Making a Difference

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Diverse and dynamic, the common defining factor that makes these members of our community stand out in their quest for excellence in their chosen fields is the passion that inspires them. Cairo East Magazine salutes each and every one for their achievements, commitment and inspiration to the community.

By Christine Kassasseya

 

The joy maker

The Giftery Founder & CEO

 

 

The Girl Behind the Gifts:

I studied Economics and Art at The American University in Cairo, and then completed a master’s degree in Applied Imagination at Central St. Martins, London. During my stay in London, I conducted intensive research for my masters on breaking the boundaries of e-commerce in Egypt, and it inspired me to create an online gift registry, a platform that consolidates gifts from lots of different stores and enables customers to select gifts for their loved ones. The idea gained momentum when I faced personal challenges in sending gifts for friends and family from London to Egypt, so when I returned I decided to put this dream into an action and partnered with Karim Atalla, a friend with experience and a successful business background.

TheGiftery.com:

TheGiftery.com enables customers to create any type of Gift Lists such as a wedding registry, a baby shower registry, a birthday registry…. from more than 100 different stores, where they pick their preferred gifts online or directly from stores and upload them on the website. This concept evolved to where TheGiftery.com now provides gifts for all occasions and offers services like phone ordering, personal shopping, gift consultation services, wrapping, same-day delivery, and gift customization. In order to gain our customers’ trust we deal with prominent, reputable shops such as Table Royale, Fauchon, Karizma, Hope Flowers, Villeroy & Boch, Alex Toys and more. TheGiftery.com ensures quality without charging the customer a premium, where all prices online match the prices in the stores.

Tough Challenges:

E-commerce has not really caught on in Egypt mainly because people fear fraud, not knowing that most fraud cases happen offline and not online. People also worry about receiving knock-offs and fake products and that is why we work with well-known stores that have a physical presence.

Lessons learned:

One should manage his expectations, because some issues take longer to accomplish than they seem. The January 2011 revolution came two weeks after our soft launch, so you have to learn to take what you have and work with it. It’s good to test and re-test and not go into full-blown marketing as soon as you start. Always give yourself enough time to learn from your mistakes… things in real life are always different than on paper.

Listening to customer feedback is also key; as most of the services we now offer were driven out of a need. And last but not least, nothing grows without a great team behind it, we are lucky to have an amazing group of people who are the backbone of TheGiftery.com

 

the crafter

Designer at Azza Fahmy

 

 

In a nutshell:

I need two lifetimes to learn about jewelry, not only one.

Early years:

Ever since my childhood, I wanted to become a designer but I didn’t have enough time to learn and master the craft while attending school. I studied contemporary jewelry for five years in a university in England, followed by a year in Italy. This experience was rewarding as it gave me knowledge about the techniques of design, and time to become proficient. I joined Azza Fahmy in 2005, where I set out to design unique pieces with subtle heritage and cultural references. It is worth mentioning that I started from the bottom at Azza Fahmy, working my way up until 2008, when I launched my first collection, becoming an established designer.

Staying on top of the game:

One of most challenging aspects of jewelry design is to be able to satisfy the diverse tastes and styles of the customers. To enhance our creative work and become competitive in this market extensive research is required. I conduct research in the national and international market, to ensure competitiveness with all benchmark products. I have to keep abreast of emerging global trends, and be up-to-date with the latest technological tools. This research is fundamental for understanding and satisfying different tastes.

Doing it differently:

I believe that I am in the right place in the exact time, so I have no regrets! I do not know what the future holds, but I am sure it will allow me to grow and develop my skills. On a personal level, I am obsessed with contemporary jewelry as it is creating its own unique heritage.

Concepts added to the business:

When my mother, Azza Fahmy, originally started her journey more than three decades ago, she had a dream to make it possible for women from all around the world to wear unique handmade designed jewelry with an ethnic background that represents our country. She travelled overseas and explored many countries, seeking to be inspired by their own culture and creative roots. This dream later was passed down to become mine. I travelled to Iran recently to launch mixed contemporary culture designs. I think the coming collection will be exceptional and distinctive.

2014 Collection:

I am currently working on my 2014 collection and I am super excited about two matters; first I have been working hard for over a year, and second I am changing the theme and brand of the new collection to suit various tastes. I am looking forward to receive the feedback of both our dedicated and new clients.

 

the advocate

Mona Khalil, The Animal Rights Advocate, Co-Founder of The Egyptian Society for Mercy to Animals(ESMA)

 

In a nutshell:

ESMA operates two no-kill shelters and adoption centres and is also involved whenever possible in ongoing campaigns, initiatives, and advocacy activities to promote animal welfare issues in Egypt.

The story behind ESMA:

After losing my beloved cat due to illness I began to wonder how street animals manage to survive such poor and abusive conditions, while I couldn’t save my own cat. Inspired by my grandfather, who was fond of animals, I decided to start a mission to save as many animal souls as possible. Unfortunately many animals in Egypt are homeless, ill, handicapped, hungry and abused. These conditions also cover the many that are slaughtered for food. This situation became so prevalent that most Egyptians started to find it acceptable to mistreat animals or have no mercy upon them. This drove me to start an intensive campaign to shed light on the importance of having mercy on animals, and providing them with basic needs including shelter, proper food, and adequate treatment.

Creating ESMA:

After four years of immense effort, The Egyptian Society for Mercy to Animals (ESMA) was finally established in 2007. I had been striving to establish this NGO for years but couldn’t make it alone, until I met a group of other founders who shared the same vision of rescuing animals from violent treatment and improving animal welfare. ESMA operates a shelter and adoption centre for various pets, including cats and dogs. The centre provides food, shelter and medical care to hundreds of animals, in addition to arranging adoption of animals to caring families who would provide the right loving environment.

Challenges along the way:

One of the challenges I faced in this journey is the mentality pervading some sectors of the community. I faced difficulties trying to highlight the importance of considering an animal’s feelings and needs, as well having mercy on them, and yet some people did not accept my message. Those people were raised differently, I assume. We hope we can change people’s mind-set, especially the young ones, by increasing public awareness in public and private schools. Furthermore, we believe a strict law that defends animal right should be implemented to mirror those in place in other countries.

Staying on top of the game:

We are blessed with a tremendous collective effort by the founders, workers and supportive helpers who exert ongoing efforts to enlighten and inform the community, which in turn will inspire younger generations to initiate other small organizations with similar aims. We work on emergencies, blind, deaf, and dying animals, but I can’t say it is a job or a duty as much as it is a way of life.

Lesson learned:

Despite what the animals go through, harsh treatment, poverty and abuse, all animals possess an inherent tolerance, acceptance, and loyalty. Actually, some animals are more humane than humans… these are two lessons I have learned.

 

The taste maker

Basel Mashhour, Founder of TBS – The Bakery Shop

 

 

In a nutshell:

I have always believed that being an entrepreneur would give me the opportunity to start a business that fulfilled my passion, and that’s how it started.

Accolades:

TBS is one of the top 15 fastest growing Endeavour entrepreneurs in terms of revenue.

The TBS Story:        

In 2008, my two childhood friends, Tarek El Nazer, Sameh El Sadat and I decided to start our own business. Sharing the same enthusiasm and philosophy, we created The Bakery Shop, where TBS is also an acronym taken from our first names. The local bakery shop sells freshly baked bread and distinctive pastries made with top quality ingredients. In addition to mouth-watering croissants, Danish and donuts, customers can also create their own sandwiches using a variety of ingredients teamed with our famous baguettes.

Overcoming challenges:

To start a business in a market that we knew nothing about was like taking a flying leap into the unknown. To meet the challenge we had to conduct research on the local market in order to build a strong business module for the bakery. We pushed boundaries and started to search for high quality equipment, top secret ingredients, and all of the other factors needed for this business to succeed. We decided to hire the famous Chef Yasser who had been working at one of the top hotels. Without Chef Yasser we wouldn’t have attained this tremendous success.

Staying on top of the game:

We continuously improve our business to meet our customers’ taste, and to meet international standards by adopting the latest innovative technologies and the best management strategies. In addition, we aim to become more competitive in the market and remain consistent in our branding, pricing and quality to maintain our position.

Only regrets:

I wish I could enjoy the ambiance of our boutique-style TBS instead of getting bogged down with paper work on a daily basis. I am not merely a businessman; I am also a sociable person who loves to interact with people … but it is not really a regret!

In the pipeline:

TBS will launch a new hot product in October, and we are leaving our loyal customers to guess what it will be. We consider this a big undertaking and a new step forward. This brand new product will target a lower-income market segment and will be available more on shelves than TBS. We plan to distribute it through major supermarkets across Egypt.

 

 

The Action Star

Aly Mazhar, Founder & Head Coach of BeFit

 

 

In a nutshell:

Our aim is to transform our client’s lives through helping them develop a healthy lifestyle.

Early years:

I was a professional athlete and a former football player for more than a decade. I received a full athletic scholarship to Rutgers University in the United States, where I earned a bachelor degree in finance and was trained by proficient athletes who significantly altered my life beliefs and perceptions. My experience in the US was rewarding on many levels including my career, health, and lifestyle. However I couldn’t continue as a football player after an accident that left me injured for several months, so I decided to make use of my experience and education by launching BeFit in 2013.

Creating BeFit:

Since the health and fitness business sector was booming in Egypt, I found the opportunity to share my knowledge and expertise in this field while doing something I really love. Located in the Tennis Center of Kattameya Heights, BeFit is a health and fitness company that offers premium group exercise fitness classes, customized personal training programs, nutrition plans and online advice via Facebook and Twitter accounts.

The business started with 6 classes of circuit fit and thankfully it blossomed to reach 35 classes a week. In a year, we faced a radical upsurge in numbers, where we currently have 300 dedicated members with us… I never expected to achieve so much so quickly.

Doing it differently:

The BeFit Transformation Challenge is a fitness program designed to help athletes reach their ultimate potential and strength in six weeks. In addition, we have other classes including foundations of fitness, ripped freak, box-fit, powerball, pilatone, fit fusion, and step-burn. These programs are designed to cover all aspects of physical activity, specifically for strength, speed, power, and endurance. We are also planning to launch the trampoline class for jumping fitness.

Staying on top of the game:

Frankly I haven’t needed to do much promotion throughout the past year; our success is the outcome of many years of hard work in the field of fitness and training. I believe that word-of-mouth has also played a fundamental role in raising awareness of BeFit amongst people in diverse sectors and age groups. BeFit training and fitness programs can transform people’s lives drastically. I am concentrating on maintaining and enhancing the quality of our services, so I am not considering any expansion plans for the time being.

 

The reader

Nadia Wassef, Co-founder, Managing Partner of Diwan Bookstore

 

In a Nutshell:

After thirteen years of Diwan, I turned forty this year and realised that a third of my life has been spent working hard at something I love very much. I am lucky.

Accolades:

Recently selected by Forbes Magazine as one of the 200 most influential women in the Middle East.

Early years:

I got my first Master of Arts Degree from AUC in English and Comparative Literature; then after working in women’s groups in Egypt I went to the School of Oriental and African Studies in the University of London and got a second Master of Arts Degree in Social Anthropology in 2000.

Creating Diwan:

On March 8, 2002 the first Diwan in Zamalek opened its doors, a collaboration between my sister Hind, Nihal Schawky, and myself. We had all been at a cross roads in our lives and wanted to do something true to our passions. Because that is where it all begins. We were all interested in culture in one form or another and we realised that there was nowhere to go to enjoy a cup of coffee with books, music and inspiration. Hence the idea of Diwan. We had seen café/bookstores in other countries, but what we wanted was something that had the same mixed product ranges but with a very strong East/West orientation in its products, decor, and ambiance.

Challenges along the way:

When we began, our challenges were multi-faceted. There was no blue print for what we wanted to do. It wasn’t easy to find staff because we needed a special mix of people who could work in a bookstore and understand the quality of experience that we were trying to give our customers. None of us had a financial or management background so running a business was not something that ever came naturally. We worked extremely hard for many years. Looking back though, these have probably been the best years of our lives! We have laughed, fought, struggled, and through this we created something beautiful!

Staying on top of the game:

Diwan is always trying to innovate and offer better service. As individuals, I think one of the things that keep us going is the belief that we can always be better and do better. We are looking to spread the message and mission of Diwan to other countries in the Arab World. We celebrate culture—Eastern and Western— and we encourage its production and consumption. We believe in the value of reading and belonging to a community of readers. And we have just launched Diwan’s new e-book app and hope to explore this new forum along with our customers.

Words of advice:

Start with your passion. Work harder than you have ever worked before. It is really okay to make mistakes and you have to come to terms with them, learn from them, and just move on and enjoy every minute of it! Don’t let success get to your head, it is so important to remember that we can always do better and that humility is always more attractive than arrogance.

Doing it differently:

There are so many things that I could have done differently, the list would be endless! However, I try not to look back and I regret nothing. Everything that has happened is for a reason and it is our job to see it as positively as possible. That is how we move forward and allow ourselves to experience the wonderful things life has to offer.

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