Company Name: Dockland Clothing Company
About the business: Clothing wholesale/retail business
Location: Cairo, Egypt
Owner: Ismail Seif El Nasr
Year Founded: 1987
Number of Employees: 55
E-Myth Program: E-Myth Mastery Program

Along with the rest of the world, we’ve watched in awe recently at the historic events unfolding in Egypt. For one E-Myth Business Coach in particular, news couldn’t come fast enough for his thoughts were with his coaching client Ismail Seif El Nasr who owns a wholesale clothing business based in Cairo. When we did finally make contact with Ismail, and found out that all is well with him, his family, his employees and his business, we breathed a collective sigh of relief. We were also very interested to hear his experience, and he has graciously allowed us to share his story with you.

About the Business

Dockland Clothing Company, based in Cairo, Egypt is a national clothing wholesale and retail business producing men’s casual and formal wear since 1987. Read more about Ismail and his business here.

I have never been active politically. To be honest, I tried to stay away from reading newspapers and watching news for years. But I got this email from a political activist group that said people would be going down to the streets on the 25th of January in a peaceful protest towards Tahrir Square. And I decided to go.

What was it about this email that got you to take action?

Well, it said it was going to be a peaceful protest. It said that we were basically going to walk from point A to point B and that we were going to be chanting these three or four chants which all seemed to be to be very peaceful statements. Things like, "We want equality!" and "We want a decent living for everybody!"

Basically, I felt that this was going to be a well-organized and peaceful protest. But I also knew that the riot police would probably be on the streets. Our plan was to stay on the edges of the protest, to watch from afar and see how it went.

So on the 25th of January you found yourself marching?

Yes, my wife and I drove to the neighborhood where the protest started and began walking. It was a pretty long walk, several kilometers. For the most part, the police let us go. But at some point they stopped us and shot some tear gas at us; we ran away and ended up taking another route. When we got to Tahrir Square, they shot some more tear gas at us and we could see them beating some people from the front line of the protesters.

What was it like to be in Tarhir Square?

Once we went to Tahrir Square that first time on the 25th, we felt like we had to continue to go (we went maybe eight times) because we saw what it was like. We saw people who were protesting peacefully, people who wanted to change the country. What we saw there was a different Egypt.

The general mood in the country before this revolution was that Christians and Muslims are not like each other. The rich and poor are not like each other. What we realized in Tahrir Square is that it's not true. Muslims and Christians were praying next to each other. In fact, when the Muslims prayed, I saw the Christians make a human shield around them so that police wouldn't come in and hurt them. And I saw the same actions from Muslims protecting the Christians. Rich, poor, Muslim, Christian, old, young… everybody was in Tahrir Square and we were all friends. We were all Egyptian and it was a fantastic feeling.

I think that’s what made this revolution continue and win. Egyptians suddenly felt like we were all one against a brutal and corrupt regime. That sense of unity was amazing. It was lovely actually. It's something I will never forget.

Were you ever hurt during the protests?

Well, on our way to Tahrir Square one day, the police sent their anti-riot police at me and my wife and maybe 20 other people who were standing next to us. They started beating everybody. I got hit by maybe six or seven police with those anti-riot sticks. My wife started screaming like mad, "Don't hit my husband! Don't hit my husband!" and one policeman came and told them to stop beating me. I was not hurt, but I was very shaken. It's the first time in my life that I've gotten into this situation.

From that day onwards things got very scary. There were many confrontations with police, and we heard gunshots on the street and stuff like that. It was a few scary days in Egypt. Until the lovely evening, the night of February the 11th when finally the president [Hosni Mubarak] decided to step down… Or maybe the army forced him to step down, we don't know the inside story, but finally he left.

His departure has created a lot of hope. Now we feel like we've got our country back. And we feel like it is possible for us to start working towards building a new democratic Egypt.

What happened to your business during this time?

Every business shut down for at least 10 days. Banks were closed, the stock exchange was closed, schools and universities… The entire country was shut down. The only people who were open were the supermarkets. And because there was a curfew at 3:00pm, even the markets were only open in the morning. The country was completely shut down.

Were you able to communicate with your employees?

Yes, the revolution started on the 25th, and by the 1st of February people obviously hadn't received their salaries because the banks were closed. I could feel the pain of that in my own home. We were running out of money with no way to get more since the banks and ATM machines were closed.

Normally we don’t have a big cash balance. Normally, whatever comes in goes out straightaway. But luckily, on the day we decided to shut down, there was some cash in the safe. I had one person on my staff call the rest of the employees asking them to come in one morning to take 50% of their salaries just so they could get by. Ultimately the banks were closed for a few more weeks. I was lucky that we had money in the company and that I could help with that. It was just pure luck.

When did you open for business again?

I don't remember the exact date. We opened for a few days, but hardly did any work and were in just for a few hours. I think we started working seriously around the 15th of February.

The situation on the streets was still a bit... Not scary, but it wasn't very normal. There was no police presence on the streets whatsoever and we're a country used to seeing policemen everywhere. It's not like that in the States, but in Cairo we’re used to armed police on every street.

How has your business been affected?

Clearly it's been hurt because of those 20 days or so when we were closed. There were sales that needed to be made during those days that were not made (either wholesale or retail) and that means that we have more stock than we’re supposed to have. It's affected our cash flow, but it’s a general situation, the entire nation has been affected, all businesses are feeling it. If we owe somebody money, they are willing to wait a little bit. If someone owes us money, we're willing to be more patient.

But we all agree on one thing. We are very hopeful that even though the next few months may be a little bit difficult, we feel fairly confident that after this period things will get so much better. I think that whatever harm has come this past month financially could be compensated for towards the end of the year.

Despite all of this, you’ve continued your E-Myth Mastery coaching meetings pretty much as usual. Do you feel like you’re getting back on track?

I've been trying to go back to my daily routine, and back to my normal working hours. It's very difficult in the middle of all of this to just completely lose interest in what's happening politically. It's hard for me to jump from 20 days of politics to 100% business. But I'm getting there. Every day is more focused than the day before.

I'm trying to get back to the momentum I had before all this started, that momentum was fantastic.

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