Interview with Rasha Hamdan, Yislamoo family business partner:
For every special occasion, there is a perfect card that captures the moment and allows us to share it with someone special. In the west, the tradition of card giving is deeply ingrained in modern culture as brands like Hallmark produce custom greeting cards that commemorate a variety of special days ranging from Father’s Day to Wedding Anniversaries. In an effort to bring such a tradition to the Middle East but with a flair of humor and contemporary sensibility, the founders of Yislamoo established their company in Jordan with a hope that the enterprise would one day cater to every Arab who sends a greeting card. In the following interview with Tharawat Magazine, we hear the story of the family entrepreneurs behind Yislamoo and of its vision for the future.
When did you establish Yislamoo and what role did your family play in it?
Yislamoo was registered in 2011 but it has been brewing for a lot longer than that. I just had to build enough courage to take the plunge and put everything else aside in order to manage its launch.
Yislamoo is made up of 6 partners: Ghuzlan Hamdan, Mohammad Hamdan, Mohammad Yaghan, Mohammad Zeidan, Dima Hamdan and myself. We as a family stand behind our brand and put into it all our love and passion.
I am the only person who works full time while my brother Mohammad takes the task of expanding Yislamoo in the UAE. The remaining founders come from professional backgrounds that have immensely helped in the direction of Yislamoo although they are not involved with the daily operations. As a family, we have been all injecting money and prayers to make it happen.
What makes your brand so unique, and what is your main purpose?
I can argue about the purpose of creating this brand and how I tried to make it unique, but I feel it’s more important to hear from the customers themselves. A guy sent us an email awhile back thanking us for the sincere and personal messages that our cards hold. One of them he actually bought to propose to his girlfriend who said yes!
And yesterday we received a message via Instagram from a customer from Palestine who drove from Nazareth to Hebron just to buy our cards.
Why do you feel that the tradition of “greeting” is particularly important in Arab culture?
Greeting is very important in every culture; people long for acknowledgement, do not want to be taken for granted, and want to feel cherished. That’s what personal notes are for; reaching out to someone and making them feel special.
At Yislamoo, we do that in our own language and our own skin. Arabic is beautiful and its contemporary evolution has been fascinating.
Unfortunately, we haven’t banked on this treasure through our visual communication. There might be only a handful of greeting card companies that offer greetings in Arabic but none of them utilizes slang, contemporary language, or focus on multi-nationalities like Yislamoo does.
What do you feel is the most rewarding aspect of being an entrepreneur and what is the most difficult part?
I think that the most rewarding aspect is not only creating something small and watching it grow, but also being part of a bigger circle of entrepreneurs, mentors and investors. The energy that has entered my life in the last couple of years is tremendous. I read once in an article that creativity is transferred by osmosis and I must concur.
Many difficulties lie ahead of an entrepreneur especially in an online business, and coding is one of them. The Middle East is booming with many ecommerce providers. However, their platform and customer service experience leave much to be desired and we faced many challenges to get our online store the way it is now.
Also, our type of business needs to collaborate with old-school suppliers and partners who are sometimes very hard to convince.
It is and will always be an emotionally charged journey with the inevitable ups and downs, and you take things to heart no matter how reasonable and practical you are or try to be.
What would you like Yislamoo to become in the next 5 years?
Simply put in this little scenario: if anything happens to anyone hailing from the Middle East, the first thing to come to his or her mind is: I wonder if there’s a Yislamoo card for this?