We wear clothing and accessories every day. We slip on a sweater when it’s chilly, throw on some shorts in the heat of summertime and garnish outfits with jewelry to add a special touch, but all without giving much thought to where all that stuff we are putting on our bodies came from.
The truth is that many of the products worn by the majority of people today were created in the name of exploitation, somewhere in a sweatshop by someone who hated their job. Junior mechanical engineering student Mohamed Reda Koraichi found this fact shocking and sickening. He wondered what it would be like to sell products created by people who were paid fairly for doing work that they actually enjoyed — and he even made an online business out of it.
Growing up in Morocco, Koraichi was surrounded by a constant cultural exchange. Sitting directly below Spain in the Northernmost part of Africa, his homeland has a large European migrant population and is often nicknamed the “Gateway to Africa.” He talks about how watching the Arabic culture influence the European culture, and vice versa, helped him to understand how art can connect people.
“That is what had helped me come up with a vision to start a company to unite people from different countries through art and creativity — art and creativity are essential. They make us human,” Koraichi says. “We need to appreciate imagination and vision more. I’ve seen it a lot in Morocco because its economy depends on tourism of its arts and architecture. However, what’s crazy is that artists in Northeastern Africa only make an average of $4,000 a year.”
That’s a startling statistic, but in the three short years that he’s lived in the United States, Koraichi has come up with an idea to stop it from being more of a reality. Inspired by the thought of intertwining people’s lives through art, he created Argalina — an online shop that sells products solely created by artists living in developing countries.
On a generic store’s website, we’d never see the name of the person who made the garment listed with the product, but Argalina does this in order to give full credit to the creator. Koraichi even took a step further by deciding to give the makers the majority of the profit from their sales.
By showcasing things like shoes made from Madagascar palm trees, glittering crystal necklaces and pure cosmetic oil, all handmade with love and care, this budding business hopes to assist creators across the globe in getting the attention and pay that they deserve.
Koraichi currently works with eight artists to supply his site and expects that number to keep rising. He works with the help of a worldwide team that has members in the U.S., Canada, Spain and France, and claims that without them he couldn’t have balanced his engineering schoolwork and this business like he has.
He says it’s not always easy. Oftentimes, the people he gets his products from don’t have great internet skills or connection, so he usually has to coach them through the process. In the end, he admits it’s always worth it to see how happy they are that their work is getting appreciated. Koraichi ignores the widespread economic attitude: “to make money, sell something easy and cheap.” Instead, he builds his business on the principle of helping people.
Koraichi says when you start an online business, you must rely on faith and not motivation because motivation won’t always be there. This one-of-a-kind business with its one-of-a-kind products wasn’t built in a day, but the long-lasting impact it has created is priceless. Check out the Argalina website for yourself and see the work that Koraichi and his team have put in to help artists worldwide.
“Being an engineer, my job is to find solutions,” Koraichi says. “I believe I can find solutions for these people. Not by inventing a machine or an engine, but by uniting and encouraging creativity across cultures.”