Childhood & Early Life
Joy Ajlouny was raised in the US by Palestinian parents in a business family and witnessed "endless breakfasts" where everyone was reading the New York Times and discussing world events and business ideas. She feels that she comes from a very serious family which was always interested in business and politics and "never talked about sports and trivial things".
According to her, the mentality to succeed with good education and hard work was in her DNA, like in most Palestinian refugee families, which made studying finance in college the natural choice for her. She attended The George Washington University, from where she completed her BBA degree in Finance and Economics.
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While Joy Ajlouny came from a finance and economic background, she has been passionate about fashion from an early age. She decided to combine e-commerce and fashion and took up fashion related ventures during her early career.
One of her first jobs was at Fox's, a retail chain with sixteen locations on the East Coast for women's off-price designer clothing. She joined the retail company to initially work in the changing room of a clothing store, which was "not fun at all" according to her.
She soon worked her way up and was promoted to the position of a Senior Buyer, which she held from 1987 to 1990. Her responsibilities there included selecting products and identifying potential brands, developing merchandising strategies by staying current on customer purchasing and product movement trends, building direct relationships with key suppliers, and driving sales margin improvements.
In 1991, she founded her own local chain of women's off-price designer clothing, Joy's, based in New York. Till May 2002, she managed over 20 employees, led all efforts for merchandising, product development, design and distribution, as well as created and maintained relationships with other retailers and buyers in the Middle East.
In November 2011, she founded Bonfaire, an e-commerce discovery platform for luxury footwear and accessories. It was an accessories-only platform for emerging designers that provided a white space for sophisticated consumers seeking the out-of-the ordinary designs.
For the firm, she not only raised Series A funding from top venture capitalists in Silicon Valley, but also assembled a productive and effective merchandising team, and developed and implemented successful marketing plans. She was able to increase sales revenue 20-45% monthly, and secured an acquisition deal from Moda Operandi in 2013.
Working in the e-commerce industry in the US, she had noticed that while customers from the Middle East often had bigger order sizes, many were returned by the courier with ‘no address’ tag. Idriss Al Rifai, whom she met while he was pitching to VCs in Silicon Valley, was also aware of the issue in the region from his experience of working at the Dubai-based e-commerce company Markavip.
Al Rifai, with the help of a team of engineers, had developed the technology behind Fetchr, which immediately impressed Ajlouny, who joined him as the co-founder of the Dubai-based startup Fetchr in 2013. She had the idea that GPS can be used the way Uber does to reach a customer directly without the need of an address, an idea which immediately found takers.
Utilizing her connections in the Silicon Valley, she was able to secure Series A funding of $11 million for the startup in 2015 – the biggest amount a company in the region had managed that far. A few months later, she raised an undisclosed amount from Mobily Ventures and $41 million more in 2016 to secure a total funding 52 million U.S. to this date.
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Known for her sense of humor, she wants the brand Fetchr to be defined by humor as well and hosts comedy skit sessions for her employees every Wednesday. She also wants the brand to connect well with the consumers and thus makes accessibility to people a top priority.
Considering her successful sale of Bonfaire, she was initially interested in a similar fate for Fetchr, mentioning that "a sweet acquisition or an IPO, whichever comes first" would be acceptable. However, now her ultimate goal is to take the company to an IPO.
Personal Life & Legacy
Joy Ajlouny, who never married and is single, feels that it is important to make a difference in the world apart from becoming a mother and raising children. Being born to refugee parents, she has pledged to give all her life's earnings to help refugees.
In an interview, she mentioned that her journey actually started with someone making her feel that she was not "smart enough, good enough, pretty enough, accomplished enough", which she was determined to proved wrong. She also mentioned that her younger self used to worry too much about what other people thought of her rather than focusing on her own dreams.
She is vehemently opposed to the "ridiculous Kim Kardashian generation" of women who are too obsessed about what they look like and how many likes they get on Instagram and Facebook. She thinks that women should feel good about they have accomplished in the world, rather than "photoshop pictures" that earn likes on social media.