Tell us about yourselves and how you got started.
Farah El Masry: I’m 24 years old, I graduated from AUC with a degree in Philosophy. I’m currently completing a postgraduate diploma in Traditional Arts and Crafts.
Yasmeen Khamis: I’m 25 years old. I graduated from AUC with a degree in Business Administration and History. I’m now completing my masters in Heritage Management.
Farah: We both met at university in an Islamic Art and Architecture class. We share similar interests and common friends so we got along. We got a lot closer when we started working together nearly two years ago.
Yasmeen was working at an NGO that had a product line and contacted me to style a shoot. We then started working as a team and changed jobs simultaneously together. We both wanted to work on something that is design-based yet also developmental and has a purpose. We began conducting research for a crafts design development project, but things took a different direction along the way after the success of our pilot project. During our time at “Mashroo3 Kheir,” we were already working with a lot of children through different projects. Consequently, the idea came to mind
when we were looking for a sustainable way to run the NGO without further donations. Soad Ragheb was our first case, a six-year-old from Khossouss who was born deaf and needed cochlear implant. We went to her house for the art session, with no idea whatsoever how the day or the collection would come to life. With few expectations on how she would react to strangers coming into her house, or even what her drawings would look like, the end result still seemed unclear. It was so unplanned to the extent that as we were going up the stairs, we remembered that none of us speak sign language! Luckily, she could read lips and her family helped us out. She did three paintings, out of which we did a collection of five products that sold out in no time. With that being the case, our vision for The Doodle Factory suddenly became a reality, a brand that redefines giving back by including children in the process of bettering their lives.
What inspired you to start your own business?
Yasmeen: We have been working together for the past two years on different projects in different NGOs. We thought that the better model to approach development and Impact would be a hybrid model – a social enterprise. After the success of our pilot project we started thinking of launching our own brand. On the way, we were lucky enough to cross paths with Abdelhameed Sharara, who encouraged us to re-launch as a business.
How do the two of you work as a team?
Yasmeen: We pretty much complement each other in a lot of regards. Farah is the artistic, creative, more relaxed part of the business, while I am the more systematic managerial type. She always reminds me to chill a little, which in many cases is the right thing to do. She does that, while I push her to work harder when she is slacking off.
When collaborating with NGOs, why do you target sick children specifically?
Farah: Part of what inspired the project was one of the projects we had participated in called ‘Make a Wish’, where we attempted to grant the wishes of sick children. We realised that health and education are two major issues and we needed to help vulnerable children with
What kind of difficulties did you have to face when creating your startup, and how did you deal with them?
Farah: Everything is a bit difficult in the beginning, starting from the working hours, to having to be there all the time. Basically, the startup becomes your life. Handling the money and all the legal and administrative stuff comes in second. Things happened gradually, and we knew we were going to have to face some obstacles in the process, so that’s something we were prepared for. It’s also worth mentioning that our concept encouraged a lot of people to help us when they could, which definitely made everything easier. We can safely say we’re thankful to God for the supportive family and friends we are blessed with.
Is it always easy to deal with children? Tell us about your experience.
Yasmeen: It varies depending on the situation, and on the number of children in each art session. It sometimes takes the kids a little while to break the ice and be comfortable with us. However, they eventually loosen up and the outcome is always great. Our experience with children has taught us how to have a positive outlook on life because we have seen kids in very difficult situations, who keep smiles on their faces. They always manage to make us realise how little our problems are.
You reached a successful phase at a very young age; how did you do it?
Farah: We don’t really believe that have reached success. We believe that we have been granted this opportunity by God, and that we are only a means to make this happen. We think it’s important to have a clear intention because that eases everything. We’re just thankful to have gone this far. We realise that part of the reason we were able to get where we are now is because of our intentions. We wanted to do something good, and I think that’s the reason why a lot of doors were open.
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