INTERVIEW: Hapi Alaily reflects on challenges and rewards in establishing Pampina Azul

Friday 8 Mar 2024

Pampina Azul Founder: How companies like Amazon Egypt support SMBs and help them grow.

Pampina Azul


What was the inspiration behind starting your own business?

I grew up in a family that placed a huge value on hard work and earning the privilege of saying, “I did that”. To be exposed to that razor-sharp focus and dedication inspired me.

There is no shortage of successful business owners across different industries in my family, and I am proud to be the first woman to establish and own a successful business in the family. I have always wanted to venture out and seek the same level of success they have achieved throughout their careers.

Most of my family pursued more conventional career tracks, so naturally, when I came up to them, all bright-eyed and full of youthful bliss, announcing I wanted to study fashion design and own a business, there was some pushback. They were only looking out for my best interests of course, as all our families do. Having said that, I could not be prouder for standing my ground back then.

After graduating and interning in fashion design, I came back to Egypt with this overwhelming energy. Being powered with a passion for something you love to do can go a long way. Having worked as a fashion designer at several fashion factories and being exposed to the back end of fashion design and manufacturing, I wanted nothing more than to hit the ground running and work at factories in Egypt.

For my generation at the time, being a resident fashion designer at a factory or workshop was not something you saw every day. Most of the time I was offering my time to brand owners and factories free of charge.

It might have been a rocky start, but it dawned on them that my involvement, or the involvement of a designer at factories where all the magic happens, was necessary and should’ve been regular practice.

This continued till I became the chief designer at some of the biggest brands in Egypt, working closely with the production teams. Fast forward a few years and many sleepless nights later, I became the chief of design, leading the production of the brands I was handling, and being credited for many of that brand’s milestone moments from 2007-2014.

After reaching that peak, it all came full circle when I remembered my roots, a lot of successful business owners I call family. That is how ‘Azul’, my very own fashion brand, was launched in 2019.

What challenges did you face while setting up your own business?

As I mentioned, when I first started, I was breaking ground by being so ingrained into the process of walking fashion factories’ grounds and consulting brands on how to create and improve designs. It took a lot of convincing to sway these industry leaders that working on new designs that reflect the world around them should not be a risk. That is fashion. Always changing, never still. It has always been the cornerstone of fashion to constantly explore new ideas.

Nowadays, the challenges I’m facing are different of course. My main one now of course is how do I promote my brand? Most of my experience was with offline markets, so I had to adapt to the digital age of fashion where everything is terminally online. Of course, a huge part of the solution was Amazon.

Fashion brands face the dilemma of grabbing a customer’s attention and keeping it. Amazingly, all these local brands have launched in recent years, but then you’re left with hundreds of pages, websites and online stores.

This also overwhelms the consumer of course. Amazon became a saviour by spotlighting local brands and sellers. Now we’re all on the same website that consumers know and trust. It was by far the easiest and most secure online store I had tried to sell items to, and it remains my highest source of revenue compared to other platforms.

Amazon has also helped fuel my creativity. With a considerable chunk of time available now that I do not have to worry so often about logistics and warehouses, I can pour more time into enhancing my brands’ quality, branding, and everything.

Also, it was so fortunate that they offered robust product presentation tools. Their team provides photographers and writers to describe and spotlight the products most distinctly and professionally befitting the brand.

After all, you need to stand out, but they still offer bespoke help that helps each brand stand out. Every hour on the hour, when I first launched my Amazon seller page, their customer service was so patient, guiding me through the whole process. Integrating into their platform was so smooth.

Besides offering the platform, how else would you say Amazon has helped you grow your business?

When entrepreneurs newly join whatever industry, it is always so daunting. Here you are, walking into this already established giant industry, and you must do just as good for your scale and then keep scaling more and more.

Amazon kind of shields you from that initial shock by levelling the field. They sort of help small businesses do what big businesses do. Small business owners can benefit from such a huge platform of Amazon’s scale, and most importantly, you never have to worry about logistics, fulfilment, and customer service.

A small or medium-sized business owner of course starts small and then aims big. You start by only shipping in your area, then slowly grow to other cities and down the line more and more. Amazon kind of gifts you an enormous range of cities and areas from the very start of course, which is great for business.

What would your advice be to young women who are looking to set up their businesses?

Leave your comfort zone. No, really. Get out there. Before you think of starting your own business, and even if you think you know everything there is to know, think again.

Go out into the world and gain as much experience as you can in the industries you want to work in.

We all have a rosy painting of how the world works, but the reality is our aspirations can often cloud us from seeing the real ways in which things get done.

Build connections, network, sit with your elders and hear them out. That’s an important part. Listening. Have an open heart and ears, keep your head up, and aim for the stars.

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