This startup learned to import, price, and sell her foutas with help from the SBDC.
Ellie Montazeri knew she wanted to use her creative passion and her background in international relations to create something she could call her own. Montazeri lived in various countries including Japan, France, and Singapore. While living and working abroad, she had the opportunity to work with organizations like UNESCO Paris and volunteer with United Nations Women, Singapore. While in Singapore, she noticed many expatriate women importing products from home that they couldn’t find in their adopted country. Time later spent in Tunisia along with spiritual direction and reflection led to the birth of a dream. When Montazeri and her family finally moved to Los Angeles, the ideas came together in the fouta—a traditional Tunisian cloth that doubles as a throw, tablecloth, shawl or picnic blanket.
Importing and selling foutas made by artisans in Africa offered a way for Montazeri to bring together her international experience and her entrepreneurial spirit. However, since Montazeri did not have any prior business experience, she turned to her friends for some guidance, one of whom suggested she visit the Small Business Development Center hosted by El Camino College.
SBDC Business Advisors Charlie Lowe, Dan Hancuff, Nathaniel Jemison and Lawrence Johnson guided Montazeri in every step of starting her business, including obtaining the necessary licenses, permits and trademark; finding an agent to help her import her products; learning to manage business finances and pricing her product.
Since trademarking her business name in mid-2014, Montazeri has begun selling her products on the Balthazar & Rose website as well as in several Southern California boutiques. In addition to expanding to more retail outlets, Montazeri’s future plans include importing a wider variety of artisanal products from Tunisia, such as hoodies, bathrobes and related products. She has also begun selling U.S.-made soaps, and has brought on a friend as a business partner.
“They’re connected, they’re concerned and they want to see you do well. To have these kind souls around you — it’s a special relationship. You feel like someone is taking your hand and showing you the way.”
-Ellie Montazeri, Founder, Balthazar & Rose