Sawsan Ghanem is a driven, free spirited woman, who can’t sit still for any period of time, or even switch off her brain! At any given day, hour, she’s got countless ideas, to do lists, brain waves, wish list and more whizzing around in her head…she enjoys this and thrives on it as an individual, business woman, new mother and fashion conscious woman who loves to feel and look good, even when running at a million miles an hour.
This mother of 2 has been running a successful Middle East regional Communication Agency for over 13 years, has always been her passion from day one, no matter what challenges come her way, she tries to approach them with a logical mind and find a solution fast…it’s all in the mind after all, right?
Sawsan has lived in the Middle East region for the greater part of her life. She lived and studied in the UK for a few years where she gained her BSc in Chemistry & Management from Kings College, London University and MA in International Business, from Webster Graduate School (London Campus). Sawsan began her career in Communications over 17 years ago, when she caught the PR & Communication bug. After experiencing the style, approach and level of PR in the Middle East region, Sawsan realized that she had more to give than what was being offered in the marketplace and made the leap and set up Active in the summer of 2003 along with her life partner Louay Al-Samarrai.
Arab Woman Platform had the pleasure to find out more about the woman and her success,
Can you share with our readers a little bit about your up-bringing and how your family played a part in your success today?
I grew up in Dubai, UAE, and enjoyed a diverse upbringing with parents who encouraged me to believe in myself, enjoy life and meet people from different backgrounds, give 100% in everything I do, always aim high and be kind! I always felt privileged growing up in Dubai, due to the living standards that have always been availed to us, closeness among the residents and sense of safety and belonging.
I am very competitive by nature and have been so from a very young age, at school this meant doing my best to score top marks and vie for the top spot, every year. This innate desire to achieve success continued, never wavering throughout my academic years – from my intensive & insane BSc (Hons) degree in Chemistry and Management (Kings College, London University) to my Masters degree in International Business (Webster Graduate School, London Campus). I thoroughly enjoyed completing my Master’s degree, which to me was a turning point in terms of self-awareness, as it gave me a better understanding of the business world, real business practices, cycles and more.
When I think back, that’s when I got the hunger to find my niche in life, to define what I really enjoyed doing professionally and what I found both personally, and mentally rewarding.
My diverse education & work history definitely stood me in good stead when I embarked on my career in Public Relations – I often surprise myself with how many things I can remember and juggle at any given time – multi-tasking & remembering every little detail is a natural skill (they are what got me through my BSc degree in Chemistry & Management).
I am also naturally analytical. I was curious about everything from a very young age and loved reading books. I would finish a book a day (much to my mum’s delight, not, as it meant she had to track down the next in the series which was not an easy mission at the time) – Enid Blyton and Jane Austen being two of my fave authors then – and now Edward Said, Isabel Allende, Harper Lee and Helen Fielding to name a few…
Sometimes, I wish I could switch my brain off…as it’s constantly juggling way too many things.
What makes me tick? It’s the constant thirst for knowledge, new ideas, ventures, and chasing ‘what’s next’ all the time that keeps me going every day. If I am not challenged, I feel unfulfilled. Running a successful Communications Agency (along with my business and life partner) for over 14 years keeps me going, as I love the daily challenge – I thrive on it.
I always strive to deliver my best in everything I do, both on the personal and professional front, I often ask the team, ‘is this your best? If not, come back to me when it is.’ I strongly believe that no matter what, we should never compromise on standards. Otherwise all the hard work, long hours, tears and sweat are wiped out in an instant. Be proud of what you do every day and give 100%, the rest will come.
When you first started out in your business what are some of the challenges that faced you? And how did you overcome them? Did you ever think of giving up?
We experienced the normal set of challenges you would face when setting up any new business, nothing too major, from drafting a business plan, to opening company accounts, countless paperwork to complete and finding the right office space were some of those. We just got on and ensured that we thought through everything logically so as to avoid any issues or hiccups in the future.
Never at any point did we think of giving up as we believe in the power of positive attitude and believing in oneself. We believe strongly in what we do every day and are driven by the desire to add value where ever we can for our clients. This passion overrides any challenges one faces as nothing is impossible in life. We need to move with the times, embrace change and new innovations as they do enrich our lives and service offering.
Sometimes it can be tough to do so, but I remind myself about what’s important and keep my eye and mind focused on the goal.
With such a busy schedule running Active and being a mother of two, how do you balance between your personal life and work? What is your support system?
It’s not a conscious approach rather one that is logical and practical. I get up in the morning and get on with things that come my way, as best as I can. By breaking down my tasks, responsibilities on a daily basis with an open mind, I somehow manage to achieve what I set out to do. It takes a lot of self-discipline to do so and mastering the talent of working against a clock in my case as there aren’t enough hours in the day (no matter how shattered or lacking sleep I may be).
I am always mindful of being a present mum first and a focused and driven businesswoman second. It’s not impossible to succeed in both, it’s simply challenging, but as I said earlier, I am the type of person who thrives when challenged. ‘Success is a mind game’!
What advice do you give women who want to venture into entrepreneurship but have fears of failure?
Always believe in yourself, your vision, nothing is impossible. If you focus on the end goal, there is always a way….If you put your mind to something, you can do it (it make take time, but you will get there in the end). Dubai is a city that embraces entrepreneurial spirit and one that inspires me every day to do more and I genuinely believe that anything is possible, so long as you are passionate and have the passion, vision, right attitude, necessary skills and/or experience.