The Egyptian entrepreneurs improving young lives through the power of art

Farah El-Masry and Yasmin Khamis founded the Doodle Factory to help vulnerable children through their drawings. (Supplied)
Updated 20 September 2019

The Egyptian entrepreneurs improving young lives through the power of art

  • The Doodle Factory, founded by Yasmin Khamis and Farah ElMasry, empowers vulnerable children through their personal drawings
  • The Doodle Factory was launched as a for-profit social enterprise in 2017 with personal funds

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.




Doodle Factory helpS vulnerable children through their drawings. (Supplied)

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.

 


‘Jury still out’ on new Lebanon government, says rights chief

Updated 59 min 16 sec ago

‘Jury still out’ on new Lebanon government, says rights chief

  • The executive director of Human Rights Watch, Kenneth Roth, said it was too early to say if the new government would be any better than its predecessor
  • Kenneth Roth: We’ve seen in Lebanon a government that can’t even clean up the garbage, they can’t deliver electricity, they can’t provide the most basic services

DAVOS: The “jury is still out” on whether the new government in Lebanon will be any different to the old one, the head of Human Rights Watch told Arab News on Friday.

Lebanon has been convulsed by demonstrations since October, when people took to the streets to protest against corruption, unemployment, a lack of basic services and economic problems. Political veteran Saad Hariri resigned as prime minister so that a new cabinet could be formed, but it took time to assemble a coalition.

The executive director of Human Rights Watch, Kenneth Roth, said it was too early to say if the new government would be any better than its predecessor. He warned, however, that the early signs were not promising.

“We’ve seen in Lebanon a government that can’t even clean up the garbage, they can’t deliver electricity, they can’t provide the most basic services,” Roth told Arab News on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos. “It’s not at all clear that the more technocratic government that has been put in place is going to be responsive to the needs of the people and able to deliver. The jury is still out on that. While the government has responded to the protesters’ demand on a political level by changing personnel, the security forces on the ground have often responded violently, and in repeated instances used excessive force rather than respect the rights of the protesters to petition their government to appeal for a government that is more respectful of their needs and accountable to their desires.”

According to Amnesty International, Lebanese security forces’ unlawful use of rubber bullets last weekend left at least 409 protesters injured, some seriously, in the most violent weekend since the protests began on Oct. 17.

“The protesters in Lebanon are upset by what they see as a dysfunctional and unaccountable government, I mean they are the most basic services that are not being provided,” Roth said, adding that the government was getting “increasingly intolerant.”

He also expressed concern about the plight of Syrian refugees in Lebanon. The rights’ group says there are around 1.5 million of them in the country and that 74 percent lack legal status. “Authorities heightened calls for the return of refugees in 2018 and municipalities have forcibly evicted thousands of refugees,” the group said in a report.

“Syrian refugees obviously do impose a burden on Lebanon, but nonetheless there are legal obligations and the government really led by President (Michel) Aoun rather than former Prime Minister Hariri has been trying to make life more miserable for the refugees in the hope of forcing them back to Syria despite the fact that Syria remains completely unsafe,” Roth said.

Aoun and his son-in-law, former foreign minister Gebran Bassil, head the Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) which has the biggest parliamentary bloc. Aoun and Bassil have repeatedly claimed that Syria is now a safe and peaceful country and that the refugees should go back.

“It is not safe to force anybody back, the Lebanese government knows this in the sense that they are not putting guns to people’s heads and forcing them back, but they’re doing the metaphorical equivalent by making life so miserable that many refugees feel that despite the risks to their lives, they have to go back to Syria because there’s nothing for them in Lebanon,” Roth added.