Country: Cairo, Egypt
Profession: Authentic Egyptian Art Production
Business: Afnan Center
Partner School: American University in Cairo
"I am very passionate about the 10,000 Women program and I am forever grateful for the chance I got to learn and grow."
I started a center for arts and innovation called Afnan, which means "Talent" in Arabic. The products we offer include bags, bed linens and accessories that are mostly associated with the Egyptian culture, especially in Siwa, the famous oasis in Egypt's Western desert.
We supply local women with raw materials for the creation of bags, scarves, blouses, and linens using traditional designs. After the goods are complete, we help sell them at markets and bazaars. My target clients include big tourist bazaars, event planning companies and major bookstores.
I started my business because I wanted to preserve unique Egyptian designs and increase opportunities for women. I have always been committed to helping those who want to work, gain the skills they need to earn a living.
In starting my business, my first major challenge was the social belief in Egypt that art is just a hobby and not a profession. Many Egyptian families, including my own, believe that sentiment and because of this I chose to pursue another career and studied to be an accountant. It was not until later in my career that I decided to pursue my dream of owning an arts center.
A second major challenge of mine was allocating my initial capital investment. I started Afnan using my savings from my former job as an accountant. I also found it challenging to market my products outside of Egypt and to focus my business strategy.
10,000 Women was a turning point for me and my business. Before I entered the program, I acted on instinct. I did not have a strategy for marketing and pricing my products.
Since graduating from the program, I streamlined my operations, expanded my marketing efforts and I opened a small factory in Siwa to handle large orders. I have also quadrupled the number of women who produce our handicrafts from home, helping more artists from my country carry forward our rich traditions.
After graduating from 10,000 Women, my client base has doubled and I am now working with a network of 10 bazaars. Based on what I learned in the classroom, I have withdrawn my products from small outlets that do not show them well and instead have focused on expanding to new bazaars in the governorates.
I have developed a marketing plan which includes targeting governorates that are rich in tourists. I have implemented a number of strategies based on the marketing plan, including participating in my first global entrepreneurship fair, working with tourism and conference planning companies, launching a website and producing flyers. I have already obtained new customers using these methods and I recently completed an order for 1,000 bags for an international conference that was held in Cairo.
I plan to create new production lines at my factory, purchase new equipment and hire more employees. I have also started exploring opportunities to export my products and am working on establishing a distribution channel in Spain.