Living Entrepreneurship Blog / Babson Entrepreneurs

2018 SVP Startup Profile: Shay Jaffar

Shaymaa Gaafar MBA’19, founder of Shay Jaffar

Shaymaa Gaafar MBA ‘19

Tell me a little bit about yourself and your company Shay Jaffar?
Shay Jaffar is a luxury fashion brand that aims to curate glamorous fashionable clothes to leave modest women feeling empowered. It has been a dream of mine since I was a kid to have my own fashion brand and so I created Shay Jaffar. I want to advocate for a woman’s power to choose what to wear. Choosing to cover up is also freedom.

What is the story behind Shay Jaffar?
I was born in Egypt and raised in the United Arab Emirates. In high school, everyone had to wear these bland uniforms. I started to sketch designs that could spice up my look and my talented mother would sew it. Together, we made these beautiful outfits. I received so many compliments whenever I would wear them to school; these outfits left me feeling confident and proud. I wanted to create that feeling for all modest women and so I started Shay Jaffar.

What is the most valuable thing you’ve gained from the Summer Venture Program?
I do my fashion production in New York City and so I had to decide whether to go back to New York for the summer to be closer to my line, or stay here for the Summer Venture Program (SVP). What drew me to SVP and ultimately what I find most valuable is the community and support. The other entrepreneurs here, advisors, David Chang, director of SVP, and everyone at the Blank Center are so helpful and their advice is invaluable.

Saralee Chetnaowaphong MBA’19 and Shaymaa Gaafar MBA’19 working on Shay Jaffar

What’s been a milestone/accomplishment you’ve made since the Summer Venture Program started?
Although I’ve always known that Shay Jaffar is a luxury brand, I didn’t realize that creating this brand would be so difficult. I’ve been able to hone in on how I want my women to feel when they see my logo or where my clothes. Building a brand is a continuous process, but the fact that I focused on this so early in my company is great.

What’s been an obstacle/surprise you’ve faced?
The biggest obstacle is keeping up with my production in New York. Although outsourcing production reduces my overhead, I have lost a bit of control over my product. As much as a I try to enforce a service level agreement between me and the manufacturer, things don’t always work as expected. It’s been a big learning curve for me this summer.

What is your favorite memory or moment from the Summer Venture Program?
Salimata Bangoura (Nanny A La Carte) is a lot of fun. She has so many stories. I love the one about how her and her husband met, it gives me faith that love is still alive!  I really enjoy getting to know the people in SVP, Sali and many others are so cool and it’s been great working with everyone.

If you could run any company in the world, existing or not, what would it be and why?
I want to start a fragrance line. I love fragrances and smells. If you were to look at my room at home, you would see an overwhelming amount of perfume bottles. Whenever I feel like I can relate to the message of a fragrance, I just have to buy it! One day I’ll find my own fragrance brand, you just wait.

What is your go-to restaurant around Workbar?
Noon is this Middle Eastern restaurant. It is so good! Noon is set up like a salad bar where you can make your own bowl. They make fresh pita bread in front of you – so yummy!

Any tips for aspiring entrepreneurs that you want to share?
Just do it. You will always be nervous about starting your own business. Until this day, I doubt myself and this is completely normal. I always think about whether anyone will buy my product after all of this work. The doubt and fear will be there, just embrace those feelings and use that energy to push you forward.

Check out Shay Jaffar and our startups at this year’s Summer Venture Showcase. Register now!