Ideas always begin somewhere, with Ellie Home, it all began in 2012. One day, Nahla Abdelnasser decided that the corporate lifestyle isn’t for her, and she wanted to bring handcrafts with all their perfect imperfections back to life. She also wanted to represent her obsession with elephants which eventually brought the name “Ellie” and the statement logo designed by Nour Abdelnasser. Nahla has always had a fascination with handcrafted goods. She’s always reminded herself that our history is made by hand, and she’s followed that belief in her work ever since. She believed that handcrafts are embedded in Egypt’s history and that we need to bring them back. So, Nahla and Nour Abdelnasser, being two sisters who share that love for Egyptian Craftsmanship, combined their forces and founded Ellie Home in 2012.
We sat down with Nahla to know more about her journey with Ellie Home!
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What sparked the decision to start Ellie Home?
When I decided to start Ellie Home, I was shocked to know that most artisans left their craft to work other jobs to be able to sustain a living.
Back in 2012, there was no one in this sector anymore. At that point, I didn’t only want to create a good quality product that people can gift each other with. I actually started seeing it as a responsibility to bring that art back to Egypt. How could we leave it to reach this point?
It was really hard at first, but what also pushed me is that I wanted to create something to spread cheerfulness and that thing is called Ellie.
Now we are very proud to be the pioneers in this area but it took a lot of work. We went to the artisans and we asked them to work with us and to trust us, and that’s how it all started.
What kind of products does Ellie Home offer?
When we started, we wanted to make our handcrafts to be part of the daily use of everyone. We wanted to be a part of the plates you ate in and the mugs you drank in and we wanted them to be of good quality. In fact, we have worked a lot on the products to be more practical. We didn’t want them to break easily or compromise the safety of the materials.
First thing, we worked on home accessories, then we worked on tableware, then came bakeware. We later started our wellness line during Covid. We needed to take care of ourselves so we made oil burners, scented candles, and a lot of other products that focus on our wellbeing to give us time for ourselves.
Covid made us stop and think of how tired we were, it made us sit with ourselves. These are the values we’re really pushing since Corona started.
Tell us about the process of working with local craftsmen
When we started, they were intimidated by us. Some felt that we were there to get them out of their comfort zone and disturb what they always knew, and others didn’t take us seriously.
Then by time, when they saw that we were serious and dedicated, a lot of people were very supportive. At some point, I was spending the most lovable time of my life with these craftsmen. One of the values we were working on was to change people’s perception that craftsmen come from a certain background and had a certain attitude because that’s not the truth.
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What were the biggest challenges you’ve faced when you first started out?
One of the challenges is how rare it is to find craftsmen. There aren’t as many craftsmen anymore. Most of them are now 80 years old and their sons usually work other jobs to be able to make enough money. So, one of the things we were working on is to pay them fairly.
Another challenge is that back then, people didn’t consider the work done and the safe materials used in its making. People compared our work with what was in the market, and the Chinese product dominated the market back then. People viewed our products as art pieces, not for practical everyday use. So, we had to work really hard to change this perception and to have our market size. Each business needs to sell to establish its ground in the market.
What do you hope for Ellie Home in the future?
In the future, I dream of Ellie being like Ikea. I dream of having a product of Ellie in each and every house in the world. This is how big I dream and I’m working towards it. Hopefully, we’ll be able to reach that dream soon.
In your opinion, how can female entrepreneurs support each other in Egypt?
One of the challenges small businesses go through is that you don’t get enough support, it’s mostly individual effort. Creating a community to support each other is one of the greatest things that are recently happening.
We can help with all the resources because we know that life is already hard enough for us in Egypt. If I know something and someone else needs it, I would give anything I have to support them. It took me 9 years to get to where I am, it doesn’t have to take the same 9 years for someone else. I could support them with my experience and knowledge.
We need to shout out for each other, we need to let people know of each other’s businesses.
Most Egyptian women have had to answer the question “Hanefra7 Biki Emta ” before in reference to marriage, despite any accomplishments they may have already made, what would you say in response to that question?
I usually say that I am happy with myself. I am happy the way I am, so you should be happy that I am happy. When you respond that way, they feel ashamed of their question. They tell me that they see me in interviews, that they tell their friends about my business so why aren’t you happy with me? What more should I do to make you happy?
I truly don’t care for their happiness honestly, I’m not here to make anyone happy. I am happy the way I am.