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Kristin Ibrahim

Kristin Ibrahim

In this interview, Kristin Ibrahim discusses her professional career in sales, specifically in fashion wholesaling, as well as some aspects of her personal life. Kristin started work during secondary school. She worked at several important companies in Egypt, such as Ikea, Eva Pharma, and TGI Friday’s Restaurant, where she started out as a hostess, then was promoted to coach and eventually, manager.

Kristin is an Egyptian 30-year-old woman who works as a fashion wholesaler in Faisal, Giza. She thought her career was over after marriage and children, but instead, she decided to pursue her passion, which is fashion sale. In the beginning, she began selling clothes online, via social networking websites, and did not launch her own store until she was certain it was going to be a success. She built a Facebook community of approximately 11.000 members. On her beginning in the field, she said she had always loved marketing, even while she worked at Friday’s before she started out in clothing sale. She started out with her sisters as partners. Each one bought several pieces of clothes and tried to sell them online. To their surprise, all the pieces were sold. They, thus, started buying more pieces, which in turn sold out. They began buying “bales” of clothes, that is, clothes that are lightly used or have some defects. Together they perform all duties related to the job, beginning from procurement, to modelling and finally selling the pieces. They only started out with a humble budget, 500LE, and did not need investors or a large capital. Kristin’s home became her workplace too. She emphasized the importance of social networking websites in today’s world, as people use their phones round the clock, and she was able to benefit from this in her business.

Kristin said that the Covid-19 pandemic was a blessing in disguise for her work. During the pandemic, most people preferred staying safe by not going out shopping, so they started to shop online more frequently. Lockdown also negatively affected traditional in-store sales. Kristin gave her customers free returns of the items if they did not like them, and that made people trust her and helped expand her clientele. In addition, women are usually tight on time because they have a lot of responsibilities, so they resort to online shopping more often. Most clients look for quality material, cheap prices and a seller with good people skills, Kristin says. She asserts that she was able to provide that for her customers. Thanks to selling online, Kristin has many clients in all different governorates in Egypt.

Kristin recalled her formative years and emphasized that she wanted to be financially independent especially after the death of her father. She worked at an early stage in her life doing needlework from home. When asked about her family’s stance on her work, she said that they were supportive, despite their initial doubts. They tried to convince her that she does not need to work as they would support her financially themselves, but she genuinely enjoys work. She said that her husband is one of her biggest supporters.

Kristin also spoke about her work as it relates to women. She said that women have swept the fashion retail market recently. She also believes that women are capable of multitasking, unlike men who traditionally work their full-time jobs only. Women may have swept the market, but they are still mothers, she says, who do the majority of domestic work. No man, Kristin insists, can bear the amount of pressure working women shoulder. Kristin also says that she constantly receives phone calls and texts from women who want to work in fashion retail as well, and that her work inspired many. She uses the “live” feature in social networking websites to speak with her audience about how to start a business, succeed at it and sustain it. Kristin also believes that women must financially support the family and that this is not only men’s duty. Moreover, she asserts that work improves women’s mental health and gives women an identity outside the family unit.

As for challenges that she faced in her journey, she said that she was sometimes defrauded out of money, as she bought bales of clothes thinking they are of the highest quality but turned out to be low quality bales. Kristin is preoccupied with providing advice to other women who want to start their own businesses so that they would not make the same mistakes she did. Kristin also highlighted the importance of respecting one’s employees, because she, herself, suffered under the pressure she was subjected to by some of her managers. She strives to create a stress-free atmosphere for her own employees as a result. She also said that it is important to separate one’s personal problems and work when it comes to retail. In addition, she said women working in retail could get verbally harassed by passersby and that this is one of the cons of working in the field. However, in a different but related vein, she stressed that men do not refuse working with women just because they are women, but benefit from their experience now, since women have proven themselves in the field.

Kristin is now a primary supplier, that is, she deals directly with importers, who are mostly men. She, however, is ambitious, and hopes to become an importer herself one day, in which case bales would be imported under her name, not under another man’s name.


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