I get quite excited when I come across a specialized start up that is both founded by youth and/or immigrants. It’s equally refreshing as it is a project of passion for the founders where they work tirelessly to hone in on quality and standard making their offering unique for today’s sophisticated consumer, while setting fresh, new cultures of their own.
In addition to unique elements to today’s featured business, the founders rely on international trade for the core of their start-up and sourcing, a topic that’s of immense interest to many entrepreneurs I’ve come across lately. If you’re thinking of sourcing international product for your business then this is a feature that you want to bookmark. Here’s our interview with Casamera‘s easy going and relaxed co-founder Omar Seraj who’s character and approach mirror his company’s essence and vibe.
What is Casamera and what inspired the name?
Casamera was built out of my (and partner’s) combined fascination and passion for material, in this case fabric and it’s ability to endure time and improve in quality over time.
We spent about a week coming up with names for the brand. We went back and forth with ideas and eventually settled on two ideas that was a perfect fit to form- Casamera.
Casa is Spanish for home and Mera is Arabic for the Beautiful. We combined both words from different cultures to emulate the concept of a beautiful home.
Why did you start this brand?
Suliman’s family have been in the textile business for as long as he’s lived and he’s been actively involved in his family business. Forming relationships with manufacturers and suppliers came natural to him. On my end, product design and sustainable production has been my passion for years. We always had the goal for a start up, brainstorming several ideas while growing up so the merger between high quality material and purposeful design came full circle for us when we moved to the US.
How did you find a gap in the market for your products?
Living in Egypt, before moving to the US, we noticed a remarkable difference in the quality of home linens. It seemed like every item we purchased was made of poor quality and without much consideration for the end consumer. This was true for the more expensive brands sold at big-box retailers as much as it was true for the less expensive brands sold on Amazon.
Not only did the local linen products outperform their counterparts in US markets but they endured longer and instead of short-lived softness they retained the same quality years after purchase.
Coming from a place where home linens are commonly passed down from one generation to the next, the fast-fashion, throw-away culture we saw in the US didn’t make any sense to us so we found an opportunity and launched.
How are you standing out as a brand from an overcrowded market place?
It is definitely a challenge to stand out in this sea of competiton but we’ve found that honesty in the quality of our products goes a long way. Instead of just sticking a label that says “100% Egyptian Cotton” we do the arduous work behind the scenes: verifying suppliers, working only with select manufacturers that use ethical practices, and being as transparent as possible with our customers.
Can you walk us through the process of importing product from another country that’s out of the US?
- Find a manufacturer that fits all production specifications (namely: reliable sourcing, attention to detail when it comes to manufacturing, uses ethical and sustainable practices, has plenty of experience shipping to the US)
- Understand importing procedures (such as Inco terms) as well as securing a trustworthy freight forwarder that handles final delivery of all products to our warehouses.
- Knowing every variation we made for our products is a must. Sizes, weights, packaging, shipping tiers, etc. Do not contact a manufacturer or supplier until you know everything you need to know. Google it while you’re uber-ing to the factory works too, so you remain confident & sharp.
- Most importantly as we’re young entrepreneurs- a lot of people will try to take advantage or not take you seriously enough. This is why having a solid international manufacturing contract or a contract in general with service providers and even freelancers comes handy.
- Time management is a huge factor to take into consideration; different countries have different work ethics and different holidays too. Usually sourcing from international suppliers would take twice the period that they promise. Take note from step 4: Have everything cleared up in a contract where there are penalties for delays.
What would you say is the most challenging part of running a niche businesses with products sourced internationally?
Definitely the inventory management and cost of continuously replenishing inventory. Having to constantly monitor inventory quantities and projecting when we’ll run out of a specific SKU can be tough to figure out when you have only had a few sale cycles as a startup. A lot of the time we’re forced to send in replenishments by air cargo because sea freight- although much cheaper takes far longer to receive. We’re still working on automating this process.
How did you decide on the aesthetic for your brand?
We came up with the brand’s identity in one week to minimize time spent in the planning phase of the start-up. We had clear ideas of what we wanted- a clean and simple aesthetic in both product and branding that can be easily updated as the brand scales and grows. We commissioned our talented friends and chose 3 main colors that would work well together. Choosing typography for the brand was a whole other story!
Going on Kickstarter and raising funds is tough. How on earth did you manage to go over 3322%?
Kickstarter is definitely an interesting platform to launch a project on. It has its own ecosystem so you have to be very familiar with how it all works before attempting to raise funds. The work starts 3-6 months before you launch. That’s when you run a prelaunch campaign with the purpose of putting together a community of people that would be interested in your product. Then you grow that community, get familiar with them and and more importantly get them excited about the launch. The goal has been to receive as much support during launch. You cannot launch without a core community.
You cannot launch without a core community.Omar Bugaighis, Casamera
What’s next for Casamera?
Long term, we plan on adding more unique bathroom essentials to our product line and expand the brand’s offerings.
A quote you live by?