ILIK founder Faten Salem
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ILIK wants to empower women

Mental health and menstrual health go hand in hand, says ILIK founder Faten Salem. That’s why the social innovation startup is on a mission to help women understand the impact of their menstrual cycles on their mental wellbeing. ‘My journey with the Startup Visa program and the NOM has been a game-changer. As a female founder, it's been an incredible support system for ILIK.’

ILIK wants to offer a range of tools and multitasking products designed to help women understand and manage their changing emotional needs throughout the month. ‘We're not just a company, we're a community, a movement for freedom for all women’, Salem says. 'And also a movement to change how women experience their femininity.'

Personal Experience

‘When we talk about a woman’s menstrual cycle, we always tend to use scientific terms, which I think is weird’, Salem explains. ‘We talk about the biological changes, we talk about periods and PMS, but we rarely talk about the ongoing changes in our emotional and physical needs throughout the whole month. Women usually track their periods, but there is a gap in understanding the cycle of different emotions women experience and planning around them. This realization inspired the creation of the ILIK community, aimed at helping women comprehend and address their emotional needs while fostering internal fulfillment.’

The idea for ILIK’s community came from Salem’s own personal experience. ‘I was running successful businesses, but mentally, I was at rock bottom’, she explains. ‘I was successful and I should feel great about that, but I just didn’t, you know? So, I started tracking my emotions and needs, uncovering a monthly pattern in emotional changes. Understanding this pattern and improving my planning gave me a renewed sense of balance, significantly enhancing my mental well-being. It's something I am passionate about sharing with other women to help them thrive.’

ILIK will use various tools, focusing on audio voice overs to build emotional connection with our target customers, including motivational and self-development content, blog articles, lifestyle, meditation, book reviews, affirmations, mindset tips to help transform the emotional struggles into feelings of fullness and wholeness. ‘ILIK's goal is to guide women in transforming emotional struggles into feelings of fullness and wholeness, fostering an enjoyable journey of self-discovery similar to experiencing the 4 different seasons’, Salem explains.

From Palestine to the Northern Netherlands

After the Covid pandemic, Salem decided it was time for a change. ‘A lot of people had that feeling of course, but I felt the need to do something that was bigger than myself. And as a Palestinian, your opportunities are limited and it’s already very difficult to do business, so unfortunately, it’s not the place for big ideas. I went to live in Istanbul for a while, but that just wasn’t a good experience. Just too many people and I felt unwelcome.’

‘But then I heard about the Startup Visa program’, Salem continues. ‘And I had already visited the Netherlands a couple of times. I always loved being there, so I decided to go for it. It was scary, but I thought it’s a great place to work on big ideas. I have experience running businesses and I’ve been an entrepreneur since high school. I know how to build communities. And now I’m working on building and running a startup. It’s really exciting.’

Startup Visa

‘My journey with the Startup Visa program and the NOM has been a game-changer’, Salem continues. ‘As a female founder, it's been an incredible support system for ILIK. We're like a baby startup, and the NOM has played a major role in nurturing us through these early stages. The support, guidance, feedback, and those wonderful networking opportunities that have been vital in our ideation and development. The NOM has given ILIK the essential support that has transformed our idea into something practical, something that can genuinely make a difference in women's lives. I've also had the privilege of having the support and guidance of incredible Dutch women like Fleur Mulder and my mentor, Antje Meindersma.’

ILIK's first step is building a community. ‘The Northern Netherlands and Groningen are really the perfect launching pad for that. It offers the market, the need, and the ecosystem that aligns with our values’, Salem explains. ‘And after launching the community, the next thing would be the ILIK app, with more advanced tools for women to manage their menstrual & mental health.’

Keeping a positive outlook

‘When I tell people I’m Palestinian, they’re usually surprised’, Salem says. ‘I think people in general underestimate just how entrepreneurial Palestinian women really are. We’re strong, resilient and natural problem solvers, because we have to be. Things can suddenly change, you have to be flexible, deal with setbacks and look for new opportunities. And in the back of your head, you always prepare for the worst.’

‘With everything that’s going on now, I try to keep a positive outlook, because I have to. Because it’s all I can do. It’s also not easy to talk about, because this is so incredibly divisive, both over there and also over here. And in the end, it’s about people, not politics. I tell myself: this too will pass. And I try to focus on my business and work towards a better future and something that’s bigger than myself.’