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Women Entrepreneurs in Action: The card maker

Women Entrepreneurs in Action is Al-Masry Al-Youm's new series on women who start their own businesses from home.

Whether as a means of increasing income or as a result of extra time, women all over Egypt are sparking up their creative energies in different fields and organizing their ideas into little businesses. This is, of course, a global phenomenon and entrepreneurship is a trend for both genders.

In this series we look at women who create businesses from home, discussing the birth of their idea, the steps they took to actualize their businesses and, for those who ventured out into boutiques or online, the catalyst of their growth.

Even greater are the numbers of women who live, day by day, with an idea that has yet to be actualized. The series is therefore fueled by profiles of women who have stepped up to start their own businesses and articles about resources for starting your own business.

Are you starting your own business? Send us your information or let us know what would resources you would like us to highlight.

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Far from women’s traditional small businesses that we have heard about a hundred times, Yasmine al-Mehairy, a web service project manager who graduated in computer science, chose to go against the flow and take up the craft of handmade cards as an innovative hobby–which soon became her successful business as well.
Al-Masry: How did the idea come into your mind?
El-Mehairy: I wanted to step out of my daily routine. So, I surfed the internet, looking for a new hobby to pursue. Eventually, the idea of card making captured my attention and stirred up my creativity. In addition, I thought it could be a new handmade craft market in Egypt.
Al-Masry: When did you create your first card?
El-Mehairy: On my best friend’s birthday in October 2008, which fortunately turned out very well. But, before my first card, I kept browsing the internet for a month in an effort to learn all styles and techniques used in the process of manufacturing cards.
Al-Masry: How was your journey to success?
El-Mehairy: At first, it was really hard. At Christmas 2008, I made a lot of stuff, which I failed to sell most of, as some stores evaded paying my money. I started to lose hope, but in May 2009 a friend’s wife advised me to join a handcrafts bazaar, where I met two foreign women, the owners of a bookstore called “Bookspot” in Maadi. They asked to sell my products in their bookstore. Since then, I joined a lot of bazaars at Le Pacha, the Imperial, the Swiss Club as well as international schools, where I had some success. Besides “Bookspot,” my cards are available at “Forget me not,” a gift shop in Mohandessin, and on my Facebook group [Handmade card by Yasmine El-Mehairy].   
Al-Masry: What type of card sells the most?
El-Mehairy: I can’t name a certain one. Women and girls, who are my main customers, appreciate the idea of cards in general. While guys are mostly interested in love cards, especially on Valentine’s Day. For younger ages, Mother’s Day cards are more preferred. Foreigners like Christmas cards, whereas Egyptians buy congratulations cards in which they usually gift away money for different occasions such as weddings, newborn babies, graduations, and birthdays.  
Al-Masry: Is there a high demand season for cards?
El-Mehairy: Yes, winter is the high demand season, when several occasions occur including Christmas, New Year’s Eve, Valentine’s and Mother’s day. Low demand seasons are Ramadan and summer, due to vacations.
Al-Masry: In your opinion, what distinguishes your work from others on the market?
El-Mehairy: Besides the fact that they are all handmade; each card has its own unique design. There is no way to find two identical cards in my collection. I always try to come up with creative ideas like Arabic cards that are made of pure Egyptian materials such as blue beads, golden and silver coins and Egyptian pattern papers. I also make cards without sayings or quotes, just simple designs such as a butterfly or flower, in order to suit any occasion.   
Al-Masry: What is the price range of your cards?
El-Mehairy: Prices range from LE10 to LE35, depending on materials and techniques used. Some designs take more time and effort than others.
Al-Masry: What are the materials used to make your cards?
El-Mehairy: Card stock papers, patterned paper, beads, ribbons, buttons and stamps.
Al-Masry: Do you find the cards business profitable?
El-Mehairy: I don’t take it so seriously. I can say that it is a hobby that pays its own expenses. But I believe that if I dedicate more time and produce extra quantities, it will surely be profitable.
Al-Masry: Are you planning to open your own card shop?
El-Mehairy: No, because I think I won’t be able to balance between my full time job and private business. Besides, opening a specialized cards shop won’t be such a practical idea since people tend to get the cards from the same shop where they purchase gifts. My aspiration is to have my own brand in high profile bookshops and gift stores.  
Al-Masry: What kind of experience did you gain from working in the art field?
El-Mehairy: Working in a completely different field outside of my own career is giving me a new taste of life. The art field, which is so much fun, opens up my world to various types of people I couldn’t have ever imagined meeting before.
Al-Masry: What do you advise other women who want to start their own business?
El-Mehairy: You should have a lot of passion for what you're doing. In Egypt, everything is difficult, whether you're dealing with workers, buying supplies, marketing and selling… You name it. Everything is a hassle so if your passion isn't going to get you through, nothing will. Another important thing is time management, whether it is because you have a job or are married and have kids, or have other commitments or hobbies. If you are able to balance between your priorities, you'll know how to fit it all in.
Al-Masry: What is the best advice you received at the beginning of your business? 
El-Mehairy: The best advice I received was where to sell my products. Like I mentioned, a friend’s wife told me about bazaars and art fairs, while i was only looking for gift shops. So I guess, artists or women who want to start their business should work hand in hand in order to support each other and achieve success. 

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