Starting a business that not only takes 30 days to produce, but is also produced halfway across the world isn’t easy. Luckily, Jacqueline Sofia & Noora Sharrab made it happen quickly and formed Sitti Soap with the women of Jerash “Gaza” Refugee Camp. By ordering a Sitti Soap product, the customer receives the story of a woman who is now able to further support her family with their purchase. Read on to find out how Sitti Soap was formed and what challenges they had to overcome when first starting their business in August 2016.
Please tell us a bit about yourself and what you sell at Sitti Soap.
We are Jacqueline Sofia & Noora Sharrab – two individual women, inspired by one community of refugee women and their unbreakable determination to find work and support their families. This turned into a conscious enterprise for us when we formed Sitti Soap Company with the women of Jerash “Gaza” Refugee Camp.
One thing was for sure, that the essence and story of the women would be embodied in every piece and product made by Sitti Soap, that what we were about to launch was not just about the soap but about the hope of opportunity, employment, better living standards and sustainable financial security for the women in the camp.
As for the brand, “Sitti” (si-TEE) means “My Grandmother” in Arabic. Living life with love, purpose, wisdom and dignity embodies the Palestinian culture. It’s about keeping hope and peace alive in the midst of chaos. It’s a state of mind.
Each bar of soap is made by hand. There is a lot of love that goes into this soap, as well as skill and patience. Nabulsi olive oil soap must dry for at least 30 days before being wrapped and taken to market for sale. The time it takes to make each batch of Sitti Soap bars represents the commitment of each woman to her family, her community, and her culture. The women of Sitti Soap Company work hard to create quality products for you and your family.
When did you start selling online? Why?
We first started to selling soap through our Facebook page, first with small orders for friends and family and soon we started taking customized unique orders for weddings, baby showers and corporate gifts. We began working closely with clients to create an ideal gift that was a conscious giveaway representing a commitment to the community and a purchased opportunity of hope for the men and women in the refugee camp.
We started selling online after Noora relocated to Toronto and launched Sitti Social Enterprise Limited in Ontario, Canada. As a Palestinian-Canadian, Noora wanted to bring the beautifully handcrafted goods and products of Jerash Refugee Camp to the town she grew up in. We launched our Shopify store August 2016.
What are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced in building and running Sitti Soap?
As a startup, there are always challenges and learning opportunities to grow. It’s never just about producing hand-crafted cold pressed Olive Oil soap. As a team we had to start thinking about the packaging, the target audience, procuring high quality olive oil, training and retaining women in our soap workshop, shipping our products (import/ export), registering the company, and taxes and duties we have to consider in countries we are working in – and the list goes on.
One of the first challenges we faced was raising the startup funds to effectively set up Sitti Soap. When we first got introduced to the women producing soap in the camp, many were using primitive equipment to create the soap. We wanted to make sure that a sensitive product like soap was made in a secure hygienic place and that the women had the right equipment to work. A successful crowd-funding campaign through ‘AfkarMena’ helped raise the initial funds to set up a Sitti Soap Workshop at the Hopes Women’s Centre in the camp.
Fast forward to today, our challenges are reaching out to our target audience online, as we work on penetrating new customers online. It means creating offline and online connections that will get the word out about the story of Sitti.
How do you attract new customers?
When we launched our website: sittisoap.com – we began a small social media advertising budget. This helped us reach out to those that stood for our story, and the simplicity and purity of our soap. By participating in a few offline markets and bazaars, we were able to connect with local community members and sell some soap to get the word out.
We aim to connect with online influencers and local bloggers that stand for our philosophy and want to help make a difference in the lives of refugee women.
Can you share a tip or something interesting you learned in the process of building and running Sitti Soap?
Don’t be afraid to ask questions, and look at how your competitors or other ecommerce stores are doing things. We always have room to innovate, learn from our partners and other startups. In just a few months, we have seen that sometimes it’s all in the details. By implementing the right tools, like Bizzy, on our online store, we are able to help attract a larger audience and retain them.By implementing the right tools, we are able to help attract a larger audience & retain them. Click To Tweet
If you’re looking for high quality soap that also helps support the women of the Jaresh Camp, check out Sitti Soap.