ONLINE EMPOWERMENT

By: Jane Borges

With the advent of social networking, running successful home-based businesses has only become easier.

One doesn’t need elaborate set-ups, fancy stores or full-fledged marketing strategies. Ten women entrepreneurs from Oman have shown just exactly how. Having started their independent fashion and beauty chains, they used photo-sharing platform Instagram to draw interested buyers.

Earlier this year, they connected via their Instagram profiles and decided to showcase their work on a larger scale. The Oman Innovators Bazaar at Space centre in Azaiba – a weekend exhibition that took place on April 24-25 – was an outcome of this effort.

The incredible pool of talent was visible from the wide range of handcrafted jewellery, jalabiyas, skirts, abayas, evening gowns, embroidered children’s wear, and homemade face creams and perfumes on display at the bazaar.

Most of these entrepreneurs are barely a year into their business ventures, but the huge response they’ve received online has helped them expand their horizons, and test the success of their brands outside the Web.

The bazaar, they said, was one such window of opportunity for them to connect with their online customers, offline.

For homemaker Nawal al Abdul Salam, owner of Noon Fashions, who launched her line of abayas under the tag @noon_fashions on Instagram, promoting her range wasn’t difficult because of the widespread popularity of social networking sites. It gave her enough time to focus on her fashion line, she said.

Nawal, who previously designed scarves, took a break from her business after she got married. Six years later, having managed to strike a balance between her duties at home and love for apparel design, she worked on putting together the many colourful abayas that were exhibited at Space centre. “I love colour, which is why I decided to experiment with my abayas,” said Nawal.

The self-taught designer works with bright chiffon and cotton fabrics to create her distinct designs.

Once she is done with a piece, the details and price range are made available on Instagram. After her online buyers seal the deal, all that Nawal has to handle is arranging the deliveries. “It’s that simple,” she says.

Mazaieen fashions and H&H Collection are other online brands tapping the abaya fashion industry on Instagram.

Pharmacist Amna al Alawai, who otherwise loves making dresses for her daughter, took the cue to start something of her own when some of her friends forayed into home-grown ventures. “I started with a small amount of RO200 because with my full-time job, it was impossible to market my products or do something on a big scale,” said Amna.

Less than a year ago, she started Janna Skirts, designing flowy netted and chiffon skirts in pastel and bold hues that became an instant hit among her Instagram followers. She sees this as a lucrative option for those who are tied up with jobs outside, and are unable to devote themselves completely to hobbies they are passionate about. Amna herself designs only when she can spare some time at home or when she is really inspired. “Serious buyers contact me and then come over to my place to see and buy the skirts,” she says.

Uhood al Zadjali chanced upon Instagram when she was desperately looking for a job. “That’s when my best friend suggested that I try starting a business online,” she recounts. Knowledge about beauty and make-up products helped. She started procuring products from the US and selling it on Instagram. “Before I knew, I was getting a lot of queries,” she admits.

Lama al Saleh’s brand of handcrafted jewellery pieces, customised wallets and evening gowns that she started along with a Lebanon designer four years ago, has also grown exponentially on Instagram, she admitted.

There are also a few businesses that are targeting online shoppers after having established their brand in the market. One such venture is the Party Fever Store run by graphic designer Asila al Said, who along with her husband, started the children’s party supplies shop at Al Qurum Complex (CCC) in October last year. Asila, who customises paper plates, badges, balloons and caps for her customers, has over 2,000 followers on Instagram. That’s more than the possible number of customers she gets at her store, she says.

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“With more and more people opting for online shopping, opening a store on the Web has only become very important. It’s also the best way to market and advertise your product,” says Asila.

Having an online store creates curiosity among prospective buyers, she says. “Most of the people who visit our shop, first heard about us online.”

SOURCE: MUSCAT DAILY