When I asked Yasmeen Khamis and Farah El Masry what their greatest accomplishment was, they both said it’s seeing a child’s life changing because of what they’re doing. It gives them a sense of pure happiness!
Yasmeen and Farah are two young Egyptian ladies who are the founders of ‘The Doodle Factory’, which is a social enterprise aiming to empower vulnerable children, through transferring their drawings and designs into lifestyle products to be sold to consumers through campaigns. This is done in order to fund educational, medical and survival needs of the children. So the idea is to involve the children in the process of improving their lives. The products they make include tote bags, makeup pouches, pencil cases, bookmarks, backpacks, and notebooks. Both ladies have a passion for fashion and arts, and an eye for beauty. They believe in the positive effect beauty has on people.
“We want to bring beauty back to the public, because when people are surrounded by beautiful things, they will experience inner peace and happiness”
Yasmeen holds a bachelor degree in business and history, while Farah studied philosophy. Prior to starting ‘The Doodle Factory’, they both worked with different NGOs and participated in different projects helping the community in several ways, mostly working with underprivileged children.
‘The Doodle Factory’ which is now a brand and a store, started with just an idea and a passion to help children and provide them with a better quality of life. Yasmeen and Farah didn’t have experience in design or production, they didn’t even know how they were going to create a brand and start selling products for a cause, but they had a goal… they had a dream.
The first collection they made was to help a six year old girl called Suad, who was deaf and needed to have surgery. Suad made some drawings which were then printed on different products and sold in order to collect the money needed for her operation. The whole collection was sold in less than two months, through Facebook, Instagram, and word of mouth.
‘’Seeing Suad going into surgery and knowing that we contributed to changing someone’s life felt amazing and was a drive for us to continue with this project”. Yasmeen and Farah said.
Women to Watch spoke to Yasmeen Khamis and Farah El Masry to tell us more about their journey.
Name something that guides both your personal and professional development and helps you regain focus during challenging times.
Holding on to faith and the idea of wanting to help people guides us. Thankfully, we are surrounded by a lot of people who support us and believe in what we are doing. We also believe that whatever happens, good or bad, happens for the best and this helps us through challenging times. We also have faith that we were put on this path in order to make a difference in people’s lives and this keeps us going.
What do you believe is at the core of women’s hesitation to step out and pursue leadership roles where they are?
We believe that people, in general, are scared to try new things and take a risk in life. Maybe in the Middle East women are more hesitant because of the social connotation and pressure of having to get married and have a family. It wasn’t very difficult for us to step out because we are a team and we believe having a support system helps a lot.
Tell us one of your greatest professional accomplishments, and why it meant so much to you?
The answer would be “The Doodle Factory” because it allows us to help underprivileged children and make a difference. Also, the ability to sell a new collection and cover a surgery or a need for a child is always a great accomplishment for us.
Seeing a sketch changing into a product and then seeing a child’s life changing in front of our eyes gives us an amazing feeling. Finally, funding for the construction of a library in a community school that will serve 50-100 kids in a village that has no schools is another accomplishment that we are proud of.
The world is a scary place – how do you manage fear and anxiety in both your work and personal life?
We have each other and although our personalities are completely different, we always complement one another. So we have a balance of anxiety, stress, calmness and peace.
Yasmeen: I get anxious and stressed easily but Farah always calms me down. Farah can be very calm and relaxed which makes me wonder if we come from different planets!
Farah: I just believe everything will pass and everything will eventually be fine; nothing lasts forever, not the good nor the bad. I barely get stressed or anxious but because I care a lot about ‘The Doodle Factory’, I know that I have to be serious sometimes and less care free, which I do when I know I have to, so it’s a balance. We usually manage stress by putting realistic targets that we can reach.
What do you believe will be the greatest benefit to having more women as leaders in the world?
Women bring more compassion, empathy, thoughtfulness, and attention to details to the workplace which is very important.
Tell us what your greatest personal challenge is, and how you’ve achieved success in spite of it.
Farah: I would say being unorganized, being relaxed, and all over the place sometimes. Having Yasmeen as a partner creates a balance, as she is very structured. But also not taking myself too seriously helps ease tough situations that we sometimes find ourselves in.
Yasmeen: Being too structured and having a huge sense of responsibility stresses the people around me sometimes, but at the same time, it gives structure to our work and what we’re doing.
What role should men play in supporting more gender diversity?
Men need to understand that it’s not a competition; we all need to work together and support each other, this is how the ecosystem works best. Any comparison should be related to people having different personalities rather than being gender based. We always need both men and women; we need a balance.
If you could know the answer to only one of the following, which one would you choose, and why?
- What happens after death?
- What is the meaning of life?
Yasmeen: I have an understanding of why I’m on this earth; to be a better person with my values and morals and to be of value and benefit. Also, to worship God, this is a core driver for me in life.
Farah: In my opinion, both questions are related because if a person doesn’t know what happens after death then there might be no drive for living. But knowing that my life will come to an end drives me to seek and decide what I want to do while on this earth. Part of why I majored in philosophy is that I’m always looking for meaning and substance in my life; I want to know what my purpose in life is and which mark I have to leave. My attitude in life would depend on my perspective and the way I see life.
I don’t know what happens after death but as long as I know my purpose in life and I’m doing what I think I should do then that’s all I need for now. I believe we create our heaven or hell on earth based on how we see life and how we live it.
What advice would you give young women?
Embrace your character and who you are; be authentic and real. If you have a good eye for something, use this quality to add beauty to the world. Also, use your full potential and do wonders. Remember that we are not here to compete, so just know what you’re good at and what makes you unique then follow the path you create for yourself. Finally, don’t go against your nature to please anyone.