Creativity is something that came naturally to Rima Abboushi, since childhood when TV programmes such as Blue Peter, HOW and Magpie sparked her imagination. Many years later, her gift for crafting hand-made designs was realised when the prospect of returning to her city job no longer fitted in with the demands of raising an expanding family. Rima tried her hand at many activities, including needlework, handbag design and jewellery making. But it was at a charity event that Rima stumbled across her brilliant idea to create Chachoulie, mixing western and eastern designs from her homeland Palestine. The idea allowed Rima to bring together all her creative skills and support dying local crafts and industries in Palestine. It also led to her meeting with HRH Prince Charles producing a turning point in her business.
Please tell us about your business Chachoulie and the meaning of the name
Chachoulie is a London based company that makes accessories from the textiles of Palestine, namely the traditional cross stitch embroidery, used in the traditional lady’s costume (taub) and the traditional male headdress of Palestine (Kuffiyeh).The name Chachoulie is a term of endearment that my late mother used to call her grandchildren, which roughly translates as ‘cutie pie’.
I understand the products are hand stitched and embroidered. Is this done in Palestine or over here by your own team of craftspeople?
I source my textiles from Palestine in order to help the locals. The embroidery is often from women’s cooperatives and charities that employ ladies to stitch for them. This is a vital source of income for Palestinian families who exist under extraordinary circumstances.
The Kuffiyeh is from the last remaining factory in Palestine that is still making them. The factory is owned by an old man and his family, called Mr Hirbawi, who I believe is in his 80s.
The colours and shapes of the textiles will greatly influence what they will be transformed into. Once in my London sewing room, I design and make the new creations to suit London tastes.
You offer a wide range of products from women and men’s wear to jewellery and home ware. How have the products been received and who is your ideal customer?
I started my business making handbags for a diplomatic charity event that proved to be very popular. I then experimented with jewellery. The possibilities then seemed endless.
My customers are very varied, from people who would like to support Palestine, to people who have an appreciation for cross stitch and the heritage of embroidery who like to have something unique. I like to have something for everyone and prices that suit every pocket, hence I have greeting cards from £2 to handbags at £85.
Do you re export to the Middle East?
My market is largely local but many purchases end up overseas.
You received a visit from Prince Charles as you are an alumni from the Princes’ Trust Entrepreneurship programme. Please tell us more about meeting the Prince and what it meant for your business.
When trying to convert my hobby into a business I enrolled in PRIME (Princes Trust for Mature Enterprise). They supported my efforts and provided me with an understanding and pathway to running my own business, with practical training, five year plans and getting organised.
I was fortunate enough to be one of three businesses to be selected to showcase my products to HRH Prince Charles. It may sound corny but I felt very proud and it came at a time in my life when the positive injection was just what I needed. I felt validated and simply thrilled.
Since setting up the business what have you learnt about running a business? What would you pass onto others wishing to start a business?
Starting a business is very enjoyable but keeping it going requires a lot of time. My advice for anyone wanting to start a business, is just do it, the younger you are the better.
Do you actually have a shop in UK or is everything distributed online?
Chachoulie products are available online and some ranges can be viewed on the Facebook page. Customers can contact us via email on Info@chachoulie.com to discuss any orders.
Please tell us about your back story! Did you train in fashion and design?
I started my career in International Banking in the city. I gave that up to start a family. 4 children later and I craved my creativity that had been with me since childhood. I used to watch programmes like Blue Peter, HOW, Magpie and an Origami show. All these programmes encouraged recycling of loo rolls, paper wool and glue.
I therefore enrolled into pottery courses at Linda Zeff studios and silver smithing jewellery design at Barnet College, handbag design and finishing touches sewing skills at Central St Martins. These skills have culminated in my eclectic collection.
Where would you like to be in five years time?
In five years I would like to be supplying small boutiques and duty free stores in the Middle East.
Who are the people who have inspired you in life?
My inspiration was of course my parents. My father lost his home in Palestine and my mother lost her home in India. She was from a generation who knitted and purchased fabrics by the metre. She would speak passionately about silks that her father brought back from his travels and of course her sari collection. These were in a cupboard that I would regularly frequent. Of course they were simply too beautiful to cut and so continue to remain unspoiled. Quite a miracle really because a pair of scissors in a child’s hands is a destructive thing!!!
How do you relax and recharge your batteries?
I relax by sewing. Nothing gives me more pleasure than stitching my label onto a completed piece.
For more about Chachoulie log onto: http://www.chachoulie.com/