10X Exclusive: Mecal — E-commerce platform for men's accessories that has raised $400,000 in Pre-Series A
One of the most common dilemmas faced by almost everyone when it comes to buying gifts for men — be it brothers, husbands, fathers or even friends — is what to buy? The choices are limited almost everywhere unless one opts to buy a very expensive custom-made piece.
This is the issue Tojan Onallah is addressing since her university days. What started as a passion project in university, was revived 15 years later in 2016, in a more organised e-commerce startup — Mecal.
As a designer, Tojan is the heart and soul behind the jewellery and accessories she creates and ships across the Arab region. In an interview with SME 10X, she revealed that her scalable business model has seen 850 percent revenue growth between 2017-2018.
Naturally, this has also garnered the attention of investors. Tojan revealed in an interview with SME 10X that Ibtikar Fund led her seed funding round of $150,000 in 2017; and now in 2019, Ibtikar has yet again led a $400,000 Pre-Series A funding round, joined by Jordan-based Innovative Startups and SME’s Fund (ISSF), whereby each invested $200,000.
“We initially invested in Mecal in 2017 and have since witnessed very positive signals from the market that prompt us to double down in this space. Tojan is a relentless entrepreneur, whose passion for design drives a very unique product offering that fills a demand for high-quality, unique men’s accessories, and we are excited to welcome ISSF to join us in this journey.”Habib Hazzan, managing general partner at Ibtikar Fund.
The journey to success
After creating jewellery and accessories for men in her university days, Tojan went on to become a marketing manager and later worked in the manufacturing unit designing corporate gifts. Having 15 years of knowledge and experience in project development and marketing, Tojan began her journey as a solo entrepreneur to establish Mecal Men.
She started again with designing and producing jewellery and accessory pieces that were unique, inspired by Arabic culture and sayings, and made keeping the taste of Arab men in mind.
Given her strength in design and knowledge of execution, Tojan started building a scalable model, an e-commerce website, and connecting with suppliers, manufacturers and shippers. Her motto was simple — to address the market gap of unique and beautiful pieces for men that are affordable.
Today, it has been almost three years since she founded Mecal. She now has a team of 7 behind her, with offices in Jordan and Bahrain — and growing.
Her platform sells around 30 categories of products specifically for men, including necklaces, bracelets, rings, wallets, money pins, pens, accessories for cars, jackets, shirts, and more. Tojan plans to double the categories of products with the recently raised capital.
The funding will also go towards expanding her platform’s reach in Saudi Arabia and Bahrain.
“ISSF is delighted to have closed its second direct investment with Mecal, a woman-owned and led business. ISSF’s interest is based on the high added value derived from its unique product designs and focused marketing. Mecal’s design capability will enable it to compete in the local, regional and international market thus driving its ability to scale.”Laith Al-Qasem, chief executive officer (CEO) at ISSF.
No entrepreneur’s path to prosperity is without challenges. Society often highlights the achievements that paint a rosy picture, however, the true success lies in overcoming the roadblocks.
When Tojan set up Mecal, the ecosystem was not as developed as it is today. Delivery and shipping were expensive, and Jordan had high custom taxes. This especially became a problem as Tojan designed the products in Jordan, but assigned part of the production to a Chinese company to reduce costs for the end consumer.
Beyond the cost-effectiveness, this was also because some of the designs were made with stainless steel owing to its strength and durability. However, the material needed expensive heavy machinery, which was more cost-effectively produced in China.
For customised products, and those made with silver or copper, Tojan makes them in Jordan itself.
The overall ecosystem has now improved, costs of deliveries and shipping have gone down, and Mecal’s expansion to Bahrain further reduces operating costs — all of which benefit the end customer by giving them unique and beautifully designed products at affordable costs.
Beyond men’s accessories
Mecal has expanded to establish a new entity that caters to the corporate gifting market. Tojan's designs and production expertise has seen her gain clients such as Majid Al Futtaim, Huawei, Embassy of Oman in Jordan, KSA Embassy in Jordan, Zain and more.
She is also planning on expanding her line of smart accessories, that uses QR codes, which have a range of uses. For example, a QR code etched into a cardholder allows people to simply scan the code to download contact details instead of holding on to a physical card.
Tojan’s designs for men’s accessories are simply beautiful and elegant, catering to people with a range of budgets and tastes. With a solid expansion plan, scalable model and strong growth in its stride, Mecal is increasingly gaining ground in the larger Arab market. The latest injection of funds will certainly see it growing even further.