While the greeting cards industry is struggling to stay relevant in the digital age, one Palestinian start-up finds its way to success.
Think no one sends greeting cards anymore? Turns out greeting cards are still popular. But we’re not talking about just any cards, but edgy, innovative Arabic language greeting cards.
Loz Project, founded by Maysa Al Shaer, a 26-year-old entrepreneur from Jenin in northern of Palestine, aims at reviving the Arabian folk culture through its pretty designs and colloquial Palestinian expressions and phrases.
“I am a big admirer of the Arabic language and I wanted to do something to support this language and show its beauty,” says Al Shaer. “I also love greetings cards, which is disappearing as e-cards are taking over. This is how the idea of Loz Project came up.”
Chased by digital media and the alternative modes for sharing messages, the greeting card industry is quickly declining. According to Sarah Turk, an analyst with IBISWorld, the industry is plunging at almost 5% each year for this decade. But while big greeting card companies like Hallmark and American Greetings are feeling the blues, small start-ups are finding new ways to attract a younger generation.
“Loz greeting cards (which sells for less than 2$) are all about the Palestinian culture and the things we say every day,” Al Shaer explains. “Many cards focus on the Palestinian popular dishes, and the bond between different food items such as oil and thyme, watermelon and cheese, zucchini and grapevines, almonds and salt, and many others.”
By naming her project ‘Loz’ (Arabic for almond) Al Shaer wanted to stress on the joy, love and coolness the almond blossoming season brings to mind. “I launched in the spring of 2014, as almond trees were blooming. The teaser of the project’s marketing campaign was (Nawar el Loz), ‘almond is blossoming’.”
In the back of the project’s joyful message, Al Shaer, had some difficulties promoting her idea. “I didn’t have any funds to start up the project. One major challenge we faced was cards’ delivery, as we couldn’t afford to deal with a delivering company. But I received great support from my family and friends. They were the first ones to buy my cards and they helped in delivering the cards to different Palestinian cities,” she recalls.
Al Shaer’s sisters are also helping out. “I manage Loz with the help of my two sisters Aseel and Tasnim. I choose the design ideas and phrases for the cards. My youngest sister, an artist and graphic design student, designs the cards. And my other sister is taking care of the marketing and following up with customers and shops,” Al Shaer adds.
Al Shaer, who has a degree in Multimedia Technology from the Arab American University in Jenin and works as a social media specialist in an advertising agency, used her skills to promote Loz Project on social media sites, especially Facebook and Instagram. Soon enough, Loz greeting cards proved a great hit with the Palestinian students and families. Loz project also won the Palestinian Youth Leadership contest from Al Wataniya Mobile in Palestine for its creative designs and phrases.
“I think what people like about Loz cards is their fresh sense of humor and wittiness. You cannot help but smile when you read the cards,” she adds, noting that the greeting cards are on high demand during special occasions like Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, and graduation.
So does Al Shaer have a favorite design or phrase? “The first card I designed is so dear to me. It was about the special bond between oil and thyme in the Palestinian cuisine and it carries out a sentence my father says frequently. It translates something like “Stick around, and you’ll be happy.”
In less than two years, Loz Project has succeeded in reaching all the Palestinian cities; the cards are also available in gift shops in Amman, Dubai and Cairo. Building on the cards’ popularity, Al Shaer says that they started printing their designs on cups, pins and posters: “We have new ideas for gifts which we will reveal soon.”
As for the future, Al Shaer hopes to launch Loz official website and reach new markets. “The criteria for success in any business, in my opinion, are all about creating products that are recognized and loved by people, and that this recognition translates into profit. We achieved all three, but we are still at the beginning, we have a lot do and so much to offer.”