After her university days in the UK ended, Rasha Khunji took up banking for quite some time, till she realised that she never belonged there. After quitting her job, Rasha wanted to be on her own which made her try her luck with Dazzle Cupcakes, one of the earliest cupcake ventures seen in Bahrain, during 2005-06. Her venture allowed her to be there at various exhibitions, and this motivated her to take a totally different step towards learning the ropes of the event management industry and try and fill the demand in the Bahrain market through her successful enterprise ‘Blossom Events’. It’s from this organisation of hers, that Rasha worked on the idea of providing a space for Bahraini talent – to educate, incubate and finally produce flourishing entrepreneurs. Showcase 101 was thus born on March 2014 at Riyadat Mall, A’Ali and has since been successful in giving the right guidance to young talent who otherwise would have been lost in the crowd. Following are the excerpts from the interview BTW had with Rasha at her spacious studio at Riyadat.
Although the idea of an incubator exists, the concept as such is new to Bahrain. The idea for showcase 101 came from my other company ‘Blossom Events’, which organises events like exhibitions and conferences. We found that after an exhibition gets over, we have no idea what has happened with the exhibitor and their business. So we thought of providing an educational incubator, where we even conduct workshops and evaluate the business. By having such an incubator it gives the exhibitors reasons to stay with us for a longer period than appearing at exhibitions for a day or two and leaving. This is more beneficial for their talent and business.
How do you finalise on exhibitors for Showcase 101?
The first step for anyone who is genuinely interested in turning their dream to a business is to download and fill the form we have on our Instagram page @showcase101bh and submit it to us. The applications will be carefully scrutinised and we conduct several meetings with aspiring exhibitors. The major points that we check is their seriousness towards the business and if they are honest and willing to learn and grow with us.
I have a good team with me which also includes two established designers. They help me with the quality of the designs that come here. And of course with our experience we will be able to know if a person can get it done or not after the first meeting itself. Also, when we select products for display here, we assure that they are not the same ideas unless it adds value to showcase101.
What are the products allowed to be showcased here?
All products related to fashion, like clothes and accessories are most welcome. We always want the exhibitors to come up with their own line of products. But we do take (very rarely) things that are ready. We want the owners to do projects that would showcase their talents. If you take a look around, you will also find home accessories and kids’ stuff. We take all kinds of retail items but no food at this stage.
How long can an exhibitor stay with Showcase?
The contract is usually for 3 months but it is renewable if we find that they are required as part of showcase and if the owner of the collection shows the sincerity and effort to take it further. We have had people who have been with us roughly for a year. As anchor exhibitors, when they stay for a longer period, they benefit more from being with Showcase. Such talent gets good grades and is also promoted to be there at events happening outside Bahrain as well.
We have found an incubator for 8 designers in Kuwait and are now suppliers for them. In Bahrain we have made collaborations at places in Seef and A’Ali where 6 of my designers supply their designs. This is really helpful for the girls to test the market before moving on their own.
What makes Showcase 101 special?
As I said before, we are an educational incubator where we teach interested and eligible candidates to run a sustainable business. We help them learn everything from putting up a business plan and networking to branding themselves. Once they are selected to be a part of our family, they can find all the support needed, in house. For instance, our budding fashion designers can use our in house tailoring, the photo shoot and the styling facilities, as well as marketing and PR. You will never find another place in Bahrain where all these come together under one roof.
We even have eminent designers and business people visiting showcase 101, conducting workshops for our exhibitors. Many who graduate from our incubator go out and come back to share their story of success. That gives me the satisfaction to have started this venture that has eventually given wings to many dreams.
What is your message for our readers?
When you start something new, it takes time to bring in the kind of profit you expect. I would like to tell people not to get scared at such times. Also I would like to remind everyone that our Bahrain is blessed with so many different talented entrepreneurs who are no less than the most sought after western ones. All that they need is your trust and support. Given a chance, they are amazing and Mashallah, our new generation is really passionate and strong in what they do; we are always proud of them!