WKND Special: Hearing it from UAE’s women on top
November 19 is Women’s Entrepreneurship Day. Five female founders share their thoughts on what it means to pursue their professional dreams
It used to be that entrepreneurship was a man’s world. With the evolution of modern societies, boardrooms have long ceased to be purely male bastions. Nevertheless, the battle is far from won for female founders around the world, as they continue to face gender-related challenges that remain deeply rooted in corporate culture. That’s what Women’s Entrepreneurship Day — celebrated on November 19 every year — is all about.
On the occasion, WKND posed a question each to five UAE-based female entrepreneurs to garner their insights on what it’s been like to make their mark on this world.
Would you say status quos in the business world have changed today — or is there still a long way to go?
“Women are far more independent nowadays, as they know what they want and put in the work that is required. Equal education opportunities and leading positions within the workforce have resulted in an era of opportunities for women wishing to become entrepreneurs. For partner Naomi Mendez and myself, our aim is to stand up for every woman that has been told to sit down, and encourage them to conquer the world.” — Ivana Bruic, co-founder and lead instructor, Storm Cycling
What are the ‘costs’ of pursuing the entrepreneurship dream?
“Running any kind of successful business — online businesses included — is damn hard work. Unlike working for someone, owning a business means no more 9-to-5 working hours. There will be days when you will have to say no to that Friday brunch or girls’ night out or cousin's wedding. You will be director one hour and a driver or an accountant in the next. You are no longer just working to complete your tasks but also working towards ensuring the business is thriving and the people working with you have a job. But the end result is rewarding.” — Neelam Keswani, founder, Glamazle
What popular entrepreneurial advice do you disagree with?
“‘Hard work equals success.’ Most people grow up with the belief that you have to work extra hard in order to be successful. However, that doesn’t mean that you need to spend numerous hours sweating over work you don’t enjoy, or that you must sacrifice all other areas of your life in order to advance in your career. The key is to work smart rather than hard! Success is not dependent on the hours you invest, but rather on the actions you decide to take every single day while you are building your business.” — Donna Benton, CEO, The Benton Group
Would you say there’s any truth to the widely-held belief that the most successful entrepreneurs are young?
“Entrepreneurs come in all ages! At 56, I am an entrepreneur for the first time in my life with my daughter Jessica who encouraged me to take on this food venture and share my food with the world. Sometimes, it takes two entrepreneurs to bring an idea to life, because they bring to the table complementing skills that normally would not be sufficient as stand-alone talents.” — Rita Kahawaty, co-founder, Mama Rita
How would you define entrepreneurial success?
“Entrepreneurial success is looking beyond boosting the bottom line alone. I believe it is also about setting our sights on being at the forefront of social transformation, while also earning a living. If we are able to effect social change, improve people’s lives and develop a community in a sustainable way, then, I’d say we’ve achieved success.” — Nerry Toledo, founder, NerryFit Yoga