In an interview with startupBahrain, Yazin Al-Irhayim the founder of Canvas.bh shares with us his startup story.
Where did the idea of launching Canvas.bh come from? How did you take the decision to become an entrepreneur?
I got the idea from Rasha Yousif, while attending an ‘iPhoneography’ workshop that she organized at the Business Incubator Center in Hidd. I did some research of my own and decided that it was definitely worth pursuing, especially since I knew we had the tech expertise to pull it off.
My history with entrepreneurship started in 2011 at the first ever Startup Weekend in Batelco’s Staff Center in Hamala. I participated, out of pure curiosity at the time. My team went on to win first place, and I’m pretty sure it’s where I caught the elusive ‘entreprener bug’.
How did you finally take that decision to quit your job?
I liked my job. You get a ton of great work experience after spending 5 years, and GE is renowned for having developed some of the worlds best leaders. But alas, it just didn’t seem to be the thing I wanted to spend the rest of my life doing. I loved what I felt at that first Startup Weekend event, and I knew it’s something I wanted to do.
Besides, I’ve got a lot of ideas that I wanted to test out and I couldn’t just leave them. I also knew that there had to be boundaries, so I set two limits: a financial limit and a time limit. If I went over either of those limits, then I would go back and find a ‘normal’ job.
What is Canvas.bh all about?
Some of the best shots you’ve got, were taken using a phone. But the sad reality is that those pictures stay on your phone – or Instagram, or Facebook. Canvas.bh brings those photos to life. We make beautiful canvas art from your Facebook and Instagram shots that are built to look perfect! Your photos are printed on archival-grade canvas (the same type used in museums) that is designed to last over 100 years.
It’s a great way to keep those memories alive – hung up in your living room, or bedroom. They also make great gifts! (no more last minute perfume shopping necessary).
How did you fund the project?
I’ve been working for 5 years, during which I’ve been able to save up some money. I didn’t look for external funding, instead deciding to take advantage of the various support programs available for SMEs (Small and Medium Entreprises) that the country generously offers. Canvas.bh is located at the Bahrain Business Incubator Center (BBIC) where the rent is great, and we’re surrounded by other startups. We took advantage of from the ‘Taqneya” program by Tamkeen which aided us in purchasing all the necessary equipment for a solid setup (printers, etc).
How did you know about the Bahrain Busi- ness Incubator Center (BBIC)?
I was referred to the BBIC by a friend – Nawaf Saeed – who already had a space there. He showed me around, and I was pretty impressed. I applied for a unit and we were up and running in our new office in about a month.
Who are your main customers?
It’s a public service, that anyone with a camera-phone can benefit from! We’ve seen particular interest from photographers and interior designers so far.
What do you think of the BBIC?
I would say it’s a great place for startups; they’ve got useful facilities (including meeting and conference rooms), spacious offices and ample parking area. The best part is the low rent which really makes it a convenient spot for small businesses to start. I wish they had a café or a small restaurant so we’d have a place to relax and recharge. It would also be useful if BBIC organized events/activities that could help all the entrepreneurs to meet regularly and network.
Tell us about Canvas.bh, how is the business doing?
Well, it’s too early to tell. I’ve got some great feedback from the customers that have already signed up and will be working on getting the word out to the rest of Bahrain. We’ve got plans to expand our services to other countries within the GCC and the Middle East region.
What makes Canvas.bh a unique service?
We’ve designed a unique process that lets us process very low-resolution images, and still make them look magnificent once printed. We’re also using the best materials on the market, imported directly from the US. We’re so confident in our product, that we offer a 100% money back guarantee on every canvas sold. If you don’t fall in love with it, we’ll give you your money back.
Given your experience with Canvas.bh, what are the main lessons learned?
Being a startup, there is a lot of paper-work involved with registering the company, get- ting the necessary licenses, and many other official formalities. Getting someone to help out means you’re free to concentrate on the core business of building a brand that would sell in the market.
The second valuable lesson is that not every- one can be an entrepreneur! You really need to be up for the challenge and face the many ups and downs with courage, passion, and conviction.
I’ve still got a lot to learn, and I’m loving this experience so far!