Jordanian company approaches new international markets
A small Islamic women’s wear company is reaching foreign customers, thanks to experience and knowledge from the MENATEX programme at ITC.
When Issam Salha left Syria as a refugee in 2011, he also left behind his nearly decade-old business, Al-Hour Al-Ein, which specialized in producing modest Islamic women’s wear.
After he settled in Amman, Jordan, the entrepreneur looked for ways to resume his business. In 2015 Al-Hour Al-Ein reopened. The company started with only two employees, producing piece-by-piece clothes to sell in the local market.
Despite his quality materials and skilled techniques, the production was not profitable enough. Sales paid for production costs, but almost no revenue was left. The added stress of the global financial crisis and the COVID pandemic almost forced him to close down.
That was when Salha heard about the call for apparel companies to join an International Trade Centre (ITC) project in the country: the Middle East and North Africa Textiles and Clothing (MENATEX) project. The project aims at improving the competitiveness of small and medium-sized textile enterprises in Jordan, to create more jobs and to improve economic benefits along the value chain.
New skills and a digital presence
He joined a group of small companies on the MENATEX journey. The trainings opened new business opportunities, clarified international markets requirements, and equipped his company with business skills and a digital presence to compete in today’s market.
'It is interesting to see how much my company has been able to change and develop in the past few years. The impact of the project on my work is evident, and I am glad to have had this opportunity,' said Salha.
The project’s Lean Thinking coaching helped him understand and reassess the gaps in his production to make it faster and more profitable.
'The MENATEX project assisted me in revamping my production from unique pieces to in-line production. It was an enormous change for us as we now can produce over 350 pieces for the same cost! Our profit shifted from $100,000 to $250,000 after implementing the MENATEX lean plan.'
The entrepreneur also learned about e-commerce and how to ensure a good presence online with a website and social media.
'E-commerce was not among my priorities at first. But with the project's encouragement and the COVID pandemic, I understood the urgency to make my company visible and present.'
He developed a website and created profiles on Facebook, Instagram, TikTok and others. With these platforms, Al-Hour Al-Ein’s online sales now equal what it used to earn in its physical store.
'We have an engaging community online that appreciates our work and is frequently asking for prices and availability of products,' he said. 'Our e-commerce and traditional sales bring our company the same amount.'
In February 2023, Al-Hour Al-Ein attended its first international trade fair, exhibiting at Sourcing at Magic apparel show, in Las Vegas in the United States.
'Before Magic, I was unsure about international customers’ perception of my products. Attending the fair confirmed the quality of our products and the capacity of our company,” he said. The reception was so positive that the company signed its first contract with US buyers.
“It is a great achievement for us, and it was also an opportunity to put into practice everything I have learned with the MENATEX project: trade fair preparation, product choice, communication and marketing and sales skills. I was prepared due to the MENATEX trainings on how to negotiate with buyers on the contract and was able to achieve my goal.'
Salha is optimistic about upcoming opportunities to engage with new buyers.
'At Magic, I also learned how buyers from different countries will have another taste in fashion products. What is good in Jordan might not be the type of Islamic wear that women abroad will be looking for,' he said. He is now prepared to choose better and adapt the product selection to exhibit at an international trade fairs.
'Al-Hour Al-Ein will attend in July the Source Fashion trade fair in London. We are already getting prepared to showcase our clothes’ fine quality and taste according to the event’s audience,' Salha said.
About the MENATEX programme
The Middle East and North Africa Textile and Clothing Programme (MENATEX) covers four countries: Egypt, Jordan, Morocco and Tunisia. The International Trade Centre, with support from the Swedish Government, implements the programme.