It was a classic bit of sibling rivalry that gave sisters, Rania and Zaina Kanaan, the seed of an idea for their eco-friendly bicycle company, Charicycles.
After falling in love with the two-wheeled life while growing up in Montreal, the pair were keen to invest in bikes again after moving to Dubai with their parents. “In the summer of 2014, I decided to go nuts and buy an expensive city bicycle in Dubai,” remembers Rania. “Zaina decided she wanted one that wasn’t that expensive and came in exactly the colour she wanted. So during that year’s Eid break, we bought a second hand bicycle, stripped the paint off on our parent’s balcony and repainted it the colour Zaina wanted. From then on, every-time she rode it, people asked her where she got it and we quickly realized there was a market opportunity!”
Taking their inspiration and name from the distinctive Japanese ‘mamachari’ style of bike, the Kanaan sisters sell unique and highly personalised bicycles. But perhaps most importantly, the bikes available at Charicycles are totally eco-friendly, as the sisters upcycle and restore second-hand products to their former glory.
Giving something back
Both Rania and Zaina are aware of how lucky they are to be able to do something they love every day, and as a result of that, they are equally keen to give something back and couldn’t have imagined starting a business without a strong ethical component.
As such, Charicycles is engaged in a wonderful program which donates bicycles to disadvantaged children living in refugee camps across the Middle East. As the Charicycles website states: ‘Children have a right to a free, innocent childhood, regardless of their environment. And although riding a bicycle will not make their problems go away, we hope that a bicycle ride will give these children access to a sense of freedom.’
The sisters are also helping to support other woman in becoming independent businesswoman with their first business, ecommerce market-place, Ananasa.com. “The majority of our artists and hand-crafters are women,” says Rania, “and this platform provides them with a free marketing channel to spread their items all over the world. We hope it has helped a lot of women make a business out of something they love doing.”
Along with being handy with a wrench, the sisters are also excellent communicators and have embraced the importance of a connected world, both from a business and social point of view. “[Being connected] helps us dream big,” says Zaina. “It helps us research, understand our target market and see where and when we can reach them. It also helps us understand when is a good time to communicate to our target audience and when is it not such a good time. Moreover, when you are this connected to the world, you get inspiration from all avenues of the planet. Barriers become obsolete.”
Creating a community
Running a business comes with an endless stream of problems, so running two would be overwhelming for most people. But one of the key skills the Kanaan sister have developed is communication and not being afraid to ask for help or information from others. “We believe that to solve any problem, regardless of how big or small it is, you need to speak about it to as many people as possible. The more people you speak to about your problems, the more likely you will find someone that might be able to help. They may have gone through what you are going through and have a solution for you.”
But whatever hurdles are thrown at them in their busy careers, both Rania and Zania believe it’s worth all the hard work. “I like seeing something go from an idea to a reality,” says Rania. “I like nurturing, building, problem solving, and wearing different hats. And last but not least, when we give out the bicycles to children in refugee camps, all the times that I wanted to quit and all the challenges we’ve faced pale in comparison to that feeling of giving back and putting a smile on these kid’s faces. That gratification of seeing something you are building have that impact drives me in all avenues of my life.”
Learn more about Zaina, Rania and Charicycles