Every now and again you meet a person who has such energy and purpose that they are impossible to ignore. Saudi entrepreneur Doaa bin Thabit is one such person. It may not be immediately obvious, but she and her business ‘Packageha’ (Arabic for ‘Package it’) are the embodiment of ‘pay it forward’ culture, where she feels the benefit of support and kindness in her business venture and passes it on to other small ventures so that they too can grow and develop.
The world runs on small businesses. According to the World Bank, SMEs (small and medium enterprises) “represent about 90% of businesses and more than 50% of employment worldwide.” So, while we hear about the 10% every day, Doaa knows that her fellow entrepreneurs matter just as much, and this sits at the very heart of her company. Packageha is essentially about giving small businesses a way to make a big impression, allowing them to design and print packaging for their products in an affordable way. Businesses can head to Doaa’s website and select from a multitude of sizes, designs and purposes to suit their markets, and their final printed packaging is produced in under a week and shipped flat by express courier in quantities that suit a smaller enterprise financially, and require nothing more than a shelf to store. It’s printed packaging on demand that cares about how fellow small businesses operate.
It’s this simple consideration for the ambitions of businesses who operate within the constraints of space and funds that won Doaa and the Packageha concept a prize at the 2017 MITEF Saudi Arabia Startup Competition, which asked for “innovative and scalable ideas that provide effective business or social solutions.” The award caught the eye of Canon Saudi Arabia, who met Doaa at a print and pack exhibition, and immediately understood the ripple effect that Packageha could have among the many small businesses who cannot afford to take their packaging needs to a large offset printer. This led to Doaa purchasing her first Canon imagePRESS C650 at special agreed pricing. “Her business is quite unique,” explains Mai Youssef, Corporate Communications and Marketing Services Director at Canon Middle East. “But she’s also a woman starting a print business and that’s quite unusual in Saudi, so we wanted to support her.”
“The idea started from a desire to empower women and young entrepreneurs.” Speaking to Packaging Middle East & Africa, Doaa’s solidarity with the new breed of start-ups is clear. They are run by people like her – often home-based, want more customers and have big dreams. Packageha gives them a way to “upgrade their products by providing a unique contemporary design that creates an identity.” Effectively, when many clients head to her site, they may not have even considered the visual identity of their business and are often simply boxing their products in generic packaging with just a logo sticker. Using the online design library provided, they can get a feel for their visual value to customers, making decisions on how they wish their products to be presented that may have previously been out of reach.
These seemingly small decisions can have long-term implications. Something as straightforward as packaging design can be influential, increasing word of mouth or making products truly ‘social media ready’. This translates into sales and growth – which benefits so many more people in the supply chain and through employment opportunities. Doaa and Packageha also support the immediate community through offering jobs to local women who are experiencing difficult circumstances and, in this way, Packageha has become something of a social movement, as well as a profitable business. A percentage of profits are also committed to charitable purposes, such as encouraging schoolchildren to donate good-as-new toys and books, which are then repackaged into beautiful gift boxes and delivered with dignity to underprivileged children. “We were hoping that by unboxing these surprise gift boxes with toys will bring joy and happiness to the children and show them how valued they are," says Doaa.
Tellingly, Packageha has also become the packaging business of choice for Saudi’s female-led start-ups, which is a source of great joy for Doaa, who speaks of seeing Packageha tagged on social media. “I feel even more blessed when they express their happiness with the package and their customers’ satisfaction,” she says. “They will post photos on their social media accounts, tagging Packageha with compliments about our high quality and fast delivery, and especially that our box is 100% made in Saudi Arabia.”
Some might call it a ‘company with a social conscience’, but it’s far more than that. It’s closer to the mark to describe Packageha as being ‘kind by design’, with good intentions imprinted into its DNA. It’s rare to find a business that has such a positive, decisive and deliberate impact on its customers and community from the very outset. In her thoughtful consideration of the wider social implications of something we all take for granted – packaging – Doaa has succeeded in building a business that genuinely wants to see others succeed. And the feeling from her customers is mutual.