Thursday,25 April, 2019
Current issue | Issue 1438, (11 - 17 April 2019)
Thursday,25 April, 2019
Issue 1438, (11 - 17 April 2019)

Ahram Weekly

From hobbies to businesses

Mai Samih finds out how two twin sisters are helping people transform their passions into businesses

Helping people transform their passions into businesses

Hania Seif is an American University in Cairo (AUC) graduate with a major in mass communication, and her twin sister Sara is an AUC graduate in marketing and communication. Together, they have decided to make use of what they know to help people pursue their passions and turn them into successful businesses. 

The name of the project is “More Of,” “which expresses what we want to do – to empower creative people to do more of what they are passionate about,” Sara said.

“As a performer myself in theatre, I found that when we graduate we may not know how to make a living out of our interest in the arts. When trying to join the field, I realised that there are a lot of people who face the same problem and lack two things: a good network and good know-how based on an entrepreneurial mindset,” she added.

“We are trying to merge the artistic knowledge people already have with the basic business knowledge they may lack,” she said. 

Refan Abdel-Nabi, an attendee at a More Of workshop held with the AUC, said that the event had helped her find a way to change her career from copy-writing to event-planning. “I studied journalism and mass communication at the AUC. Since I graduated in 2016, I have been working as a copy-writer, but I recently got into event-planning which is why I went to the workshop,” she said.

It had introduced her to a community that had the same background and had a passion for turning that into business propositions. The workshop had helped her with financial planning, Abdel-Nabi said, and the fact that the creators of the workshop were AUC graduates like herself with a marketing background made her sure that they would be able to cater to her needs.

“The environment was very friendly and very supportive in terms of the instructor trying to answer your questions and trying to find solutions for you. I really enjoyed that, and I felt that it was organised with that in mind. They thought of what they should be working on and what people might be struggling with, which is what I appreciated the most since it helped me organise my thoughts on what I should do next,” Abdel-Nabi said.

“There was also a very good speaker in Malak,” she said, adding that the event had inspired her while she planned her event-planning business.

Noha Hesham, a pharmacy graduate from the Al-Ahram Canadian University in Cairo, said the More Of workshop had also helped her think about changing her career. “I had taken a placement test in fine arts and applied arts and had been accepted in both, but my family insisted that I study pharmacy since all of them were doctors,” Hesham said, adding that though she had been appointed as a teaching assistant in pharmacy she had found she didn’t really enjoy the field.

“My parents supported me in my interest in the arts because they saw I had made enormous efforts, and they thought I deserved to do what I liked. Ever since I was a child I have liked to draw. However, I lacked the business side, in terms of promoting and marketing my drawings, so I joined the More Of workshop,” Hesham said.

“I learnt a lot I had not known about, and I saw the need to be precise in my aims. As soon as the workshop was over, I went away and wrote down my ideas.” The drill of writing down what she was good at and what she liked doing was particularly useful, because it helped her develop her ideas for a business. 

“I now want to start a project on mental-health awareness through drawings of people’s facial expressions. This is a field that many people in Egypt may not have much awareness of. People may even be suffering from a mental-health condition and not know it,” she added.

Hania and Sara Seif

AT THE WORKSHOP: Of the attendees at the More Of workshop, Hania said that they had included creative artists, performing artists, visual artists, graphic designers, actors, singers, jewelry designers, fashion designers, photographers, architects, musicians and anyone with a creative side. 

Sarah added that the first thing an attendee should come with was a talent they wished to develop into a business 

“The applicants we got were very diverse ranging from architects to creative artists to photographers to designers to performing artists to casting directors. This was exactly what we are aiming for,” Hania said. 

“Our next event we are going to start by introducing More Of and what we stand for. Then, we plan to have a small activity to see what the challenges these creative people are facing and what they dream of doing. After that, we will start the workshop properly, which will focus on entrepreneurial components,” she added. A final round table discussion would review the challenges raised in the workshop and the attendees’ aspirations.

Malak Al-Masri, a professional trainer, facilitated the first event. She started by asking the participants to write their challenges and goals on post-it notes and stick them on the wall. She then asked each participant to tell everyone their names, their interests and something personal about themselves. She asked them who their role models were, asking them to think about the people they admired, particularly thinking about what makes them special, why they are able to inspire others, and how they have managed to turn their passions into businesses.

Al-Masri asked deep questions like “how do you want to be remembered” and “what can I do to best present myself.” She introduced SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) analysis, a technique for understanding one’s strengths and weaknesses.

She demonstrated the importance of studying the market and its needs before starting a project. She asked each person to prepare a list of what they were good at and another one of what they liked. The idea was to join the two lists together in order to find optimal ideas to start a business. Then she showed them step by step how to start their own businesses. 

“Our plan after this workshop is to organise boot camps that are more industry specific. These will be part of a longer programme in which participants will come for two consecutive weekends to get to know more about entrepreneurial know-how. Then, it will be up to them to apply it and make something of it,” Sara said.

“We plan to have networking events where participants can meet professionals in the field to benefit from their knowledge since these people already have a background in the industry and can help others to go even further with their projects. It will be a sort of mentor-mentee programme,” she added. 

They are also planning a creative festival in which all the creative ideas and businesses can be showcased together.

“We aim to build a More Of community over the first two years and a network of successful and creative entrepreneurs who can connect with each other and mobilise resources. These could include tools and opportunities from scholarships, to funding opportunities, to learning opportunities. We want to create a network where everything is accessible to creative artists or creative entrepreneurs. We also plan on setting up a creative incubator, though before that there will be creative cycle programmes that last for three months in which creative artists can incubate their ideas,” Hania said.

 “I think the workshops should last longer and focus more on marketing on social media. There should be more networking possibilities, particularly after the workshop has finished, such that if a person is going to start a candle-making project, for example, he can be put in touch with others already working in the field. This would help businesses grow faster,” Abdel-Nabi concluded.

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