BEIRUT: Over the past few years, Lebanon has witnessed the rise of a plethora of online shopping platforms. From e-commerce websites like HiCart and Lebelik to more specialized platforms like Sarah’s Bag, NK by Nour Kays, and Feel22; e-commerce in Lebanon has become an expanding marketplace with plenty of competition and a radical readiness among the audience to shop online.
According to the UNCTAD B2C E-commerce Index of 2018, Lebanon is ranked 5th on e-commerce readiness in the Middle East and 56th worldwide.
But one platform that claims to be a game-changer in the world of online shopping is Lemonade Fashion, a curated marketplace for designers where people can customize and tailor the collection of designers according to their own measurements.
“We have 28 international designers on our website, and 24 of them are Lebanese,” co-founder and CEO of Lemonade Fashion Arthur Bizdikian told Annahar. “The others are German, Armenian and Canadian,” he added.
After choosing their outfits, users upload photos of themselves in the “Made to Measure” option. They can then change the fabric, the color and even the design, all online.
HOW IT ALL BEGAN
“Lemonade Fashion began because I was very frustrated when it came to shopping,” Bizdikian told Annahar. “I always love to look my best, but I have a very athletic body, which means that all of my suits, shirts, and pants are always tailored and custom made to fit me well.”
The problem with custom-made outfits is that not only are they time consuming, but they’re also expensive, said Bizdikian. One time, while frustrated at not finding anything to wear for an event, Bizdikian wished he could just tailor a suit online, and that’s how the idea of Lemonade Fashion started, at the end of 2017.
“I wanted to create a concept where people can go online and create custom-made outfits, which would be manufactured and delivered to their houses,” said Arthur, “and this is how we do things at Lemonade.”
The first thing Bizdikian did after getting his idea was to get a CTO on board who can develop the Minimum Viable Product (MVP) of Lemonade Fashion. After Mohamad Beydoun joined his team as CTO, Bizdikian applied for the iSME grant from Kafalat and received $15,000 a few weeks later.
He then started recruiting designers who would be interested in working with him on a commission basis. “We had four designers join us on a commission basis, which means that we charge a certain percentage for every sale they make,” said Bizdikian.
Lemonade Fashion’s business model still operates on a commission basis to this day.
After its initial conception, Lemonade Fashion won several competitions and was incubated in more than one accelerator. One of these accelerators was Smart ESA, during which they successfully launched their MVP in mid 2018 with the mentioned four designers on board.
At the end of 2018, they got accepted to the Armenian Neruzh Diaspora Youth Startup Program, which aims to bring the vast potential of Armenia’s diaspora to participate in the advancement of Armenia by founding their start-up in the country.
Bizdikian didn’t hesitate to use his Armenian roots for his advantage, so he applied for the competition. He had the chance to collaborate with Armenian designers and to set up part of his current team in Armenia.
“Business began to pick up after my trip to Armenia,” said Bizdikian. “We started capturing the attention of bigger designers who wanted to hop on board.” Lemonade also added its third co-founder, fashion designer Dana Malaeb, who’s now in charge of the fashion department.
The business also saw several fashion experts join its growing team, including Nadim Chammas, former general manager at Elie Saab, and prominent photographer Lara Zankoul.
The road to success is rarely smooth and Bizdikian definitely hit several bumps on his journey with Lemonade Fashion.
“Creating a marketplace in fashion is very hard because it’s quite expensive and competitive to do so, and fashion is a medium that changes very fast,” he told Annahar. “The second challenge we are going through is bootstrapping, since we haven’t raised any seed money yet.”
But perhaps the most difficult challenge that the startup went through was that it went close to bankruptcy several times before Bizdikian managed to pull the startup together. Today, he’s proud of what he’s accomplished with Lemonade Fashion.
Lemonade Fashion has made more than 200 sales so far, with the average amount of each sale reaching $350.
In mid-September 2019, Lemonade Fashion graduated from Speed accelerator with 11 team members spread between Lebanon and Armenia. They were also among the startups chosen to go to Silicon Valley with Speed in October 2019.
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