Whether for clothes, or toys, customers are becoming more and more aware of what they are buying, and this has become an international trend. Custom made, handmade & locally made goods that are produced in more ethical ways are gaining popularity. The French have never been so numerous to promote « made in France » products. They are even willing to adopt a logo that will make them stand out.
But what about the designers and inventors that choose to surf on the “Made in Lebanon” wave? Luckily, we have some of them featured in this year’s final selection of the Brilliant Lebanese Awards*. So we decided to ask them a bit more about their choices and the difficulties they faced throughout their manufacturing journey.
“When I was introduced to the fashion world”, remembers Claire Damaa, “I discovered the devotion of designers to their mother country & how they are always inspired by their culture. And this touched me deeply. I made sure to keep in mind that loving YOUR NATIONALITY & believing in its potential are two key factors for the success of your enterprise when you are producing locally: we are as people and as entrepreneurs “MADE IN LEBANON”, and we are recognized all around the world for our skills and will. My brand is a proof of this as my clientele is international and starting with Harrods, my first client, I’ve never had anything but great reviews regarding the quality of my products”
For a customer, buying locally also means buying responsibly: it means you encourage Lebanese enterprises and talents, support local jobs and contribute to the safeguarding of knowhow within the local workforce. Smaller enterprises are usually more ethical in their vision and practices, they embody a new way of perceiving their products.
“I didn’t want to be part of the pure consumerism game anymore”, explains Nicolas Abouchaar. “It broke my heart to see that the production of a car model stops five years after production starts, although we have just finished solving all the technical issues and that we would have to start from scratch just because the outer shape has to be new… My love for children, high quality toys, and simplistic industrial design combined with my dream of manufacturing in my home land started “cooking” in my never-idling mind.”
What next? How do we insure premium quality in a country that often lacks means that are crucial to our project’s success? When Claire realized she was not finding the suppliers she needed, she flew in an Italian chef d’atelier to train her own employees. As for Nicolas, he literally went over the top and built the machines needed to manufacture his bikes. Sooner or later, both Claire Damaa & Nicolas Abouchaar, pioneers in their respective fields in Lebanon, believe that there is no other way to develop your company than by seeking advice from international experts whether for growing your business or for accreditation purposes.
“The lack of government support & the civil war have ignited in Lebanese people ambition & creativity”, explains Claire. “They are capable of doing everything & anything when needed.”
There is a lot to be done, however, as Nicolas puts it: “Your self-confidence increases tremendously when you fully master your manufacturing, and this is one of the joys of working on your own. As a teenager, I would spend most of my time riding bicycles. Now I make them for other kids to live the same moments!”
*The Brilliant Lebanese Awards are an initiative launched by BLC Bank in 2012. As the first banking awards in Lebanon, they aim to recognize Lebanese entrepreneurs through two categories: the Business of the Year and Woman Entrepreneur of the Year and are a token of the bank’s commitment to SMEs.