Monday, June 28, 2021

Stand for women x Dare women - local "entrepreneuses" for the win!

Cynthia Chamat Debbane in happier times at the store

I was the before the last client of Boutique Hub. on August 4th - yes, that August 4th 2020. Actually I had met Cynthia Chamat Debbane online prior - about 4-5 months prior. The connection was instant, about 10 minutes later we were comparing medical records. Long story short, and though she never saw me prior, as soon as I entered her boutique in Sodeco Square (despite all our back and forth talk), she smiled broadly and said: "Oh it's you! No, wait. How do I know it's you?"

Suffice to say that Cynthia and her brother Bechara did a major rescue operation for the material that was present at the boutique. They did not even wait for August 5th to do it. What was there was moved in the dead of the night on August 4th for fear it might be subject to theft or looting (with one of them standing vigil at the shop as the other loaded a van). Especially that "Boutique Hub." (yes written with a point a the end) housed - at the time - the designs done by 40+ local Lebanese designers, all of them of limited means of production.

What ensued for Boutique Hub later was mayhem. They had to see which merchandise was still fit for selling, which merchandise needed restauration. And worse, with the Dollar climbing and climbing, a new selling pricing - which Cynthia explained very thoroughly on Instagram.

Then after a while, there was also a different set of merchandise. Do note that Boutique Hub. also houses an in-house brand such as Urban Sense but also has a long running collaboration with Kinamania. But for all the other suppliers a new deal had to be made - whereby mostly they would provide a specific yearly or seasonal collection exclusive for Boutique Hub. Rana Cheikha which had a hit with her booties still provided them for the shop, but other brands such as Emergency Room or Madame C├ęphanie. (again with a point!) had to provide specific items only. Cynthia at the time told me on a private chat, "it was strange, it was like telling people, come taste my wonderful burgers when before I was selling sushi!" - Cynthia currently curates special collections from 10 designers down from 40+.

But all this info is to get us to the Stand For Women which is collaborating with Dare Women (from France) and the result is to guide 5 Lebanese creatives (Joelle, Guilda, Sherine, Carolina and Cynthia). All five women have seen the tools of their livelihood destroyed on the August 4th explosion. And whereas they have rebuild or tried to find alternative means of remaining in the market (Cynthia herself has relocated the merchandise and the fittings to her own house) - all five are in dire need of serious business planning with an eye on international expansion. 

There is even a podcast "J'ose rebondir Liban" (I dare to Rebound Lebanon) where the women tell their stories and the effects the explosion had on literally, destroying their livelihoods prior to them "rebounding" out of their sheer will. All of this comes at a much needed time for the entrepreneurs in question. Actually, for the "entrepreuneuses".

In the female form. In plural.