If you live in Egypt, you may have noticed your Instagram feed (and maybe real life) taken over by pictures of girls and women carrying different-sized and shaped bags all made out of beads. This is the courtesy of Kato, an online local brand who alongside their bags also sells phone straps made of beads. Kato was launched in 2019 by university student Halla Emara and has quickly gained a lot of popularity. At Entrepreneurs’ Society, we had the pleasure of asking Halla Emara some questions about her business and her entrepreneurial experience.
We started off by asking her what the inspiration for starting Kato had originally been. Emara informed us that it was actually her sister who inspired her. She told us that she had never been particularly interested in fashion, but that two years ago her sister came back from a visit to Aswan with a “cute little handmade bag” and that seeing it, she had felt extremely inspired. She, then, took her mother and went to Aswan herself to talk to the woman who made the bag. After learning more about the bags and how they are made, she started to search for people in Cairo who could do the same. Eventually, she came across a non-profit organization that worked with women across Egypt who create handmade products, and after 6 months of working on samples, Kato launched in June of 2019.
Because she is still a student in university, we wanted to know how she has been able to balance her studies and social life alongside her business. To that, Emara revealed that sometimes achieving this balance “gets hard” but that she makes an effort to always prioritize different things at different times depending on what is going on in her life. So, when she has exams, she will place her studies as her top priority. And when a new launch, for example, is coming out, Kato becomes the priority. She added that she tries “as much as [she] can to manage [her] time in a way that they don’t clash with each other.”
As for a piece of advice that she would give any young women aspiring to be like her, Emara stressed the importance of being aware that it’s okay to not have everything planned out and to even sometimes feel lost because she herself doesn’t always have it all figured out.
“Just take your chances and work really really hard for them, and life will take you where you are supposed to be.” - Halla Emara
We also had to know if she has ever thought of collaborating with her sister, Farah Emara, on a brand together. “We always do,” she said. But, she explained that it’s extremely difficult for them to find something that they both want to do because of how different they both are.
When we asked her how she manages to stay on top of the fashion trend game, she told us that she does not actually think she can call herself on top of fashion trends. She explained that at the end of the day, the extent to which something is “trendy” does not matter to her if she herself does not like it. However, Pinterest boards and Instagram often help her keep up with current trends and styles.
As for the biggest challenge that she has overcome, Emara shared that it was actually finding the right people to manufacture the bags in the way that she envisioned them to be. She explained that she doesn't “settle for less than perfect” and so, it was very challenging to find the people who could fulfill the ideas that she had for the bags.
Finally, we were delighted to hear that Kato is launching a new collection in less than a month! Emara told us that she has been working on this collection for the longest time. So, stay tuned !!!
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