Have you ever been in a situation where you wished you had the opportunity to express your thoughts or feelings better? Well, lucky for you there’s a startup from Jordan trying to solve that problem.
Enter Yislamoo, a young a family owned business venture in Amman, Jordan. Rasha Hamdan whose the managing partner explains Yislamoo’s mission is to celebrate lifestyle in the Arabic language. They’re not your average greeting cards, they really are colourful and original.
Yislamoo started in late 2011 with the plan to start selling online right away but Rasha quickly realized that selling online was going to take a while to setup because of payment options and your everyday technical issues, so since they had the designs ready they decided to jump straight to plan B which was selling them in outlets throughout Jordan, they quickly grew from selling at three outlets to 57 since launching which enabled Rasha to shift the operations from her home to their current office location.
Now Rasha’s focusing on online again, after launching the website in December 2012 an updated version of the site is now live adding a proper Arabic version, more payment options as well as new products such as the e-greetings which as she put it is a “big leap for Yislamoo”.
So why Yislamoo? And what does it mean?
“Yislamoo” is an elaborate way of saying thank you in Arabic. It translates to a prayer: may you be safe from harm.
According to Rasha “Yislamoo is very reflective of arabic culture, its actually the epitome of the arabic culture. How we think as arabs we have to give back, not to just say thank you (shukran).” She continues “Yislamoo’s hoping to provide more social expression for everyone that speaks arabic. I hope that all our expressions can jump boundaries. I’m fascinated by everything arabic period.”
Rasha’s goal is not to be the hallmark of the MENA, but wants to create something that comes from the cultures and habits of the middle east. In Eid for example they didn’t create cards they’ve created money gift envelopes because thats what people do here, they gift cash.
Basically, if anything happens in the MENA in the life of a social butterfly, Rasha wants them to say I wonder if they’re is a yislamoo card for that.
So far Yislamoo is using online and social networks to get the word out, they have a minimal advertising budget being a startup and all but she does have the following advice when it comes to online advertising:
“Traffic from Google is much better than Facebook, because people are searching [for you]. but Facebook has helped our offline sales. its a safer bet than going with radio, because they’re expensive and they never give the right demographics.”
Rasha did also mention that Instagram fans were responding well, they responded better to non-product related updates, to her Instagram raises brand awareness and drives more traffic which means her fans are becoming more loyal.
Although most of her marketing activities are online, the majority of sales are still offline but it is mainly because they haven’t gave the website a serious push “because you need to seriously burn cash” according to Rasha, and I don’t disagree with her.
What really interested me was that fact that most of her sales are happening in the UK, USA and UAE. According to her no on in Jordan was buying online.
Plans for the future…
Rasha clearly knows what she wants to do, saying “the end game is not exit. we’re only looking for strategic partners partners who would add value to the brand and not just pimp it”.
Right now its a family business so far the seed fund was raised by family and every year they’ve injected some money, but they would like to start looking for funding elsewhere.
Advice for other entrepreneurs?
“Don’t take no for an answer from anyone, even if it involves a restraining order. Take advice and listen, but go back and ask again until you get it right, because no one is inside your head they don’t know what your thinking.”
Finally I have to mention this, testimonials from her clients are what keeps Rasha going, she told me a story about a customer who had proposed to his girlfriend using the Yislamoo card below:
The answer was yes. (it wouldn’t have been much of a testimonial if she hadn’t accepted).