Today $249 for clay pots - tomorrow the region
Like many pot makers in Egypt, Adel El Dib had long ago switched from clay to fibreglass because the cost was lower.
But while this process was cheaper, there have been growing concerns across Egypt about the health risks from inhaling glass fibres during the production process.
That is partly why a local university graduate and a PhD student decided to create ClayCooler, a purportedly eco-friendly product that is safer during the manufacturing process as well as afterward for storing water and food. They initially sought US$154 through Yomken.com, a small crowdfunding platform based in Egypt, to fulfil enough orders to get started. In the end, they managed to attract more than their goal but still a small sum - US$249.
It has been a slow start for Yomken, which helps micro-entrepreneurs to meet challenges and garner funding to complete project orders. The non-profit company mainly targets low-tech enterprises in Egypt's informal manufacturing industry, where workshops create toys, souvenirs, plastic gadgets and handmade furniture, among other items. Funders who support a project then receive a product they have paid for.
Yomken says its platform, which launched in October with seed funding from the World Bank's Youth Innovation Funding, is still in pilot phase. Six projects have been posted so far, though Yomken expects to add four more after volunteers recently screened around 60 workshops. Over the next two years, Yomken's target is to list more than 300 projects on its site.
To increase its presence and secure additional funding for entrepreneurs, Yomken recently partnered with Silatech, which promotes large-scale job creation among youth in the Arab world by working with governments, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and the private sector. "Yomken was looking for a partner that understands its social aspect as well as [someone] who is ready to expand the model on the regional level," says Tamer Taha, the founder and chief executive of Yomken.
Silatech will help micro-entrepreneurs to create a prototype and post it on Yomken, Mr Taha says. "Silatech is also encouraging NGOs, many of whom are its partners already, by meeting some of the financial burden of the solutions provided to challenges," he added.
Previously, Silatech says it had joined Kiva, an online microlending platform, in support of a social investment that has raised nearly $3 million for around 2,500 young entrepreneurs in the Arab region.
"This partnership with Yomken further enhances Silatech's approach to innovation, and provides people interested in Egypt as well as the broader Arab world with a way to reach out and help their community, while helping young entrepreneurs create economic opportunities for themselves," Tarik Yousef, the chief executive of Silatech, has said.
They now plan to work together while exploring potential for Yomken's operations as it attempts to scale up across Egypt, then elsewhere in the Middle East and North Africa. "We want to make this the region's leading micro-enterprise focused crowdfunding platform," Mr Taha says.