EBRD and donors help SitatByoot entrepreneur launch custom clothing revolution Makesy
Jordan-based entrepreneur Saeed Omar recently created a unique online fashion app called Makesy. Building on the success of his other business SitatByoot, Makesy allows shoppers to create customisable, made-to-order clothing designs that are manufactured by the existing SitatByoot workforce.
Both companies have benefited from the EBRD’s Star Venture programme, funded by the European Union and the Republic of Korea through the EBRD’s Small Business Impact Fund.
Founded in Jordan, SitatByoot (a play on the words ‘sit-at’ in English and ‘home’ in Arabic) educates and hires artisan garment makers across the country.
The company provides sustainable employment opportunities in the local community, empowering a women-driven workforce, usually from low-income backgrounds, tapping into an otherwise latent labour market.
SitatByoot’s online academy offers more than 60 courses in Arabic and currently has over 1 million followers on Facebook and 55,000 registered members. The company has trained more than 5,000 women through its workshops and 700 of those have satisfied bespoke orders, creating and posting garments from their homes.
Makesy is a direct spin-off from its sister company: “Where SitatByoot is an online and physical vocational training centre, Makesy is an online platform that takes orders from customers directly, and the business is then channelled back to those who have been trained by SitatByoot,” says Saeed.
Makesy serves fashion designers, labels and retailers as well as individual consumers, allowing them to custom-make their own garment designs from wherever they are in the world.
The EBRD’s Star Venture programme has increased the company’s visibility in Europe and North America, and the hope is that Makesy’s profile and reach will continue to grow now that its mobile-friendly website and iOS and Android apps have launched, allowing the business to penetrate new markets.
The aim is to match the anticipated demand for custom clothing by expanding SitatByoot’s network of garment makers to include Palestine, Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Iran and Turkey, empowering women across the Arab world and beyond and ensuring a roadmap for the future growth of the inextricably linked companies.
At 43, Saeed is motivated by the experiences of his upbringing and formative years. His parents worked in tailoring and textile trading and the family grew up in relative prosperity in Saeed’s birthplace of Kuwait until they were displaced. The upheaval of their lives, leaving behind successful businesses, was something from which they have never fully recovered, socially or economically.
Saeed overcame many obstacles to reach where he is today, both in his personal and professional life. When building his own company, Saeed learnt that a lot of his first assumptions were wrong, and that “reality bites – it is not easy to start a small business in the garment-making industry in the Middle East,” especially after a global financial crisis.
Saeed says the idea for SitatByoot originally came from his expanding business needs. He had a small tailor’s shop producing patterns and wanted to locate as many seamstresses as possible to produce ready-made garments for the business: “I wanted to apply economies of scale with a simple supply chain. This quickly led me to realise that we needed to train a workforce to sew, knit, weave, crochet, embroider, braid, bead, lace and more.”
Once this initial training was complete, the focus was on quality control and timeliness of production. Makesy was the logical next step.
Inspired by his mother and an ambition to disrupt the unsustainable demand for fast and disposable fashion, Saeed plans to shift towards selling more deliberate, custom-made garments, which are better for the environment and do not contribute to the sweatshop orthodoxy that prevails in the current market. Instead, Saeed champions “fair trade and a circular economy, going back to our productive habits, and teaching how to sustain small economies at home and at work.”
In response to the refugee crisis, SitatByoot has trained and employed Syrian women refugees. Saeed is working on similar projects and says the goal is “to give as many women as possible sustainable work opportunities like this.”
An admirable initiative from a worthy entrepreneur.
 Other contributors include Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, the TaiwanBusiness – EBRD Technical Cooperation Fund and the USA.