RIYADH: Homegrown, a Jeddah-based boutique featuring local and regional brands, celebrated the winter season with food, festivities and live music.
The store, which was launched in 2014, gives entrepreneurs and sole traders a chance to showcase and sell their products without having to organize and foot the bill for their own retail space.
What started as a project with a dozen or so brands has blossomed into a business with more than 100 under its roof.
But the woman behind Homegrown, Saudi entrepreneur Tamara Abualkhadra, nearly took a different path. She had dreams of working at the UN and studied politics as an undergraduate.
“I moved to a boarding school when I was 13, prior to which I only spent seven years in Saudi Arabia,” she told Arab News at the store’s “Winter Wonderland” event on Monday. “Initially I had studied politics even though I had always loved the creative industry, which was sort of frowned upon at that time. The switch happened when I took a year off and studied fashion courses at the London College of Fashion and Central Saint Martins. I also joined a program at Imperial College in London to study management. Within that I was able to choose projects that were fashion-based. I started working with fashion stores where I learnt a lot and loved every second of it. But I knew there was something missing and I wanted more.”
She was offered a job at the multinational Procter and Gamble upon returning to the Kingdom, but felt there was a creative aspect missing. At the time her friend Rasha Zahid had opened The Store, a concept shop, and needed help with a vacant floor in the building. “That’s where Homegrown was born,” said Abualkhadra.
“My friend and I had an idea to rent out the space to new local designers who were popping up on Instagram and didn’t have a space. It was a platform that helped businesses just growing out of their homes to flourish. Unfortunately she moved to Dubai, so it was all left to me. When The Store shut down, I honestly didn’t want to go through the bureaucratic process it takes to set up a new place, but the designers pushed me to keep the space saying ‘we don’t have anywhere to go and we don’t want to settle with any other place,’ so I eventually gave in and did it.”
Homegrown has expanded to sell beauty products, food, coffee, fashion accessories, homeware and stationery. “Even though I did everything on my own I had the support of my team — like Hala Sabbagh who has been with me since day one — and I also had the support of great friends and designers. The new and bigger venue also gave our designers the freedom to develop and personalize their space.”
Abukhadra’s vision is to take Homegrown beyond a traditional lifestyle store.
“It’s not a place you come, shop and leave. We have an area that serves coffee and food where you can chill and enjoy the vibe. I feel like it gives us a chance to come together and grow as a community as some of the designers know each other, or their customers are their friends. I plan to develop the space by adding more attention to art, pop-up events and hopefully workshops and talks by local talent that can inspire the youth. We want it to be more interactive, something that also helps us give back to the community,” she said.
The Homegrown team wants to encourage originality, and for designers to move away from “copycat culture.”
“When it comes to new brands, we look for product quality and a strong identity,” Abualkhadra said.