Where did your business name come from? Is there an interesting history behind the name?
KOUTCHI in Moroccan and particularly in Marrakech dialect means “horse carriage”. My brother and I thought of this name because it is one of the landmarks of Marrakech, my city of birth.
What made you take this leap into being your own boss?
I think I am very bad at taking orders (laughing).
You previously worked as a neuroscientist, what made you leave such a high level career to start Koutchi?
I couldn’t find fulfillment anymore in being a Neuroscientist. I achieved everything I wanted in this career: two prestigious fellowships, 14 published papers and a postdoc in a top research institute in the world, RIKEN, Japan. This success came with a lot of pressure that I couldn’t bear anymore, particularly with the arrival of my second child, Aaron. The second most important reason is that regardless of my “impressive” CV, I couldn’t land a secure academic job. It took a few months of existential questions and imposter syndrome to finally reinvent myself and create KOUTCHI.
You work with your family in Morocco and a team of artisans. What is most inspiring and important working with family and artisans from your homeland?
A great question. To be honest, I feel more useful doing what I do now than being a Neuroscientist. This is probably because I can see the actual benefits and the real changes we are making in artisans’ lives, whereas the impact from research takes decades.
What has been your proudest/favourite moment since creating your business?
I don’t need to prove myself to anyone anymore! I am my own boss. My proud moments include finishing custom made rugs that my customers have absolutely loved. I have also developed a new local network who have played an important role in the growth of my business- including journalists, artists, graphic designers, photographers and market managers. Also, since we established Koutchi, I talk to my brother, and co-founder, almost on a daily basis so we are now even more connected.
Do you have a favourite product from your range, and why?
Definitely a custom-made rug by Zayna, our most experienced rug artisan. I can see every single detail and the fruits of 40+ years of experience. Our customers love her work.
How do you see your Moroccan based creative business in the landscape of Australian made?
I think both share similar values, which is we are both avoiding mass-production and child slavery which unfortunately is still a reality in some parts of the world. The other thing I am proud of is that I am bringing to Australia a long rich tradition of craftsmanship that has survived many generations.
Where do you hope to see your business in 2-5 years?
I hope to continue expanding my network of artisans in Morocco and help as many artisans as I could and continue to amaze my Australian customers
What valuable experience/knowledge did you have before starting your business?
Basically transferable skills: communication skills, critical thinking, and problem-solving skills which I have all developed during my academic career
Family is obviously extremely important to you. How has being a father changed your life?
The arrival of my second child in Tokyo has been life-changing for me. It basically switched my priority in life. That’s why I made the “crazy” decision to give up everything I built just for the sake of my kids. I have to say that my research expertise was on the importance of early life events in shaping who we are as adults and both myself and my wife (a Clinical Psychologist) are well aware of the importance of a healthy early life environment in the normal development of kids later in life.
What brings you most the joy of spending time with your wife and children?
I think the answer is in the question itself. The best thing about this career switch is that I get to spend a long time seeing my kids growing and also get to spend quality time with my wife. I am much poorer than before materialistically speaking but I am much richer emotionally and I believe I have finally found my inner peace.
You grew up in the beautiful city of Marrakech. Tell us some of the things you loved about the city as a child and what are some of the special things you did with your dad growing up?
I still carry memories of the orange blossom smells and the Navy oranges. My mum would get me to pick orange flowers from the garden and she would perform a home distillation to extract pure orange blossom. Also there are a lot of beautiful gardens in Marrakech. I loved to pick figs from the garden with my dad. I still remember how delicious they were. We still have this fig tree in our garden by the way.
Which Olive Tree Maker Would You Like To Give A ‘Shout Out’ To? What It Is About Their Work That Speaks To You?
Oh Gosh that’s a difficult one. They are all exceptional. But if I had to choose one I would choose “Beau Wylie“. I love the mysterious world he depicts in his amazing artworks and the detailed perfection. If I ever go back to Neuroscience Research, I would love to do an MRI scan of this guy’s brain