Starting one’s own blog is nothing new but for the 32-year old Hana, this is a whole different story. Putting the spotlight on our local fashion industry gave Hana the ability and the purpose to shine. Through her hashtag #Hanagoeslocal, Hana was able to become the link between the public and our local Egyptian brands. Egypt boasts a selection of talented designers and fashion-makers that we wouldn’t have known about; be it for Hana’s enlightening blog. It is remarkable how Egyptians tend to find alternatives in times of economic crisis, and Hana is no exception.
Has it always been a passion of yours to recruit local brands? How did you start your business?
It all started when our Egyptian pound crashed against the dollar. I remember everybody was talking about how expensive everything had become, be it fashion, schools, food etc and rightfully so. I thought hold on, why are these people not looking into our local products that were more affordable instead of complaining all the time?! And coming from having my own local retail business prior to the revolution, I knew how hard it was for the local brands or businesses to shine. To be honest, I had no plan as a business to evolve after I posted that one image of me carrying one of my favourite local brands that makes bags, “NUNIZ”. I had no clue that this one picture would get me where I am today with the hashtag. I remember my caption was something like “The Egyptian pound crashed against the dollar, and we now can look into our local products as this is their time to shine…” something like that, and at the end I just hashtaged it #hanagoeslocal Bam! The response was amazing from the followers and also the designer who called me telling me that clients were calling her asking her for the bag “Hana had posted”, and from there came #hanagoeslocal.
Have you thought about extending your business by enlisting international brands for example?
That would defeat the purpose of what I am trying to do. I am branding my business by going local so for now I’m only going local in Egypt, but eventually I could branch out and offer other local products and you could shop by country! I don’t know, we will see. For now my whole focus is on Egypt, and I still have a lot more I have planned for Egypt that I feel I could offer these local entities, so I’m taking it one step at a time!
What was your most successful or memorable achievement?
Regarding #hanagoeslocal, honestly, the amount of incredible feedback I get from friends, family and followers really is my most successful achievement. A lot of people are discovering so many more talented designers or businesses because of the #hanagoeslocal. I was also elected as an empowering woman to go speak at AUC (The American University in Cairo) to the students about my initiative and why we should go local! And of course being selected to speak at The Creative Industry Summit amongst influential strong people in the industry was also a memorable achievement.
What have you learned from mistakes in the retail business?
I know how hard it is to manufacture in Egypt, unfortunately it’s not as smooth as you wish it could be. You literally need to be on top of everything for it to be the way you want it to be. One of my mistakes was not creating a business plan for me to fall back on when I was in the retail business prior to the revolution. You need to have a plan!
How are you planning on improving e-commerce?
We live in a very fast paced world now and everything today is online! The way forward is online, so I plan on keeping up with today’s technology to improve the customer experience. I also plan on making sure I have the right and best local options available online so that the clients keep coming back for more.
What is your choosing/picking process? Do your clients come to you or do you seek them?
This is the hardest and funniest part for me! The thrill of finding new brands excites me. When I first started, I would do more of the research. Today, it is a bit easier for me as a lot of the designers come to me and offer their brand to be featured on #hanagoeslocal. The thing with the hashtag is that I only promote brands and styles I would actually buy or wear, and I must be allowed to choose the actual style as obviously not everything would look good on me, depending on fit or style. I choose what’s best for my body type, my colours, my style etc. Unfortunately, sometimes I am unable to work with a specific brand as I feel it is not something ‘Hana’ would wear or buy. The most important thing for me is to stay real to myself and to my followers, otherwise what’s the point?
We are aware that you were recently part of the Creative Industry Summit; can you tell us more about the topic you have tackled?
Being offered an opportunity to speak at The Creative Industry Summit was an honour. I remember I freaked out that I would have to talk in front of all these people because I wasn’t used to getting up and speaking to a crowd, but I pushed all that aside and realised this was not something I was going to give up on easily! The topic was easy, #hanagoeslocal, but more why, when, how and what was next for me. The topic then became how I used my social media platforms to promote these brands for free, and this was my way of giving back to my community and shedding light on these talented entities that didn’t have much of a social media presence.
Where do you see yourself 5 years from now?
I am focused on this next year and my focus is taking the hashtag to retail. I can hope to grow www.hanagoeslocal.com into an empire! 🙂
Tell us more about your website, what brands do you cater so far? Are there any benefits for the client or the customer? (sales, discounts…etc.)
I decided to take the hashtag to the next level for it to be sustainable! So I decided to start an online boutique offering all the brands I support on my social media through the hashtag #hanagoeslocal. Now you can actually shop the hashtag on www.hanagoeslocal.com. You can shop from fashion, to accessories, to home and gifts to kids; I will be including men too! I promise my customers that I will always find the best of the best available to offer to them.