In a market dominated by Chinese soft toys, this entrepreneur thrives to make the tables turn.
After 12 years in the Ministry of Telecommunications, Passant Saied decided to send her notice and open up a doll factory. "There’s a policy against running a business while working in the government," Saied tells Startup Scene. "And in order for the doll-making project to have grown, I had to establish a company."
In 2015, Shorouk Newspaper revealed that the market size of the toy industry in Egypt is valued at EGP 20 million, and 90% of it is Chinese. "I believe that the market is big enough to supplement and by time we wouldn’t need to export," Saied says, who plans to contribute on a larger scale to the soft toys industry in Egypt.
In July 2017, Saied left her job in the Technology Innovation and Entrepreneurship Centre (TIEC) and launched PAF Dolls, which stands for Passant Art Factory, based out of her house. "I allocated an amount, EGP 5,000 with which I made around 60 dolls," she says, reminiscing at the memory of her pilot phase. "Of course, that was a small amount of money for making 60 dolls because the material was not expensive considering that this batch was a pilot."
Following a stage of trial and error, Saied started going to bazaars and found demand on her dolls. She couldn't supply the demanded quantity at the requested time because she only had two hands. She had to get people on board, and that was how her small home-based business started to take shape of a scalable startup.
"One of the very important steps of launching a startup is partnerships," says Saied. Being well connected among the entrepreneurial scene and socialites, her paths crossed with those of celebrities like Ragaa El-Giddawy and Amr Adib and asked them to become brand ambassadors and wear the PAF brooches on air to get more exposure.
Saied is also very fond of up-cycling and wants to take part in the green revolution spiraling in Egypt. So, she struck a deal with the iconic homegrown fashion brand Marie Louis and had them send PAF Dolls their fabric waste and PAF's artisans turned them into dresses and garments for the dolls. With that deal, Saied killed two birds with one stone, selling her products co-branded as brooches pinned in Marie Louis bags and blazers in addition to becoming part of the up-cycling movement.
Later, when the Marie Louis deal proved its success, Saied decided to kill three birds with one stone. She took cuts from a Ghanian brand called Sa4a, turned them into dresses for a collection of dolls made especially for the African Cup that took place in Egypt; paving a road for potential expansion and collaboration in Africa.
"A lot of people like handicrafts. Be it a hobby or a job, the handicrafter does what he does out of real passion. So, I don't ever see it fading out," Saied concludes.
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