Today on Artist Strong we welcome Anna and Annabelle of Little Majlis, a wonderful online market space for creatives in the Middle East.
Carrie: Welcome to Artist Strong ladies! Can you tell us a bit more about yourselves?
We both moved to the UAE and met back in 1999 through our jobs in the design and construction industry. Although we’ve had super careers working on some very exciting projects, we’d been talking about doing something different and so ideas of Little Majlis started to develop. We now both work at Little Majlis full time and love it!
Carrie: What inspired Little Majlis?
“The term Majlis is used to refer a private place where guest are received and entertained.”*
From the top right down to the bottom, inspiration is everywhere in Dubai. We had our ideas for Little Majlis and Dubai creates the atmosphere and conditions to act on them. The United Arab Emirates has been built by people following their dreams and we thought it was our turn to jump on the bandwagon and join in.
We felt there was a real need to get all these creative people we kept coming across together and provide a platform for them to promote themselves and help build their small businesses.
Carrie: Have you both always had an interest in the arts? When did you discover your passion for all things artisanal?
Yes, always! It’s something we’ve both grown up with and so to have a career in the art and design industry just seemed natural to both of us.
Carrie: What has been one obstacle in your journey of maintaining and growing Little Majlis and how have you overcome it?
A shortage of time has always been an obstacle at Little Majlis. To be honest, we battle with it still and have become masters of multi-tasking to try to manage ourselves.
Carrie: How did you navigate your transition from working for others to working for yourselves?
It has gone quite well. We managed project teams in our previous jobs and as we worked together for the same company about 6 years ago, we knew we had a good working relationship and that our skills complemented each other to set up a new business.
Carrie: If people wish to be a part of Little Majlis, what do they need to do?
Everyone is welcome to be part of the Little Majlis community and membership is completely free. If you’re interested in becoming a Little Majlis shop keeper, you can apply to sell via the website. You must live in the GCC and have fabulous handmade or artisan products to sell along with really good product photos.
The Little Majlis market is partly curated and all sellers go through an approval process to ensure that their products are genuinely handmade or artisan and that the quality is superior. We consider this an essential process which allows us to maintain a unique shopping experience for our customers.
Carrie: How do you find the people you showcase on your blog?
We blog about anything that inspires us, from the people we meet, places we’ve been, to creative events that take place in the Gulf. Our ‘meet’ blogs are by far the most popular and all the people featured in these stories are Little Majlis members and most are also shop keepers with us.
Carrie: Do you have a particularly memorable story of the impact Little Majlis has had on an artisan in your community?
Many of the Little Majlis shopkeepers are very active in the local market and pop-up shop scene. However there are a number of boutique owners who for various reasons can not participate in physical events; it has been really heart-warming to see the impact that the public’s feedback (via Little Majlis social media channels) has had on these vendors. The online shopping platform allows them to trial their product range and validate the sustainability of their hobby and/or passion as a business.
Carrie: What makes Little Majlis different from other online storefronts for artists and craftspeople?
Although there are similar websites throughout the world, our point of difference is that our focus is right here in the Gulf, although the artisan products featured on Little Majlis can be sourced from around the globe. Little Majlis is unique to the region in that each shop front is independently managed by the resident GCC designer-makers and small business people themselves. They each have a direct URL to their shop front and can include links to their social media pages. Little Majlis has a strong community focus and the website features a calendar of creative events and a members forum.
Carrie: What is your advice to creatives thinking about setting up a shop for their goods?
Firstly, you need to have the best photos possible of your products. They don’t have to be professionally taken, but they do have to look professional and styled to reflect your brand and your ethos. Secondly, you really have to be on board and committed to selling online by helping to promote your online shop to your existing client base and to potential customers as well.
Carrie: What is one creative resource you can’t live without?
We never thought we’d admit to this, but now that we run an online business, we’re inseparable from our computers! We use them to create the artwork for the Little Majlis website as well as to search for inspiration on blogs, instagram and pinterest.
Carrie: How do you define Creativity?
Wow! What a great question. We both come from a creative professional background and if you asked us back then we would have said creativity is a great big pain in the bottom! Creativity doesn’t respond to deadlines (and therefore has no respect for time or money!). When you hit the creative process on the head, the result should look so effortless and in a sense like it was ‘meant to be;’ so much so that clients are not aware of the time and cost involved.
However creativity can also be really rewarding and Little Majlis is reminding us of that again. The creative process basically takes an idea and turns it into reality. With Little Majlis we get the opportunity to be creative every day, both in-house as well as through assisting our shopkeepers build their brand, product range and their business.
BE COURAGEOUSLY CREATIVE: Have you considered how an online storefront might be the perfect way to show case your hobby or professional work? If you live in the GCC apply to be a part of Little Majlis!
All Photos Credited to Little Majlis
*Quote from Wikipedia