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Women Entrepreneurs in Action: Aya Home Textiles

A family business of three generations started by Rafaat Akel, a Palestinian immigrant, is now the most stylish bedding and textile manufacturer in town. Aya A. Akel, a young textiles designer who has a background in marketing and advertising, has succeeded in turning her grandparents' business into one of Egypt’s main textile exporters.

“My grandfather paved the way for my father’s ready-to-wear garment business in Alexandria,” says Akel, the founder of Aya Home Textiles. Following one year of work in advertising, the young Akel realized that trade was in her blood, and after landing a huge deal with Uniliver, launched her career in bedding and textiles.

“Outsourcing Al-Mahalla al-Kobra Textiles taught me a lot about the industry,” says Akel. Her twice-a-week visit to the textile hub was a chance to learn about the weave, the texture, and the weight of 100 percent Egyptian cotton towels. After understanding the success of practical, simple and colorful products, Akel discovered a niche in the field.

According to Akel, the launch of her business coincided with the real estate boom and the rediscovery of art deco and modern furniture. “I totally rely on word of mouth; the consistency of Aya Textiles products is behind the name,” says the textile designer. In a crowded city like Cairo, Aya Textiles makes life easy for its clients. Six days after the order, the products are delivered direct to their homes via Aramex, who collect the payment and offer samples of new products.

“A good lawyer and accountant and a tax specialist are three indispensible figures in launching a company,” says Akel, who admits that having a family textile factory in Alexandria helped a lot to launch her publically listed company. Getting the design right is also challenge: “It is very hard to keep it simple; designing textiles is far from easy and many technicalities are involved in the manufacturing process," says Akel.

Akel participates in a Ministry of Trade program for new designers; “I learned a lot from our meetings; we are a bunch of young designers who sit regularly to discuss our businesses, the problems we face, and our future in the market,” says Akel.

Vintage bed covers are Aya Textiles’ signature piece; the colorful throws are colorful, stylish and affordable, and the crocheted pieces are manufactured in Syria, according to Akel.

Aya Textiles also provide polyester-free bedding for boutique hotels. The concept behind the products is authenticity. “There is more to Egypt then pharaonic designs,” says the designer.

Aya Home Textiles products are available at Eklego, Loolies, and Razzmatazz Interiors. They have also launched a baby line for The Little Shop in Zamalek, and export to Switzerland, Libya, Omman, and Dubai. The next destination for export will be the US, France and the UK, says Akel. Meanwhile, they are also available at

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