Maysa's sister Assel inspects their products. (Images via Loz)
When you talk about what inspired Maysa Alshaer to create Loz, a new startup creating quirky greeting cards, it’s apparent that a fondness of the Arabic culture and language plays a major role.
“I am a fan of the Arabic language and have nostalgia for it,” Maysa Alshaer told Wamda. “I always support using Arabic through social networking sites, and I thought about reviving the Arabic language through gifts, especially through greeting cards.”
Loz, which means almond in Arabic, is what takes up all of Alshaer’s spare time. While working in digital marketing for major brands across Palestine, the Jenin native creates and designs all the cards herself.
Not yet a year old, and using just a Facebook page, they’ve sold around 10,000 cards in 10 months. “I did not expect the idea to be successful so quickly, particularly as the culture of greeting cards disappeared a long time ago. I'm really happy to revive this culture again.”
Currently Loz is selling through 14 gift shops in Palestine, and one in Jordan.
When asked why she chose Loz as a name she explained that it was about the time of year in which she launched - spring. “[It is] the season in which almonds blossom - the almond season is about joy and pain and love and beauty.”
The greeting cards will be created by women across Palestine with experience in calligraphy, design and paint.
To get the ball rolling, Alshaer, along with the help of her sisters, has launched a crowdfunding campaign through Zoomaal. To date, the startup has been self-funded and money made on cards thus far has gone straight back into Loz.
Loz is looking to expand with money raised.
With a goal of $12,000 and 49 days to go, they’ve reached nearly 50 percent of their total.
The money raised will be used to register Loz as a trademark, create workshops to employ Palestinian women with artistic ambitions, development of the cards, building the website and shipping them abroad.
Additionally, Loz is participating in the Women on the Frontline challenge, launched by Zoomaal in partnership with Hivos, to encourage entrepreneurship across the Middle East and North Africa. Startups will receive up to $20,000 in matched-funding through the challenge, tailored specifically for projects that raise awareness about issues concerning women and support equal female participation in society.
If they reach their goal Alshaer hopes to use the funds to expand on their cards and produce mugs, plates, and pots, as well as tourist souvenirs and create props for weddings and special occasions.
Along with her two sisters, Aseel and Tasneem, they’re dividing up tasks in order to execute as quickly as possible and follow up with interested customers.
They’ve received ample support from friends and family, who were some of their first customers. The goal is to use phrases that reflect Palestinian history, culture and daily life as well as food and the relationship between love and friendship.
“Everyone smiles when they see the phrases on the cards,” said Alshaer. “The first card I designed and printed was very dear to me. It was about the relationship between oil and thyme which my father would use a lot.”
They plan to make cards for all occasions from Mother’s Day, Valentine’s Day to wedding season, mothers-to-be and graduations. Alshaer has been marketing through Facebook and Instagram and reaching out to local gift shops to sell their products.
Colloquialisms to appeal to diaspora.
Targeting Arabs living in the diaspora their intention is to have them reconnect with Arabic idioms and culture; they also plan to sell in gift stores across Palestine and Jordan, as well as online.
With no surprise, the biggest challenge the startup faces will be shipping the greetings cards abroad. Alshaer explains that due to financial and political difficulties, delivering the products have been most challenging. Her friends have stepped in and helped deliver the greeting cards they’ve already created to cities around the West Bank.
Alshaer also discusses the lack of focus and investment given to startups that create actual products. “The focus has been given strictly to technology projects only, receiving the largest amounts of funding.”
However, Loz, having already received praise for the project, won first place in a national competition held by Wataniya Mobile to support leadership among Palestinian youth. The hope is that the competition raises Loz’s attention for investment opportunities.