The Business of Design

Sima Najjar’s design platform is aiming to help designers get creative and business savvy.

Over the past decade, serial entrepreneur Sima Najjar has built and sold several companies, including a website dedicated to creating Arabic content. Her latest project is Dezain, which was launched by Zain. It’s an online platform where designers can exchange ideas and learn new business skills, such as how to network, utilize social media for marketing, scale, and compete internationally.

A center is under construction in the King Hussein Business Park that will provide designers a place to work from and where future boot camp trainings will be conducted.

What inspired Dezain?

Rasha Barakat, Zain’s Chief Innovation and Human Capital Officer, was the inspiration behind Dezain. She asked me if I would like to jump on board and due to my experience founding a fashion boutique and an event management company for fashion, I knew there was a gap in the design community here. I jumped onboard and we started this together. It was just a feeling like there’s something missing for designers. Before initiating the idea and starting the first boot camp training in November, we did some events with Zinc to check the feedback and it was amazing. What we found was that designers needed guidance. They didn’t know where to go and they felt like everything around them was for technology developers only. They feel like outcasts for some reason. So when we provide them with the boot camp and give them feedback about their design and product and how to sell fashion and not technology, they feel like this is a life changing experience.

What is the future of Dezain?

We are finishing off building a space for designers to work in and receive training. We are also developing a mobile app that will be released in a year or so to help designers sell their products. It will be a distribution channel for them.

How do you advertise Dezain and spread the word about what it is you are doing to transform the design scene in Amman?

It’s becoming more of a word of mouth advertising thing because we have 55 designers who have graduated from the boot camps and they’re all really happy with the experience and are talking to other people and getting more people involved. Our community is getting bigger and bigger by the day. Zain is pushing it through their social media channels and we push it through ours. That’s another way. But so far that is all we have needed to do and we have already received so many applications without even boosting the posts. Just from these two ways.

What are the biggest challenges designers face when entering the market?

Usually, designers start out of passion. And you can see the passion that they have. They build a really nice product but lack the skills of distribution, selling or presenting their brand in the best way, which can take the brand much further. So we shift their mind to think this way and it makes a huge difference for them. Now they can see an international presence. Before they used to compete on a very local level and sell at bazaars. If they sold a piece or two it was fine for them but now we prepare them to do collections and be proper designers so they can participate on an international level as well, like in Dubai Fashion Week or similar events.

What advice do you have to offer for young designers and entrepreneurs who are just starting off?

Change your business model as you go [to figure out what works and what doesn’t]. And this is what we’re doing with the space as well. Learning the needs of the designers as we go and what it is we need to cater to. Our research is not enough. Once we open the space, we will see what kind of machines designers need us to bring and we’ll get them. What kind of activities they want us to do and we’ll do them. From the applications we learned that a lot of them didn’t know how to enter the market. We’re organizing an event at the beginning of May to showcase the 55 designers we have and sell their products. We want to teach them how to create collections and set their pricing and how to have a look book and prepare them for a real designer experience. We’re catering to people who want to jump and be designers but they don’t know how to start.