Sigma Fit is a famous egyptian techwear company that converted its technological fabrics for fitness clothing into masks and gloves to help stop the pandemic.
After a successful career in engineering for a big oil and gas company, Nabil Khalif chose a different path and followed the steps of entrepreneurship. A long journey that led him and his partners to found Sigma fit, the first techwear company that revolutionized the fitness world n Egypt and the Middle East. A success that he took to the next level by reaching out to the US market where its products are widely distributed today.
But Sigma Fit has also shown its great capacity for innovation in times of crisis when its founders decided to convert the same technologies used in its fitness fabrics, into highly protective masks and gloves. We met one of his co-founder, Nabil Khalifa to talk about his entrepreneurship career, the lessons he learned and the necessity of technology and innovation during the pandemic.
What did you learn from your first experiences as an entrepreneur?
What I learned is that you should always study and look at the future. It is important to be a little bit ahead of time, and this is what happened with High Society, my first company. While I was working in Schlumberger, I was studying FB, IG, online selling because I didn’t have any kind of experience in that field at that time but I had this vision that ecommerce and online marketing will be the future. We started with 3 people and I was not even paying myself, trying to get more clients for the agency. Today, we are more than 25 people and we expect to reach 40 in the next 4-6 months. We have worked with clients from Egypt, Middle East, Qatar, Dubai and the US.
How did you get the idea of founding Sigma Fit, the first fitness techwear company in Egypt?
While I was working on High society, I was approached by Omar El Metwally and Islam Rashwan, two friends from college who were also engineers in petroleum companies like me. Omar told me that he wanted to make fitness clothing technology. I immediately loved the idea and started to do market research and look at what were the main problems that people were facing. We wanted to make fabrics that would be more comfortable than regular one, din’t get wet or easily stained while saving electricity and water. I worked with them on the ecommerce and online marketing part with my company High Society and this is how Sigma Fit was born. We launched in Egypt and it went very well.
How did you work on those innovative technologies?
So the technology research was a big part of our operations. We had our own lab, did a lot of testing and studying to see how people responded to it. A lot of technologies were already existing but they were not used the right way or not used in fabrics. It took us 7 years to study nanotechnology and learn about fabrics before we launched our first hydrophobic technology t-shirts. You could spill liquids on them and they didn’t get stained. People loved them so much that we runned out of stock right after we launched. Later one, we started adding other technologies like the heat lock, to make cooling fabrics which are thick but still breathable and comfortable.
Today, you are also widely represented in the US. How did you manage to penetrate the market?
I travelled to the US in 2017 and wanted to learn about the fitness world in America. I was attending a lot of networking events, meeting a lot of people in order to understand more about the fitness community and products. Then I started to go to different sport events, have booths in events or street festivals. Every week-end, I was going somewhere else. I worked very hard to build a connexion with the market. After the first year of Sigma fit in Egypt, we started to work on sales partnerships with other big companies in US, especially in Chicago. And in 3 years, we now supply the US market with more than 500 000 t- shirts a year.
How did you manage to overcome the Covid crisis?
When the covid happened, a lot of our customers didn’t want their orders and more. There were no more group sports and it was a very big hit to us. So we started pivoting towards another direction and were the first company in Egypt and in the Middle East that changed from fitness clothing to masks and medical gloves. Very quickly, we used our high technologies to supply the market with thousands and thousands of masks and gloves which are now helping to prevent the virus spreading and protect people. Today, startups should be agile enough to pivot whenever a pandemic happens. It is very important for us to keep working on improving our products and technologies so we can give back to our community and customers.