese economy.
The economic situation has slowed down the opening of new businesses in Khartoum and made businessmen think twice before investing.
Salah knows this first-hand. Due to the ongoing increase in prices, he can't buy large stock in advance and the prices on the menu are ever-changing to meet the sky-rocketing prices of food items.