In a region that has more often than not been defined by turmoil and instability, the resilience and strength, creativity and innovation, of millions gets submerged under the cacophony of chaos. However, the MENA region is in fact home to a diverse range of cultures, ethnicities and religions spanning over 20 countries.
Amidst the ever changing landscapes of this expansive region, a spirited community of creators, innovators and artists are emerging. Combining creativity with entrepreneurship and resilience, a new generation of creatives is stepping up to not only share their share stories and art with the rest of the world, but to use their creativity and perseverance to create a brighter future for all.
Bringing a community of creatives and artists together, Noor El-Fadl founded Jordan-based TasmeemME in 2009. MENACatalyst had the great opportunity to connect with Noor to learn more about her industry defining venture.
What inspired you to start TasmeemME?
I majored in graphic design and minored in fine arts in Beirut at the Lebanese American University. When I graduated I worked a bit in London, before moving back to (Jordan) to work in the corporate world. Afterwards, I decided to do something different and I started my own design studio. From there I realized the massive potential the industry could have on a regional scale, so I began work on a new concept, a platform that would help expose and put creativity in the forefront in the region.
There wasn’t really a site that helped promote creatives, it was very difficult to connect service providers with service seekers within the creative industry. So when I began to work on the platform it started off as a side project, and then it just picked up from there. Building on this momentum we were asked to pitch at ArabNet in 2010 and we took first place for best startup, that is when it started to really pick up and grow.
(ArabNet offers regional platform focused on enhancing tech businesses and innovation throughout the MENA region.)
How would you describe TasmeemME today?
TasmeemME is a social enterprise that helps to promote creativity and creatives in the region. We are a melting pot of different services where you can showcase your work, find jobs, advertise jobs, learn online, sell and buy Arabic digital content and connect with other designers. Each creator has their own profile and portfolio, they can also put up their work for sale. If you want something very specific, you can hire a designer, or if you like a designer’s work you can buy it. You even have the option to outsource the work or project directly to TasmeemME and we will manage the creative process and work for you.
What are some of TasmeemMe’s exclusive services?
Basically TasmeemME is like a onestop shop for creativity and creatives online. We offer our creatives a place to network, share their work, put up portfolios, and even connect with each other. Our platform also offers a space for businesses to advertise jobs and connect with designers, and where designers can connect to jobs as well.
We recently began to offer our community of creatives online courses (user generated for now) so that they can upskill and continue to grow professionally and artistically. And a few years ago we shifted everything on our site to Arabic, to reach Arabic speaking communities everywhere.
We also offer a digital marketplace where people can buy and sell ready-to-use design files such as templates (logo templates, business card templates, website templates), fonts, digital illustrations, character designs, infographics... etc. all focusing on Arabic speakers. On our blog we share any written content that we choose, either educational or inspirational.
So basically every service we offer aims to empower creatives and help them as much as possible strengthen their skills and ultimately get employed, whether it’s freelance work or full-time work.
Behind every successful startup is a great team, how has the TasmeemME team help impact your startup’s growth?
Our team is the most amazing group of people. They have helped, supported and stuck with TasmeemME through thick and think. We have all been working on this because we believe in it, not because of any reward. The reward is that we are making a difference which is great. I work with a lot of part-timers and freelancers, but our core team consists of 4 individuals.
Our current head of IT Khalid Hasania, has been with tasmeemME since its beginnings and is largely responsible for building the IT framework that makes all we do possible. Haya Majali is another key team member and she manages a lot of our administrative and creative projects, in addition to providing technical support. Roula Khatib has been managing our social media and online marketing and has been instrumental in the growth of our user and customer base. Lastly, the newest addition to the team, is Ruweida Shakhshir and she is currently managing administrative tasks in addition to fundraising.
What makes TasmeemME different?
I think we are the only ones that offer these specific services all on one platform. We’re very niche because we focus on the creative sector. There are other sites that offer similar services but they aren’t sector specific like us. TasmeemME also focuses on Arabic content. For any Arabic speaker in the region but also abroad, like refugees who have to live outside but need opportunities, TasmeemME has the potential to change their lives.
How do you spread the word?
Growth on TasmeemME has predominately been organic and through word of mouth. Due to funding limitations, minimal investments have been made in online advertising and we are currently putting in a strategy to address this. But once the word is out, it will help us expand even more. We have over 200,000 registered users on now, which is fantastic.
Within the next few years where do you see TasmeemME?
It is our vision for TasmeemME to become the go-to place for creative content and creative people in the region. Focusing a lot on Arabic content and designs that you can buy and sell online.
Can you share the impact TasmeemME has had on their users?
We have so many stories of people who have been impacted by TasmeemME. We have helped a lot of stay-at-home moms work from home which has been fantastic. We have also helped aspiring designers start their careers. Some of our designers for example who are based here (Jordan) were able to get jobs in the Gulf and get paid in the tens of thousands; they have made their living off of the site. Basically, we have had thousands of people get employed, so TasmeemME is a working concept which is great!
How has this journey impacted you as an entrepreneur?
It’s super important, and it’s very personal. I think creativity is such an important thing to have what with all the turmoil in the region. Creativity is a very important outlet. And as an entrepreneur this experience has made me more resilient. It’s given me thicker skin. I’ve had to become more adaptable, like if one thing doesn’t work, you have to learn to adapt and keep growing. Even with all the difficulties you face as an entrepreneur establishing a new startup, the stories of how we have impacted so many people has been one of the main motivations for me to keep going.
Through TasmeemME, Al-Fadl has created a world of opportunities for thousands of creatives across the MENA region. To scale her startup and continue to bring communities of creatives across the MENA region together, Al-Fadl is looking to acquire strategic support via investment and mentorship opportunities as well as invaluable exposure.
To learn more about TasmeemME visit: tasmeemme.com
To keep up with TasmeemME on social media follow them on Facebook: @TasmeemME
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