Meet The Lebanese Who Won The 2019 Young Champion Of The Earth

The young Lebanese Omar Itani was honored with the title of the 2019 Young Champion of the Earth for West Asia by FabricAID, in addition to the prestigious Denis Pietton Award by the French Institute and French Embassy in Lebanon, for his outstanding endeavors in helping his fellow humans.  

Omar Itani’s journey with charity work and entrepreneurial spirits started when he was still in high-school. There, Omar launched his first business venture selling bracelets to schoolmates and co-founded a solid waste company at Visio. 

Fast forward to December 2016, Omar started donating clothes to underprivileged people upon collecting 200 kgs of clothes.

He realized then that there is an imperative need for used clothing in Lebanon and that he had to put his problem-solving skills to good use.

Hence, he launched FabricAID in 2017, collecting, storing, and redistributing clothes to disadvantaged communities at micro-prices, ranging from 0.3$ to a maximum of 2$.  

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From your closet, to hers ?

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Omar told BeryTech, “I discovered with my research that there was an entire second-hand clothing industry in Lebanon that nobody knows about. I discovered that most marginalized communities don’t knock on the door of NGOs to get their clothes, but they go to these thrift shops.”

“I discovered that the best way to distribute clothes was to put a small price tag on each item, so that people will not take more than what they need, and they will feel dignified as they are getting what they are paying for.” 

It was then when Omar teamed up with Hussam Hanouni and Lynn Abi Aad to apply to the Elevate by AltCity acceleration program for social enterprises.

The trio learned all the fundamentals of business, including financial modeling, go-to-market strategy, and sales. By partnering with UNICEF and winning 20,000$, they were ready to start their new work and help people!

With FabricAID, Omar won first place among more than 550 social enterprises from 60 countries at the 19th edition of the Global Social Venture Competition (GSVC) by Berkley University, considered as one the oldest and most prominent social impact competitions.

While FabricAID pitched in 19 competitions and won $130,000, Omar considered his GSVC pitch his favorite. “I still can’t believe we won,” he said.

“GSVC is the World Cup for Social Enterprises. No one was expecting us to win. There were 550 startups from 60 countries {and] we were among the youngest teams, from the smallest country. I still haven’t finished my B.A. in Engineering, yet we won!”

Today, there are 20 employees working at FabricAID. It has helped disadvantaged communities get access to good quality clothing at micro-prices as well as in reducing fabric waste, thus protecting the environment.

Just in 2019, FabricAid counts 31,800 KG of collected clothes, 5,770 beneficiaries, 28,280 items sold in 65 different markets, and over 45 collection bins set up across Lebanon.

Since its launching, Omar and his team have sold more than 60,000 items of clothing to more than 7,000 beneficiaries.

In his words, “It’s very simple: We saw a problem, and we worked super hard to solve it.  It’s very obvious that any change in this country is not going to come from the government.”

“You can either shy away and complain, or get fed up and leave the country. Both attitudes won’t solve anything. I want to stay in this country for the rest of my life and try to solve as many problems as I can.”

It is important to mention that FabricAID was also accepted into Alfanar Venture Philanthropy’s portfolio in 2018, and has been receiving funding support since then.

Alfanar organization, which is registered in the UK and Wales, with offices in Lebanon, Egypt, UK, and the US, seeks to support young people like Omar in Lebanon.

The organization has committed to providing FabricAid with funding, management support, training, and introduction to networks for another three years.

In a video presentation on youtube, Omar explains how Alfanar has helped FabricAID go from a small initiative to a full-fledged company.

To get in touch with FabricAid, call +961 (76) 900230.

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