Rakan Al-Shawaf: The Young Global E-commerce Entrepreneur

CanadianSME Small Business Magazine

Rakan Al-Shawaf had a cosmopolitan upbringing as he grew up in Syria, Saudi Arabia, UAE, China, and Canada. Most of these moves were due to his father’s business, which allowed him to study in different schools and learn more about the differences in people’s lives, allowing him to realize how similar and different we are. 

Rakan’s upbringing in a Syrian immigrant family with hardworking parents inspired him to be an entrepreneur. In addition, his exposure to meeting people from all over the world and observing how people live their lives differently gave him the idea for his entrepreneurial venture, highlighting the similarities and connecting the differences. 

The Beginning of the Entrepreneurial Journey

Rakan was pursuing an engineering degree at Queen’s University when he got interested in travel. He decided to take a two-year gap and move to Shenzhen, China. He wanted to learn Mandarin as he attended an American school while living in China. He picked up the language and felt fluent within eight months. 

Ryno is a supply chain and logistics company that connects global e-commerce stores with Chinese manufacturing to assist in creating custom products to ship to customers. By connecting the supply chain capabilities in China and the needs of e-commerce stores in North America, he could start this business and scale it to seven figures in nine months and eight figures in four years. 

In 2018, Ryno decided to begin offering its manufacturing and supply chain capabilities to the upcoming brand builders, the small to medium-sized influencers.  These influencers had highly loyal fan communities but lacked the skills and resources necessary to create custom items for their followers. They were also afraid of the risk and difficulty involved. 

Image Courtesy: https://www.makeship.com/

To resolve this situation, they came up with Makeship, a crowdfunding platform for content creators to launch limited edition products that allow them to connect with their fans. They decided to focus on plush toys since they were unique and difficult-to-make products that gave their company model a significant competitive edge while offering these influencers needed services.

Thus, Makeship is an innovative e-commerce platform that combines influencer marketing, collectible products, and crowdfunding campaigns to assist influencers around the world in connecting with their fans. Their e-commerce-focused business model leverages the engaged audiences of their digital influencer partners to sell relevant and timely products online without any risk of inventory.

Most of their staff are based in Canada and China and work in a decentralized and remote operation. Even before the pandemic, Makeship had overcome the challenges a remote team presented and emphasized employee morale and engagement in a remote world. 

In three years, they scaled the business to eight figures and, with the power of crowdfunding, have been able to pay $4.2M CAD to their influencer and creator partners. 

Contributions to the Business Community

Rakan is proud of the business he has built but acknowledges that it would not have been possible without his great team of employees. Together, Ryno and Makeship have created 50 jobs in Canada, 25 in China, and over 10 in other countries worldwide. In addition, they have created a successful influencer impact by working with over 650 influencers and supporting them in building their brand and business by developing limited edition products.  

Through their business, they have funded over 800 product campaigns, served over 500,000 customers, paid out $4.2M CAD to their influencer partners, and grown the Makeship business by 1500+% in a period of three years.   

Image Courtesy: https://www.makeship.com/

Makeship has been committed to supporting its partners and the environment. They are dedicated to minimizing the environmental impact of their operations by ongoing donations to the global warming program to counteract its effects and using sustainable packaging and product materials. They have always emphasized giving their influencer partners 20-30% of their campaign earnings to assist their quickly expanding businesses. Additionally, they have established charity programmes that enable their partners to help important causes to them and their followers. Their campaigns and initiatives gave more than $140,000 to charities in 2021.

During the pandemic, they implemented a new and generous employee benefits package, a work-from-home allowance, regular team building exercises, events organized remotely, and new offices within shared workspaces in Vancouver, Toronto, and Kitchener. According to local lockdown rules, these workspaces gave staff a safe and comfortable work environment where they could gather and work alongside their colleagues in person for an added level of connection.  

The Takeaways from Makeship

Makeship was co-founded by Rakan Al-Shawaf, Pablo Eder, and Wang Tao to provide a unique way for creators to monetize their passion and communities without taking on any risk. As a result, it has created significant value for the creator economy as one of the largest growing industries.  

As a bootstrapped business that worked to build from the ground up, Makeshift envisions a future where everyone has the opportunity to become an influencer or creator. By supporting influencers’ ability to monetize their business and passion, Makeship creates a strong position for significant and sustained growth in the future.

Without any outside capital, Rakan built two 8-figure firms that employ over 80 people globally and add tremendous value to their partners and clients. Despite difficulties, he remained committed to maintaining profitability while expanding swiftly and providing clients with value.

The global experience of Rakan Al-Shawaf, along with his focused journey in entrepreneurship, helped him successfully build a global business. To learn more about their products, visit the website https://www.makeship.com/

Young entrepreneurs are writing success stories in Canada. To read more on these stories, subscribe to CanadianSME Small Business Magazine https://lnkd.in/dbqmSKN. For the latest updates, visit our Twitter page at @canadian_sme.

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