Egypt is for all intents and purposes a country that loves its ads. Old TV commercial jingles are part of the country’s pop culture consciousness, and the visual bombardment of billboards is a fact of life for Egyptians that most don’t seem to mind — large billboards promoting telecom operators or fast food chains dominate the city’s skyline.
Over the course of the academic year, a young entrepreneurial group of students from the British International School have taken these large printed sheets of thick plastic and decided to do something creative and environmentally responsible with old billboard ads.
Daily News Egypt spoke to 17-year-olds Helena Beshay and Jaida Aboulenein — the CEO and HR manager of the brand, respectively — about the particulars of their brand dubbed Vintage Revolution that has grown to be successful on multiple levels.
What becomes clear is not only the project’s merits of recycling and promoting eco-consciousness amongst young students, or the particulars of running a business learned at a relatively young age, but also the highly professional manner in which a group of 17-year-olds have led a school project to win first place in the Injaz El Arab competition for young entrepreneurs.
Helena Beshay explains the brand’s nomenclature: “We thought ‘vintage’ because we’re using something old, something that would have been thrown away and we’re bringing it back to life, and then ‘revolution’ because simply we’re trying to bring something new to the Egyptian market.
“We wanted to revolutionize the Egyptian market with something that they’ve never seen before … because we’re a very environmentally-friendly company.”
The idea was inspired by an Argentinean documentary one of the group’s members had watched about a designer who recycled billboards to make designer handbags. “We thought we’d do the same with these billboards because there is no way of properly recycling them. We thought we’d make cheaper handbags and cheaper products so it could be more accessible to the Egyptian market,” said Beshay.
Quite articulately, the young duo spoke about the project using proper business terms. It was somewhat surprising to hear them speak of ‘market research,’ ‘consumers’ and ‘client base’ so naturally.
As is detailed by the competition’s requirements, each project is to be organized as a company with divisions and tasks divided between members. “The reason why we have to refer to ourselves as a company is we also have to sell shares,” explains Aboulenein.
A formality yet nevertheless, one that has the students approach the projects with seriousness. The company currently has 14 members, all of whom are classmates and each has a set task.
The design department of the company is responsible for the designs of the products and a person with whom they have a contract works with the designers on executing prototypes and bags.
Prototypes are then tested out by the quality control department and once the product is finalized they start producing in large batches. About 20-30 pieces are made from each design, “but because we use different parts of the billboard, no two products are the same, each product is unique in its own way. There are no identical products,” says Beshay.
After competing with their other high school peers in mid-June, they won and progressed to the next round, beating the projects of college age students in mid-July and were told this week by competition officials that they would be going to Morocco.
A quarterly advertising campaign was also a prerequisite for the students to work on. They produced short ads with a tagline of “Everything deserves a second chance,” which proved to be quite successful, and schoolyard sales during lunch breaks were witness to students clamoring for the unique pieces.
Handbags sold for LE 85, special edition handbags LE 120; pencil cases and iPod hoodies for LE 40, and waterproof make up pouches sell for LE 50.
The brand now also has a distribution point outside of the school in the Zamalek boutique The Pink Powder Room.
On the long terms effects this project has had on the students, they are surprising.
“Any time our advisers [and] teachers would get involved, we’d get really angry and want to do it all ourselves. And then I think we tried doing that in school,” says Aboulenein.
“Whenever we’d be stuck with something we’d try to work on it ourselves. I think this project has pushed us generally because even though we have different departments we’re all involved and we all work as a team.”
For more information, join the Vintage Revolution page on Facebook.
The Pink Powder Room
23 Ramsis St., Heliopolis
Tel: (02) 2290 3011
26 Shagaret El-Dor St.,
Tel: (02) 27362108
The Vintage Revolution team: Naguib Boutros Ghali, Farah Geninah, Jaida Aboulenein, Helena Beshay, Omar Barakat, Malak Kabbani, Seif Roushdy, Jessy Ibrahim, Kareem Bishara, Tamara Halawa, Samir Helmy and Aly Dabbous.