brings back-street artisans to wider attention

This online directory, which was founded in October 2016, started from a personal project where Hamandi toured across Lebanon in search of these clandestine creative gems.

14 February 2017 | 16:06

Source: Annahar

  • By Yehia El Amine
  • Source: Annahar
  • Last update: 14 February 2017 | 16:06

The platform contains a wide range of services, textures, materials and artisans from jewelry design to fashion and reaching to interior design.

BEIRUT: Struggling designers and students can rejoice at the creation of, an arts-oriented online directory and search engine that caters to the needs of the creative community, offering them access to a large selection of materials, artisans and creative services with a click of a button.

The platform was founded by veteran graphic designer Rana Hamandi, who describes the directory as "one of a kind in Lebanon since our search tags are very detailed and accurate to link designers to their exact needs to fulfill any project they have in mind."

Adding, "Also while simultaneously empowering local artisans and shops, which are the hidden gems of our country, by granting them work and a source of income." also offers these artisans and shops an online presence since a number of them lack such exposure with new media due to either generational unfamiliarity or the inability to use social media in general.

"A large number of these artisans come from poor backgrounds and are in serious need to find customers and clients, thus the platform is a way for them to be showcased and gain visibility in the market," Hamandi told Annahar.

This online directory, which was officially founded in October 2016, started from a personal project where Hamandi toured across Lebanon in search of these clandestine creative gems within the villages, side streets and back corridors of the nation in the hopes of showcasing the beauty of their work.

"Hunting down the artisans and talents was a hectic process since I used to roam around the country in my car, stopping at a random neighborhood and start walking around until my eyes locked on to someone that would serve a need to designers and the creative community," she said.

Hamandi continued by describing her journey as arbitrary in going street by street and knocking on people's doors, collecting contact information and data about artisans and shops she bumped into over a four-year period.

"Even if I don't have time to stop and knock on doors, I would keep my camera with me so I could take snapshots of the place or artisan to remind myself to revisit the area later," she added.

This on-ground exposure pushed the designer to create a specific section on the search engine strictly for artisans labeled "work with artisans," where a selected group would be showcased every month, however, with a click of the "check more artisans" button, one can review all the participating artisans.

"The platform contains a wide range of services, textures, materials and artisans from jewelry design to fashion and reaching to interior design; so even if there is a slim chance of 0.01 percent that one artisan receives a client then I would consider the platform to be a success," Hamandi said.


The idea for started during her pregnancy with her now four-year-old son, where she attempted to open her own studio back in 2012 but found difficulty and limitations in obtaining the right kinds of paper, designs and the best printing presses she had in mind.

"After meeting such a wide number of artisans, it was apparent to me that Lebanon didn't have a shortage in terms of design and handcrafted materials, but finding, pinpointing and communicating with them was, in fact, the weak link," she explained.

Hamandi, however, notes that the thorn in the side of the design community in Lebanon was finding the right type of materials or results they want or envisioned on the Internet, resulting in a loss of time that designers can't afford to lose.

"After kicking off a teasing campaign on social media a couple of months before the official launch, I received a lot of positive feedback toward the project which reassured me that I was on the right track, even resulting in early requests to share the directory sooner than I wanted to fill their needs," she told Annahar.

After receiving so much positive feedback from the design community upon launching, the young designer made her passion which led her to push through the hectic parts of the journey balancing her son's life on one hand and working on the other. "I used to stay up all night for six months, after putting my son to bed, to work and speed things up for launching," she said.

From a user's perspective, the platform is easy to use since it's a simple search engine where visitors can search for what they're looking for with related tags to each result pinpointing what that artisan or shop does in general and services they provide to help cater to people's personal preferences.

Once a search result is clicked on, a page will open up containing a short bio of the artisan or shop along with their contact information, address, and link to their social media platforms. The platform has almost 400 artisans, shops, and printing presses so far and is gradually growing; in addition, there's a button that reads "add your business," where local businesses and artisans can join the directory in order to showcase their products.

Hamandi has been and is still funding by herself and her husband Ahmad Ballouli with no investors, venture capitalists or angel investors; thus in order to create a source of income the budding graphic designer added a "go premium" feature which allows businesses and artisans to show up at the top of search results with a badge distinguishing them from others along with a portfolio within their profile, for a financial fee.

"The platform will always remain free to users since my target audience is considered as a niche market which is the design community as well as students," she explains, "We also follow up with potential or existing artisans within our contact list to keep the data we display up to date in case of the shop's closure or change of location."

In terms of her environment, Hamandi's husband was very supportive in helping her reach her goal and making the platform her passion. "I see my husband as my partner in this since we used to tour Lebanon together in search of these artisans and shops; my friends and designer oriented entourage were always behind me since they loved the idea and considered it very useful," she said.

Looking to the future, Hamandi hopes that will reach a stage where all designers in Lebanon look to it as their only hub for whatever needs and wants passes their minds, as well as growing as far to cooperate with design programs across the country's universities.

For the young designer, the experience of being a mother entrepreneur is the most challenging part of her startup journey considering "my son has my full passion in life, but juggling both an entrepreneurship, motherhood and being a wife makes it all the more harder yet all the more worthwhile," Hamandi told Annahar.

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