By Sustainability Hub Reporter Mostafa Shahat
Egypt is rich with handicrafts and after the Egyptian revolution in 2011, with the political and economical challenges, the field started to vanish. Producers and artisans suffered for years after the revolution to sell their handicrafts products. They depended more on the tourism industry, as their main customers were foreigners, but the tourism industry dropped down after the revolution, and therefore they are not generating a sustainable living income.
This is where the social entrepreneurs should step in and play a role to help the artisans to market and sell their handicrafts products not just to preserve the heritage as some of the handicrafts’ history goes back to thousands of years but as well as helping those who were living by selling handicrafts products to have a sustainable living income, like they used to.
Vivian Labib Noeur, a social entrepreneur who founded Charisma Arts, which is a social enterprise that empowers and trains artisans and marginalized communities to leverage the rich inheritance of Egyptian handmade products. It helps them creates sustainable income to enhance their quality of life. She actually started this as the first Egyptian female to have an e-commerce site back in 2003, and was keen to promote unique handicrafts that also have a social impact on the producers.
Charisma Arts started with marketing artisans’ handicrafts products through different online channels, so they can sell their products not just in the local market, but as well in the international market. Currently, she sells unique gifts supporting families on Charisma Arts' website and is looking for agents abroad to help marketing products of over 175 different groups of artisans products.
After the revolution in Egypt, as a social entrepreneur who is keen to address the community challenges, Vivian registered Charisma Arts as a nonprofit foundation. She also started having other on-going projects that use arts and social initiatives to empower the community, like “Box of Colors “, which promotes the value of accepting diversity among youth and children, in addition to outreach programs, and training programs especially focusing on entrepreneurship for the young entrepreneurs in Egypt.
Vivian had a Bachelor of Arts from the Faculty of Fine Arts in 1997, and she worked as graphic designer, translator, interior designer, marketing manager for companies in Egypt, and country manager for foreign companies in Egypt before starting her own social passion and establishing the social enterprise of Charisma Arts. In 2009 Vivian was chosen from a initiative in which 10,000 women took part, “Women entrepreneurship and leadership skills”, and was chosen first from 20 entrepreneurs from Euro Mediterranean area by the Catholic university of Milan, Italy in 2010. Besides, she was also chosen as a delegate to meet President Obama in 2010 in the social entrepreneurship presidential summit. Recently she became a fellow in George W. Bush foundation in 2014, besides being chosen to be a speaker in the first TEDx Cairo Women in 2012.
“Social entrepreneurship is not an option it's an obligation”. This is the famous quote Vivian likes to use to emphasis about the importance of social entrepreneurship, especially in Egypt and especially in the current critical transforming stage. Vivian admires artistic work, and with her passion to the community development, she reached to orphanages, refugees, prisoners and Upper Egyptians to teach them some handicrafts skills, and provide mentorship, and finally help them to sell their products. By doing so, these people who are living in marginalized and isolated communities, they found source of sustainable living income.
Besides providing several trainings to over 700 women all over Egypt on entrepreneurship and how to start your own business, Vivian is also a volunteer mentor in several women programs like “Aspire women” with Microsoft citizen and like “Women in business” mentorship program with US embassy in Cairo.
Vivian has joined many local and international fairs where she sold many of the handicrafts products. She received many international and national awards for her excellent work at Charisma Arts, and she used to have her own gallery in Cairo before the revolution.