About a month ago, I reunited with Peri Abou Zied, Thaat founder, in Cairo to talk about her start-up. Thaat is a design and research social enterprise that aims to empower local artisans and emerging designers through holistic tailored solutions. So far, Thaat collaborated with around 300 artisans from different places in Egypt. It was launched in 2012.

A design and research social enterprise that aims to empower local artisans and emerging designers

I first met Peri 2011 during our Masters in Social Entrepreneurship at Goldsmiths College in London. Back then, she already talked about the idea to work with local artisans, especially women, to maintain a sustainable livelihood. Yet it turned out, she started thinking about the idea years before:

“It took me seven years to work on Thaat’s idea. It’s never too late to turn one simple idea into a great reality.” – Peri Abou Zied, Thaat Founder

Thus, it’s fair to say that Thaat can be seen as the “brain child” of the social designer. In 2013, she partnered with Nada Bahgat and together they now run the organisation.

Egyptian social enterprise THAAT empowers local artisans and emerging designers I whatamission.com

THAAT team: Peri Abou Zied & Nada Bahgat @ Melanie Akerboom Photography

Together with marginalised artisan communities, Thaat co-creates feasible low-cost & innovative solutions

Within the 2, 5 years of operation, Thaat developed and is of today a successful, self-sustaining business. Together with marginalised artisan communities, they co-create feasible low-cost and innovative solutions related to craft design and production. Thaat’ is focusing on improving productivity, design, quality and diversification of local handicraft. Through their consultancy and mentoring services, they create more job opportunities for both artisans and designers, and they foster direct relationships between them.

The team uses design thinking to design feasible solutions and to enable the artisans to break out of the cycle of poverty. At the moment they are based in Embaba, one of the biggest slum areas in Cairo. In collaboration with ILO and a local NGO, they recently launched a craft school. The school caters for 90 underprivileged girls and women, equipping them with skills and knowledge of sewing, embroidery, print making and applique. In addition to that, they also teach them skills in entrepreneurship and social media marketing. Apart from this, they give training for trainers, which they named the “Design For Change” Programme.

Thaat is aiming to secure eyeglasses for 1000 Egyptian artisans

Thaat recently started their first social cause: Naddarty (meaning “my eyeglasses”). Thaat is aiming to secure eyeglasses for 1000 Egyptian artisans working in the textile-based craft industry to help them pursue their craft. Up to date, they managed to collect around 200 used eye glasses from their local community.

The following infographic explains how it works:

Thaats first social cause: Naddardty - collection of used eyeglasses for 1000 Egyptian artisans working in the textile-based craft industry.

Thaats first social cause: Naddarty – collection of used eyeglasses for 1000 Egyptian artisans working in the textile-based craft industry.

The idea of Naddarty developed when Peri noticed in one of Thaat’s Design For Change trainings, that one of the local artisan, who was part of a women’s cooperative based in Helwan, could not deliver good quality in spite of training due to her weak eyesight. Creating handmade textiles and garments requires a focus to detail, but because of poor eyesight, the quality of work and accordingly the income of artisans is affected. Unfortunately, most artisans are neither able to afford to get their eye sight tested, nor can they afford to buy glasses. Reusing old pairs seemed to be the perfect low cost solution.

In order to financially support the cause, Peri designed a small product line: tote bag (80LE), wash bag (65LE) and make-up bag (45LE). All products are made of 100% Egyptian linen and are hand printed. They are manufactured and printed by the South Sudanese refugee community in Cairo, Egypt. They are sold in 2 shops in Cairo, who also serve also collection points for the used eye glasses :

1. Wanas Concept Store, 11 Al Gazira el Wosta Street, Zamalek
2. Art Cafe,62 road 13, Maadi, ehind El Maadi Police Statio

The income from sales enables Thaat to purchase 200 eyeglass lenses. The upcycled eyeglasses will be sold to the artisans for 10 LE as their contribution to the community. This money will help Thaat to provide more lenses. If you now feel like supporting Thaat in their mission, consider some one these options:

  1. Donate used, but in good condition, eyeglasses.
  2. Start a collection point for used eyeglasses in your city
  3. Take a photo with the Naddarty logo and promote the cause via social media. Use the hashtags #naddarty and #thaatinaction.
  4. By some of their Naddarty products (see pictures).
  5. Share or follow them on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram to spread the word.

You can also get in contact with them via Email: thaategy@gmail.com.

And if you are simply here to look for inspiration, perhaps this is something for you:

Peri’s personal tips for aspiring (social) entrepreneurs:

  1. Make sure to revisit your model every once in a while and shift things. Check if you have changed views  concerning your goals – what you have achieved, where you stand and were you are heading.
  2. Change is good, failure is even better. It’s all about disruption.
  3. Involve all stakeholders in the process. Each of them has an important role to play. It’s never a one man show.