CAIRO: Two young women are using the power of art to improve the lives of young people in Cairo.
The Doodle Factory, founded by Yasmin Khamis and Farah El-Masry, is an Egyptian brand that collaborates with different stakeholders to help vulnerable children through their personal drawings.
It uses children’s designs to decorate everyday lifestyle products for consumers, such as handbags, pencil cases and place mats. Proceeds from product sales go to funding the medical, educational and sheltering needs of children in communities identified by partner NGOs.
Khamis, 27, and El-Masry, 26, both have backgrounds working for Egyptian NGOs. However, the two Egyptian nationals decided to launch their business idea independently to “bring beauty back to community,” said Khamis.
The Doodle Factory was launched as a for-profit social enterprise in 2017 with personal funds. The venture — aimed at 18- to 35-year-old female consumers — has gone on to sell around 20,000 products a year all over Egypt.
The pair work with a network of local NGOs to select welfare projects that target children’s health, education and shelter needs.
First, they visit a hospital or school where they hold an art session, providing children with coloring pens and paper.
The Doodle Factory then takes the children’s drawings and passes them through a design process.
“We extract the elements, create the design and put it on the products we sell. A percentage of the sales goes to the children who completed the original drawing. It depends on the collection,” said Khamis.
Each collection goes toward a mission, such as helping to build a school, paying for a child’s heart operation or providing clean water to homes.
“When a child draws and then gets clean water in their house in a rural area, they are not just helping themselves, they are also helping their family and the community. We try to make the process as simple as possible, but the impact is huge for them,” Khamis said.
There will be a lot of small failures, but they will end up making a larger learning curve
“For me, it’s about creating a brand and an organization that really helps the children it promises to help. Our purpose is to create designs and products using children’s creativity and playfulness to pay for a better life for them.”
Today, the Doodle Factory has five employees and has broken even. Khamis advises aspiring business owners to “get their numbers straight” from the start, “especially if it’s a field that you’re not an expert in.”
She also warns entrepreneurs to expect “lots of daily ups and downs.”
“There will be a lot of small failures, but they will end up making a larger learning curve,” Khamis said.
“If you have a purpose and great idea, it’s important just to get going — that’s the important thing. But along the way, entrepreneurs need to have the commitment and the responsibility to keep going with the project on its bad and good days.
“Right now, in the day-to-day business, we’re doing much better than we were a long time ago,” she says.
For Khamis, the key is to achieve the right balance. “It’s a business that needs to make a profit because without the profit, we wouldn’t exist,” she said. “But definitely, the impact is as important as making a profit.”
• This report is being published by Arab News as a partner of the Middle East Exchange, which was launched by the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Global Initiatives and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to reflect the vision of the UAE prime minister and ruler of Dubai to explore the possibility of changing the status of the Arab region.