Al Akhawayn Alumna Starts E-Enterprise for Hand-Made Toys
Ifrane, September 12, 2012 – In April 2012, Kawtar Jalili (‘08), an engineering graduate of Al Akhawayn University, established Idida.ma, an online company for hand-made toys and crafts.
Jalili is the founder of Idida.ma, and currently an adjunct lab assistant at Al Akhawayn School of Science and Engineering.
Below are the answers of Jalili to an-8-question interview.
Q: What is Idida and when was it launched?
A: Idida means small hand in Moroccan Arabic. Idida.ma is an online craft company of crocheted and knitted products aimed specifically at babies and toddlers. We launched it in April 2012. Our products include a large selection of hand-made toys and creative items. We also customize products to the needs of our customers.
Q: Who is your audience?
A: It is mainly parents, more specifically mothers. We also target the fans of Japanese culture through Amigurumi. There is a considerable community that likes this art.
Q: How did the idea of creating Idida.ma originate?
A: I got inspired from my personal experience. When I was pregnant with my daughter and staying at home, I started doing some hand crafts. I made baby clothes and toys for her. My crafts got a lot of popularity and positive feedback among the people I know. Then, one day, I took part in a craft sale in Casablanca. Although I did not have many products to showcase, everything I had was sold out in one afternoon. At that moment I thought that this would be a good business project. I now have three other ladies from Ifrane working with me. They master crocheting. I supervise the design. They were stay-at-home moms; so I encouraged them to join my new adventure.
Q: How did you manage questions or problems that exceeded your knowledge or experience in creating an e-business?
A: Being a computer science graduate, creating and managing a website was not a problem. It also helped that I am a crafter and I know a lot about crocheting and knitting. These two skills helped me launch Idida.ma. However, managing the whole business required much more than that. I had to know more about accounting, taxes, marketing, networking, and communication. This was all new to me and I didn’t realize at the beginning that it would be that hard. I sought the advice of friends and teachers from the marketing department at my alma mater, Al Akhawayn University in Ifrane. A team of students drew my communication plan for their capstone project and I was able to make the big step forward. Being an Al Akhawayn alumna helped me achieve this.
Q: What advantages do you see in developing such a business?
A: I decided to start small. I wanted to discover the market before going bigger with my company. I chose to be self-sufficient in my project and the choice of e-commerce fits well my needs.
Q: In which phase is Idida now?
A: It is starting to be known. We are promoting it nationally for now. I am also coordinating with Moroccan magazines and working on a new communication program.
Q: What are your future plans or activities?
A: When I started this business, I always thought about the women in the region of Ifrane who have craft skills but are not visible. I knew them when I was a student and was involved in social activities at Al Akhawayn University. I am aware of their social situation and their needs. My project aims at creating a portal for those women where they can sell their products online as well. They are very talented, and I would like to help them achieve national and international visibility.
Concerning Idida, I plan to look for interesting perspectives in an international market. I will be attending a craft fair in France next November. I am also interested in finding some distributors in the market.
Q: As a computer science graduate, what can you say about experience vs theory?
A: I not only received higher education from Al Akhawayn University, but I also gained experience. I was an active student. I was involved in various activities that helped me develop important skills such as management and team building. I would advise every student to be involved in extracurricular activities, because there you practice what you learn in class. This is extremely important. When you already have an experience, once you are in the real job market, you know you are ready. I would also advise students not to lock themselves in a room, but join the out-of-class experience that Al Akhawayn’s educational sytem offers them.