Founder story: We’ve faced rejection after rejection, failures, disbelievers…yet we grew

January 30, 2023 | By Rupkatha B

Nawal El Masri, Founder, exhale

Founded in 2017 by Nawal El Masri homegrown conscious fashion brand exhale is looking to raise AED11 million in Angel and VC investment. Using clothing, collaborations and technology as tools to spread the message of mindfulness exhale aims to create purposeful ecosystem enabling artists and organisations to support social causes and self-expression.

Having already raised AED1.8 million in its first round of angel investment, exhale is now in the growth stage looking for brand and community expansion regionally and internationally.

Sharing business milestones achieved over the past 12 months Masri said, “One of our biggest milestones is exhale being recognised by UN WOMEN x NAMA Women as a conscious brand. The exhale story has been told by Volkswagen on the launch of their T-ROC car positioned as a mindful brand. We have also collaborated with Cadillac & Mini Cooper for collections and campaigns. Our ‘Compassion is Contagious’ campaign was re-shared and recognised by celebrities pledging for unity and oneness. Over the years exhale has evolved into more than just a brand but a community of exhalers – dreamers, creators, doers – where together they bring in exclusive experiences to organisations and events.”

In 2023 the brand plans to expand its collections and bring in further purposeful collaborations to position exhale as a mindful brand bringing in reminders of self-awareness.

“We plan on further growing our current creative community and to open ‘the home of exhale HQ’ for all to experience and execute experiential pop-ups across concept stores and malls. In collaboration with mental health organisations, guides and therapists we plan to provide free therapy sessions making mental health sessions accessible to those who can’t afford. We plan to expand regionally in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Qatar and Kuwait and internationally to New York City, London, Paris, Toronto, Montreal, Spain and Italy. Moreover, we plan to hire a CTO and CMO by 2023 and grow in revenue to over AED10 million.”

Asked about three key learnings from 2022, Masri shared, “Our key learnings have been to remain resilient and patient as we crossed through stormy weather at the end of 2020 and 2021 due to COVID-19 and economic crisis. We have faced rejection after rejection, failures and disbelievers. Yet what remained is loyal returning customers, resilience, patience, consistency, the willingness to continue and foresee success and fruitful times. Above all to know that there is nothing more valuable than community and a returning happy customer, those who need to be treated with love and empathy which are the pillars of our business.”

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