What It's About
A Moroccan jewelry import business in the United States.
Words of Wisdom
Moroccan culture is very relationship oriented, as opposed to the United States which is very transactional. Moroccans rely on personal connections to facilitate business, and they often want to know that you’re a good person with strong values so they can trust you in the business dealings. So building new relationships with craftspeople took some time.
It's important to understand that culture and language are not the same thing when you’re working with other countries. In order to conduct business successfully, you have to have a thorough understanding and acceptance of their unique values and business methods, and in my opinion, these skills are more valuable than hard business skills for a side hustle like Erica's.
Since Erica has red hair and looks very Northern European, when she first meets people in Morocco they assume she speaks French. When she starts speaking not just Arabic, but Moroccan Arabic people are usually pleasantly surprised.
Notes from Chris
Erica El Hilali’s Moroccan journey started back in 2006 when she studied abroad there as a college student. She loved the country, especially the style, but as a political science major, she never thought of starting her own Moroccan-inspired business. If you do have an MBA or studied marketing as an undergrad, that’s fine, here you are. But I actually think some other subjects are more interesting to prepare you for learning all the things I talk about: the power of observation, choosing between different ideas, turning your idea into an offer, and getting your offer out into the world. But Morocco called to her and she made many trips back and forth over the years, eventually falling in love and marrying a Moroccan man in 2008. She soon learned that she had actually married into an entire Moroccan family and that she needed to learn Arabic so that she could communicate with her in-laws and entire extended family. Which is how she’s spent a big part of the last ten years of her life to learning Moroccan Arabic, as well as immersing herself in the culture, cuisine, and fashion. With one foot in America—Minnesota to be specific—and one foot in Morocco, Erica realized that she was perfectly situated to facilitate cultural exchange, in the form of bringing Moroccan style and fashion to the U.S. And that’s how Casablanca Exchange was born! With the help of her sister-in-law, who lives in Morocco, Erica set about sourcing jewelry that would be in the Moroccan tradition, but that any western woman would feel comfortable wearing. Erica decided on the styles that she liked and provided this information to her sister-in-law who went out and found different suppliers. So far, the first few months have been a great success! The first month she brought in just under $1,000 in revenue and the second month she surpassed that by bringing in $1,300.
MENTIONED IN THIS EPISODE:
- Casablanca Exchange: See some of Erica's Moroccan wares on her website!
- GoDaddy: The online platform that Erica used to host her website
- Honeymoon in Nepal Becomes Fashion Accessories Business: A multinational love affair turns into a global side hustle in the fashion world that also raises money for charity in Nepal.
- Man Buys 100 Animal Skulls from Bali; Turns $10,000 Into $60,000: Fascinated by Balinese culture, a San Francisco native starts an import business to help preserve traditional art
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