Ahmed Abidine is a handbag designer and a social entrepreneur. He is also a graduate student at PSU studying urban planning.
What is your company?
elkarti a luxury ethical fashion line. We design unique accessories. Our mission is to help under-served artisans develop their education and business skills. We do this by investing a third of our profits in education and business training programs for our artisans.
How did you come up with the idea?
I grew up in Morocco. When I was young I worked in the markets of Marrakech selling leather sandals to tourists. There I developed strong ties with Moroccan artisans and learned the arts of traditional Moroccan craftsmanship.
Where did you find your first customer?
I found my first customer at Portland Community College. I sold some handbag designs I made to some of my professors and mentors. Then I started redesigning and refining my designs. I would make couple handbags whenever I visit Morocco until I started selling them to boutiques in Portland. People love them but always asked about the brand.
I did not have one so I started a fashion line. I named it after my mother, “elkarti” is her last name. I named the brand after my mother because she is the inspiring entrepreneur that I have become. She was an elementary school teacher but also a designer of Moroccan traditional clothing. I learned a lot about design from her and the line elkarti is a legacy to her even though she still does not approve what I do and she wants me to get a “real job” rather then pursuing my handbag design career!
What are you currently doing to reach your customers?
Currently I am selling to boutiques and organizing a kickstarter campaign as well organizing a benefit event for the artisans we work with. I invite you to attend if you are interested in what we do: https://www.facebook.com/events/257977734353338
How much did you start up with?
$200 of leather supplies.
Did you bring on investors, get loans, or grow naturally?
Naturally grown along with family and friends loans.
What’s the best advice someone has given you?
Never give up. Be honest. When down, don’t go out. When the brand is down let it sink, stop all your operations and come back …or call it quits.
What are your keys to staying productive?
Working out, “good relationships” and much more…
What resources or books do you refer to regularly?
Read the books of Guy Kawasaki.
Has your company experienced any close calls or lucky moments?
Many close calls and many lucky moments among which is winning a couple of social business awards.
What does success mean to you?
Success means changing peoples’ lives.
Where would you like to see your business 5 years from now?
I would like to be a recognized fashion label in the luxury accessories business and be known but designing sick and slick designs. Also changing peoples’ lives one handbag at a time!
What do you need help with?
Spreading the word about my benefit to the Deaf Artisan Group of Marrakech (our partner artisan group) as well promoting our Kickstarter campaign.
How can people find you online?
Special CAKEpdx.com Offer
15% OFF elkarti Design
Contact Ahmed Directly!
(mention “cake” when ordering)
More about Simo and the Deaf Artisan Group of Marrakech: