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EBRD and EU support furniture company in Lebanon

By Dima Hamdallah

Estudio launches new recycling line during coronavirus pandemic

Five years ago, Lebanese designer Elie Bassil set up Estudio, a furniture manufacturer and interior design company specialising in wood and steel work, and functional contemporary furniture and kitchens.

With the help of state-of-the art machinery, the company also provides space planning and interior detailing – for example for restaurants, boutiques, banks and private homes.

Estudio has shown a great deal of resilience amid some pretty adverse conditions – namely the coronavirus pandemic and a deteriorating economy and an explosion at the port of Beirut, all in the space of one year.

Realising that operating in such tough conditions would be challenging, in 2020 Estudio connected with the EBRD Advice for Small Businesses programme funded by the European Union, to venture into a new diversified line of work under the brand E-CYCLE which produces items made out of recyclable materials or waste collected in Estudio’s own factory.

The EBRD matched Estudio with a local consultant who helped it to analyse the company’s business gaps, and review its vision, objectives and strategy for the new venture. Estudio also received advice on how to position the new line of business under its brand, develop a marketing strategy and train the team who were going to handle the new project.

With lockdowns hampering high street sales, the EBRD also assisted the company in creating an online platform for E-CYCLE, enabling it to sell its eco-friendly recycled items over the internet. This helped it to gain over 1,000 followers on social media.

Estudio General Manager, Nicole Mouawad, believes this expansion has helped the company to improve its efficiency and waste management, and to cater to the local market’s new appetite for green or upcycled products during a time when the country imposed import restrictions due to the pandemic.

“Our company began producing recycled products at the end of 2020 and local customers have expressed their interest and satisfaction in purchasing ‘green’ items. This motivated us to become more creative in producing a range of gift items like tissue boxes, coasters, trays among many other pieces,” she explained.

All the recycled items are made of wood waste collected at the factory and the company is now looking to transform the materials into pieces of functional art, low-cost furniture and wooden toys to be sold to nurseries and kindergartens.

The concept is one that was timely and could help people during tough times.

 “As a result of the port explosion,” explained Ms. Mouawad, “many locals needed to rebuild their houses and establishments. We were lucky enough to be able to continue operating so that we could provide a service they needed. Our main issue was that people did not have enough cash to hand, and cash from banks was limited. We wanted to run our business and help people, which was a struggle, but we managed to share the costs by accepting cash or cheques.”

Estudio currently employs 30 staff members, including engineers and architects, in addition to 22 production workers. The company has grown rapidly and delivers services in Lebanon, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia. It is now planning to expand further in the Gulf region.

To date, the Advice for Small Businesses programme in Lebanon has assisted almost 120 companies in accessing know-how. The programme also offers various sector development activities and training for consultants and small businesses.

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