E-Bazaar Features Crafts

Students from five colleges join to develop website offering exotic art

Those with a penchant for exotic crafts will be able to indulge their tastes while bettering the livelihood of their makers thanks to Ezaria, a student-developed e-bazaar that imports products from artisans in developing countries and sells them in the U.S.

Ezaria was started by a group of Harvard students that teamed up with students from five other colleges.

Half of Ezaria’s profits will go to charity organizations, which the group hopes will help improve the artisans’ living standards.

Chief Executive Officer and President Alexander S. Captain ’06 initially set out to provide relief and aid to people in Iraq, where he has family.

“The [Iraqi] economy right now is paralyzed, and I wanted to provide people with things to do...they are out of work and have no market to sell their products,” he said.

Captain recruited other founding members, resulting in a staff of ten hailing from Harvard, MIT, Babson, Boston University (BU), and Northwestern.

The Harvard staff includes Captain, Vice President of Marketing Deena S. Shakir ’08, Vice President of Finance May Habib ’07, who is also a Crimson editor, Vice President for North Africa Ahmed K. El-Hoshy ’06, Vice President for Sub-Saharan Africa Samuel M. Kabue ’06, Vice President for South Asia Dhruva K. Kothari ’06, and Regional Director for North Africa Mahmoud T. Fawzi ’07.

Unfortunately, the situation in Iraq then deteriorated and shipments could not be arranged, Captain said. So the founding members extended the idea to importing jewelry, home décor, and artwork from other underdeveloped countries.

“With the number of products we’re bringing from Kenya, we can increase the standard of living of the average Kenyan artisan by over 20 percent every year,” Captain said.

Products from Egypt have already arrived, and goods are currently in transit from India and Kenya. Ezaria also plans on shipping products from Bangladesh, Pakistan, and possibly Albania and Ecuador, Captain said.

Louie Y. Huang, a junior at Northwestern who helped design Ezaria’s website, believes Ezaria has a unique business plan in targeting specific customers who want specific goods.

“What’s even more interesting is that Ezaria is committed to giving part of their profit to those artisans in those countries from which they’re importing goods...allowing for their sustainability,” he said.

Ezaria is in a league of its own, according to the founders’ research, Shakir said. “It’s a business with a social conscience...as non-profit you can get without being non-profit,” she said.

Fifty percent of Ezaria’s profits will be donated to UNICEF, the Red Cross, Doctors Without Borders, and charities within the artisans’ countries.

“We care a lot about children and education,” Shakir said. “We believe that’s where you start with helping countries get to the developing stage.”

Ali H. Mohammad, a second-year graduate student in computer science at MIT, worked with Huang on the website, slated to debut in mid-February.