Poufs Pillows, a piece of Morocco in Veldhoven

WATT is always on the lookout for unusual concepts and ideas that deserve a bigger stage. This time we’re meeting Anas and Roel from Poufs & Pillows.

Anas and Roel, who are you?

Anas and Roel met in Murcia, Spain, where they were both living temporarily for an internship/studies. Their friendship soon became very close, partly because of their shared interest in travelling and entrepreneurship.

A piece of Morocco in Veldhoven. How did Poufs and Pillows come into being?

Anas has a Moroccan background and marketing skills, while Roel has sales skills and experience in international business. The ideal ingredients for starting a business. In 2018, we travelled to Morocco to visit artisans and cooperatives there. We met talented artisans who make unique and remarkable products but who did not have access to an online sales platform. We were immediately very charmed by their products and started a collaboration. The artisans are now highly esteemed colleagues. Back then, we started PoufsPillows by bringing about 20 pouffes to the Netherlands, and it has since grown into an entire department store in Veldhoven. The collection has also expanded to include rugs, floor cushions, blankets, cushions and fun accessories.

What makes Poufs and Pillows special?

During our many trips to Morocco, we visited each cooperative personally. We met the people, talked to them, listened to their stories, felt the materials and products, and experienced every step of the production process. So we feel very confident in saying that we have truly great quality products, where you can also enjoy the unique handmade touch. We ensure good living and working conditions for our artisans and their families. We also keep making strides in terms of sustainability and, of course, we make sure to create new, one-of-a-kind items. Our floor cushions, for example, are almost all unique. There is literally only one of them made. For us, this means that we have to take individual photos of each product separately, so it is quite labour-intensive for us, but it allows us to offer our customers a truly unique Moroccan item. That makes us special.

Men on a mission. Explain!

Our idea was to get in direct contact with people we trusted. Those who shared our vision and determination to make high-quality products, but also to eliminate the middleman and get the money directly into the hands of the artisans. Our role is to act as a bridge between our artisans and people who appreciate authentic goods. Our artisans have years of experience and we work together on contemporary designs to create a fusion between modernity and traditions that are centuries-old.

What was the biggest challenge in the whole development process?

Our biggest challenge was in the whole development process when we were starting PoufsPillows. We worked with our artisans to further improve the products to take the quality to the highest level and we set up the entire supply chain with them. They normally only sold at the local El Fna market in Marrakesh, so quite a lot changed here.

What important lessons have you learned as entrepreneurs?

We still learn important lessons almost every day. Something unexpected always happens. Sometimes these are nice things, sometimes they are not so nice. An earthquake, for example. But we’ve found that as long as we stay positive and creative, we can always come out ahead everywhere. We also learned that we don’t always have to buy the products we like ourselves or that are popular at the time. Products we sometimes don’t expect much from suddenly do very well and vice versa. For example, we have a bronze-coloured pouffe that we like ourselves, but the only bronze pouffe that sold is now in our own home.

Old techniques and traditions are disappearing in this rapidly evolving industry. How do you help preserve crafts and craftsmanship?

We try to preserve craftsmanship as much as possible by offering handmade products. In Europe as well as around the world. The more demand there is, the more likely it is that age-old techniques and traditions will be passed on from parent to child. We also try to make people enthusiastic about handmade products as much as possible. You bring home such a beautiful product, which really has a different feeling than when you buy a mass-produced product. Also in terms of durability, when you know that a product is handmade, you handle it more carefully and are less likely to get rid of it. So we are also trying to choose timeless products rather than creating super trendy items.

Which artisans or entrepreneurs inspire you?

Our artisans inspire us greatly. They have also really grown with us from the start, which is truly fantastic. After all, for them, starting a collaboration with us was also a leap of faith and not without risk. I think it helped a lot that we also built a strong relationship in a short time back then. Our craftsmen are always up for new ideas. From optimising products to making them, such as our velvet pouffes. And the great thing is that these days, they are regularly sending new products or designs to the Netherlands without us even knowing in advance. Just to show us they have a new idea. Besides, our artisans (and Moroccan people in general) are hugely welcoming and resilient. Especially now, after a recent earthquake, it is admirable how everyone has helped care for each other and remained positive.

You will be taken through the manufacturing processes of the various products. Does that make it very special?

Behind each item is a person. A story. The handmade products bear the character of their maker(s). For example, by incorporating certain symbols into the rugs. That’s what makes a handmade item unique. Our items are often worked on by hand for days, weeks or even months. For this reason, we really hope that we inspire our customers to cherish our items.

What’s on the bucket list for Poufs and Pillows?

Expanding our collections with new items, such as lamps, is on our bucket list. We would also enjoy partnering up with artisans in an industry unknown to us. Giving them the opportunity to develop and sell their products worldwide is something we would happily do.


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