Wikipedia defines a brand as: ‘a name, term, design, symbol, or any other feature that differentiates one seller’s goods and services as distinct from those of other sellers’. Unfortunately, in today’s world, Wikipedia isn’t far off. We have become infatuated with these symbols, living within a corporate world that rules and controls everything from politics to our social lives. So, is that all that makes a brand? Sahar el-Arishy, CEO and founder of 18.213 begs to differ, for her, “A brand is so much more than a barter of give and take; it’s about the feeling, the giving of a story to another human being. And that’s what I intend to do”.
“A brand is so much more than a barter of give and take; it’s about the feeling, the giving of a story to another human being. And that’s what I intend to do.”
18.213 is Egypt’s first pop-up venue, a space made for event planning and marketing for local businesses and new, fresh Egyptian entrepreneurs. Stunningly modern and sleek, yet still authentic and comfortable, the space is a marvel to behold; a duplicate of the woman behind the design. Sahar started her business in 2012 after a ton of research and a leap of faith. Starting any business in a post-revolutionary, economic-crises plagued context is extremely risky, but starting the first pop-up venue in a third world country is another statistic altogether. Sahar explains to us, “My intention of keeping it alive was so strong that I had to be extremely resourceful. I gave it my all, putting everything in; time, money, energy. The dots all started to connect and everything fell together”.
Sahar’s first client was Deana Shabaan, the notorious fashion designer, who met Sahar coincidentally and connected with her immediately. As soon as she took up the project, Sahar gorgeously transformed the place into what could be described as “a hip New York Boutique”. Despite all the odds that were against her, the event was a complete hit. People came from all over the city to experience local fashion brought to life, and Deana’s designs sold out overnight. How? Sahar tells us that, “It was simply because I believed in myself, my work, and Deana’s story. It was that simple”.
Sahar is also very selective about her clientele. She explains, “My philosophy is very simple; everything I do, I have to believe in. I’m very adept at using my intuition and I don’t compromise. Having a very quick radar for picking up on when someone is being authentic and when someone’s brand lacks purpose allows me to ensure that I only take on clients that really have a strong purpose behind their brand. Putting business second to my principles, I don’t take international brands, only local”.
With a strong commitment to family, Sahar had to temporarily put 18.213 on hold to leave Egypt in 2012. Working as a full-time mom, Sahar also decided to go back to school and get a degree in event planning, so that she could educate herself on the foundations of the industry. “Retaining information at that age simply isn’t as easy as it was before. The added factor of being a full-time parent made it the hardest two years of my life. I also had another goal with that degree: I needed to excel, not only for myself, but to put Egypt on the map as a successful Egyptian woman”.
“I want to represent a new generation of Egyptian women who change the paradigm; redefining our own roles and changing the conversation”.
With the new qualifications under her belt, Sahar returned to Egypt, kick-starting 18.213 and taking on a range of new clients representing both fashion and wellness. “This project for me, is both a form of activism and empowerment. It provides a platform for me to encourage local brands and entrepreneurs to continue down the exciting roads that they’re on as well as building new roads for future generations to walk on. I want to represent a new generation of Egyptian women who change the paradigm; redefining our own roles and changing the conversation”, Sahar tells us.
Completely shattering any global perceptions of Egypt as lacking creative innovation and talent, Sahar el-Arishy is reshaping perspectives of business, revamping the industry and redefining what an Egyptian woman can do. Sahar, we salute you!