BEIRUT: Artists and designers who have desperately taken to social media to advertise themselves or shell out for pricey shop rents in Beirut’s bohemian areas now have an alternative to market and sell their goods: new Internet startup MySouk.com. “There’s a lot of talent in Lebanon, but so many artists are missing the platform to showcase and ultimately sell their products,” creator Ghassan Mabsout told The Daily Star.
“At MySouk, we give that opportunity to the seller, who doesn’t have his or her pro?t margins shattered with a hefty commission fee like many other sites. With us, there’s a simple rental fee for the seller, who can sell their product directly to the buyer.”
After quitting his regular job in March 2012, Mabsout went to the American University of Beirut library to meet with his old friend Theo Ohanessian. Still a student, Ohanessian and AUB alumnus Mabsout put their heads together, and MySouk was born one year later.
From clothes to jewelry, paintings to furniture, MySouk allows a wide array of artists to use the site to sell their work.
Mabsout and Ohanessian are currently focused on attracting local designers and artists, and targeting local buyers. After that, they plan to expand to the Gulf. MySouk already has a main local competitor, Lebelik.com, as well as some regional competitors such as Mooda.com and Ananas.com.
But MySouk is approaching the online boutique model from a different angle than other websites. Rather than charging a formidable commission fee, MySouk charges a rental fee for space on the site, which allows sellers to create a profile and instantly begin marketing their brand.
“We allow the designers to expose themselves individually, each have their own pro?le, with their own story to tell, like how they got there, for example. Each pro?le also has a picture, a cover picture like on Facebook, and sometimes can have videos,” Ohanessian said.
“We have other minor perks such as free shipping, free returns before seven days, and whenever we have a sale we deliver the products within two workings days,” he added.
A site designated for artists needs to be visually appealing, something interior architect Mira Mabsout, Ghassan’s sister, is in charge of.
“The site’s design is meant to hit the spotlight on the artists’ products rather than its layout, it’s just like when you’re wearing a simple white tank top, and pulling off a huge vintage necklace,” she said.
Lebanese clothing designer Rabih Kayrouz said he agrees.
“Online shopping is becoming so important because it’s a perfect platform for upcoming designers – it has a commercial aspect, and it is a perfect communication tool,” Kayrouz told The Daily Star.
“I would have definitely chosen MySouk,” he added.
The past week was MySouk’s first, and orders are already coming in, with people from Lebanon to Saudi Arabia having made purchases.
“It was amazing,” Mabsout explained. “Just over a year ago I quit my 9-to-5, met up with Theo, and we began brainstorming.
“Now it’s a reality. We really hope to change the face of e-commerce in Lebanon, someone has to take the initiative and get things rolling.”