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.

 


Protests in Lebanon after move to tax calls on messaging apps

Updated 17 October 2019

Protests in Lebanon after move to tax calls on messaging apps

  • Demonstrations erupted in the capital Beirut, Sidon, Tripoli and in the Bekaa Valley
  • Demonstrators chanted the popular refrain of the 2011 Arab Spring protests: “The people demand the fall of the regime.”

BEIRUT: Hundreds of people took to the streets across Lebanon on Thursday to protest dire economic conditions after a government decision to tax calls made on messaging applications sparked widespread outrage.
Demonstrations erupted in the capital Beirut, in its southern suburbs, in the southern city of Sidon, in the northern city of Tripoli and in the Bekaa Valley, the state-run National News Agency reported.
Across the country, demonstrators chanted the popular refrain of the 2011 Arab Spring protests: “The people demand the fall of the regime.”
Protesters in the capital blocked the road to the airport with burning tires, while others massed near the interior ministry in central Beirut, NNA said.
“We elected them and we will remove them from power,” one protester told a local TV station.
Public anger has simmered since parliament passed an austerity budget in July, with the aim of trimming the country’s ballooning deficit.
The situation worsened last month after banks and money exchange houses rationed dollar sales, sparking fears of a currency devaluation.
The government is assessing a series of further belt-tightening measures it hopes will rescue the country’s ailing economy and secure $11 billion in aid pledged by international donors last year.
And it is expected to announce a series of additional tax hikes in the coming months as part of next year’s budget.
On Wednesday, the government approved tax hikes on tobacco products.
Earlier on Thursday, Information Minister Jamal Jarrah announced a 20 cent daily fee for messaging app users who made calls on platforms such as WhatsApp and Viber — a move meant to boost the cash-strapped state’s revenues.
The decision approved by cabinet on Wednesday will go into effect on January 1, 2020, he told reporters after a cabinet session, adding that the move will bring $200 million annually into the government’s coffers.
Lebanese digital rights group SMEX said the country’s main mobile operators are already planning to introduce new technology that will allow them to detect whether users are trying to make Internet calls using their networks.
“Lebanon already has some of the highest mobile prices in the region,” SMEX said on Twitter.
The latest policy “will force users to pay for Internet services twice,” it added.
TechGeek365, another digital rights group, said it contacted WhatsApp and Facebook regarding the matter.
“A spokesperson mentioned that if the decision is taken, it would be a direct violation of their ToS (terms of service),” it said.
“Profiting from any specific functionality within WhatsApp is illegal,” it added on Twitter.
But SMEX said that the 20 cent fee would be “a condition of data plans” offered by mobile operators.
“Also, Facebook previously complied with a social media tax in Uganda, which is effectively the same thing,” it said on Twitter.
Growth in Lebanon has plummeted in the wake of repeated political deadlocks in recent years, compounded by the impact of eight years of war in neighboring Syria.
Lebanon’s public debt stands at around $86 billion — higher than 150 percent of GDP — according to the finance ministry.
Eighty percent of that figure is owed to Lebanon’s central bank and local banks.