Gulnisa Ali's five-person tailor shop has grown into a company with more than 50 employees.
"My shop expanded from 30 square meters to some 500 square meters in just five years. That's an incredible change," said Ali, manager of a company that produces ethnic costumes in Turpan, a tourism-driven city in northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region.
Born into a poor rural family of six children, Ali got her sewing skills from her mother. Her grandmother and great-grandmother were also skilled seamstresses.
Ali moved to Turpan in 1996 and started her own business. Monthly turnover was 3,000 (about 462 U.S. dollars) to 4,000 yuan before 2013. Now it is more than 100,000 yuan with a net profit of some 30,000 yuan.
"I was adept at needlework, but I had no idea about running a company ... I didn't have a proper place and assistants to do that," said the 50-year-old Ali.
Business took off after local officials provided her a free workshop and helped her recruit apprentices.
As a Xinhua reporter walked around one of her workshops, some 10 young women deftly operated electronic sewing machines. Gorgeous ethnic costumes hung on the walls, neat and tidy.
"Look at those costumes. I was inspired by grapes and applied them to my designs," said Ali. "You know, more than 200 species of grapes grow here in Turpan."
"Without the support from the government, I could not have made it. I mean, the government is really like a bridge linking me with employees and the market," she said, adding that the Asian Development Bank (ADB) has also supported her business.
Paritan Gapal, head of the Women's Federation in Turpan's Gaochang District, told Xinhua that the bank introduced a project to boost cultural development and tourism in ethnic minority regions and support local people, especially women.
The project included nine training sessions on topics including entrepreneurship and sewing skills, benefiting 450 women in total.
The bank sponsored 30 women who were willing and able to start their own businesses, giving them 3,000 yuan each in funding. It also offered them electronic sewing machines and embroidery machines.
"Aid from the ADB has injected great impetus into women's businesses. Apart from that, the local government has provided them interest-free loans and given them advice, which has helped build their confidence," said Gapal.
The beneficiaries have not let them down. They are helping others now. Gulnisa Ali, for example, helped all five of her sisters open their own costume shops. Her company trains more than 300 local women a year and has hired women with physical disabilities.
"I'd like to roll up my sleeves and work hard for five more years," said Ali. As her business grows, Ali is considering expanding her workshop and hiring more people.
"Also, I want to do business via online platforms like Alibaba. Should it work out, my products may go all over the world," she said.
Her dream may come true soon, as the local government has increased its efforts to facilitate trade, especially online business.
"The future is unpredictable, but I'm pretty confident," said Ali.