Locking in the Memories

With Mrs. Fathima AlAlawi, founder, Sign a Memory

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Today, we live in an ‘e’-world. We find it extremely convenient to send e-mails, book e-tickets and mail e-cards. The actual happiness of having spent time choosing, writing and sending a card has become almost unknown for the new generation. But with the advent of festivities and celebration including those special once in a lifetime moments in life, there are many of us who would still love to make others feel valuable and worthwhile, gifting a signed greeting card.

In the current market scenario where greeting cards come in English, Sign a Memory is making its mark being a unique greeting card establishment launched in April 2013 at Riyadat, A’Ali, with the support of Bahrain Development bank. Mrs Fathima AlAlawi, the founder of the establishment sat down with BTW, sharing the story behind and the plans for future.

“The idea came to me when I had my first child. I love giving cards at all occasion and it’s a big thing in our family.” She shared her love towards cards. “If you see the greeting cards market in GCC, it’s all English. I have seen my family members having to write in Arabic to convey their thought from heart on an English card. Somehow I felt that it was not complete and thought of having cards in Arabic.”

“And with Arabic language gaining popularity around the globe, I got the idea to make cards in our language with the same quality as that of the English greetings.” “The first greeting card I made was for my brother on his birthday themed on his passion for old music records and I still remember his happiness seeing something personalized gifted on his special day.” She had her memories down pat with a twinkle in her eye.

Explaining her working strategy Mrs. AlAlawi continued, “I decided to do everything from the scratch in here. Like all the graphical designs you see on our cards, I do them myself and make our cards are available at the retail shops in Bahrain. I target flower shops, chocolate shops, specialty places like baby gift shops and I hope.”

When we asked her strength of going non-stop, she said with a smile, “My husband loves my idea and he has always been my support.”

And she also mentioned about the initial studies done to create each perfect greeting to choose an occasion. “We did a research on this all over gulf and we found that there were very few cards in Arabic. Also we found that they all followed a standard prototype for images like lanterns for Ramadan and moon & mosque for Eid.”

“I wanted to add something more to this and went on to research on the cards produced by companies in US and UK. I have taken ideas and categories from different places and have successfully adapted them to the requirement in Bahrain.”

Mrs. AlAlawi who did her Undergrad and Masters in marketing is finally finding her niche in something she has been in love with since childhood. “I used to draw a lot during my high school days. Even though I am not professionally trained to be a graphic designer, I learned from various online tutorials and from my friends who are experts in this.” It is true that practice makes a person perfect and this is clear in all the designs made by her. “I won’t accept any of my designs to be just good. I want them perfect.” She nods in.

“Being an entrepreneur is scary”, Mrs. AlAlawi didn’t think twice when we asked her about being there all on her own. “It is fun… as all the energy I put into the running of the company, I see it coming back to me.” She laughed and continued. “It’s scary because you are all on your own on a new idea which has no actual foundation built to continue working on. It’s a great responsibility that comes above being just an employee. But at the end of the day I am satisfied of having done something for myself. It’s not reinventing the wheel, but taking it further.” She smiled proudly.

A perfectionist in all sense, Mrs. AlAlawi personally sees to everything associated with a card getting printed from finding the right quality of paper to the best printers and managing proper accounts.

“Most of my clients are either the corporate or the retail shops. When companies need special card, they can choose customized logos and designs which will be limited to that particular organization alone. And when there are special occasions I choose special cards that can give an extra pop to the designs being used on them.” She noted on choosing designs and cards for the customers.

With plans set to concentrate on greeting cards for the next 2 years, Mrs AlAlawi dreams of branching out with exclusive gifts and novelties from sign a memory. “In the coming years, I have my plans to start off with items that would complement the greeting cards and also try using cards made of recycled papers.”

Quoting on the challenges each day she said, “I wear multiple hats everyday including a mommy hat. I have to balance everything without neglecting other aspects. I can’t be creative without taking care of the finance or be producing cards without caring for my family. And of course delivering the cards perfect to my customers is a time defying process.”

Knowing that she has just had her beginning, Mrs. AlAlawi has her ambitions set to take sign a memory to the next level making it ‘the mini hallmark’ of Bahrain.