Karen Osman: The Founder of Travel Ink Is Now Author of a Twisted Thriller
Karen Osman has just added 'Author' to her long list of achievements. The founder of Travel Ink has just published a gripping, psychological thriller called The Good Mother, and secured a three-book deal after winning a popular writing contest last year. Originally coming from the UK, Karen has been a force to be reckoned with in the UAE!
I interviewed Karen to discover the impact her new book has had, the inspirations behind her entrepreneurship and how she manages it all while parenting two children!
Hi Karen! Tell us about your life before you became an author and started your company, Travel Ink?
I’m originally from the Lake District in the UK – a beautiful part of the world but I have always wanted to travel. I used to travel with my parents and then as I got older I started doing trips with friends such as working holidays. Once I graduated, I moved to Japan to work as an English teacher. With a degree in Linguistics and English Language, it was the perfect job to use my writing and communication skills while living in a new country. Since then, I’ve travelled to some amazing countries and learnt a lot through such experiences.
You won the Montegrappa Writing Prize, hosted at the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature in 2016. What made you decide to enter this competition, and write a thriller?
I was incredibly excited to win first place of the Montegrappa Novel Writing award. The annual award submissions are evaluated by Luigi Bonomi, one of the UK’s leading literary agents who has launched the careers of many bestselling authors through his agency, Luigi Bonomi Associates (LBA). Also involved in the review process was Selina Walker, Publisher at Century and Arrow and the woman behind international hits Before I Go To Sleep and Fifty Shades of Grey. To be recognised by industry experts at this level and given the opportunity to meet Luigi again at the London Book Fair was incredible. My initial reason to enter the writing competition was to generate PR for my communication business Travel Ink. Writing a novel though is quite different to writing corporate copy! I chose to write a thriller as this is the type of book I enjoy reading.
What inspired you to start Travel Ink?
My love for the written word started when I was very young and it has been a big part of every job I’ve had. When I came to Dubai in 2004, I worked for a luxury hospitality company in sales, marketing and PR, and enjoyed the writing and communication part of it. I saw an opportunity to provide specialised writing services and after seven years in the corporate world, I felt ready for the challenge of entrepreneurship.
You work with some of the most high profile hotels, aviation and tourism companies in the region, what methods did you undertake to get these clients on board? How is Travel Ink different from other agencies?
Initially, I focused on developing an impressive portfolio and variety of case studies and I used these as my main sales tool. Travel Ink is different in that we specialize in one industry, as opposed to many, so our knowledge and insights are a lot deeper, adding a lot of value to the content. It also means a quicker delivery for the client as we are constantly immersed in the industry and spend a lot of time keeping up with the latest developments.
What does the future hold? What books do you have in the pipeline and where do you see your company headed?
I currently have a three-book deal with UK publishing house Head of Zeus. My first book – The Good Mother - is already written (pre-order here) and will be out in October 2017. I have the idea and outline for the second book and this will be out in 2018, with the third book published in 2019. On the business side, Travel Ink will continue to service the travel and hospitality industry with well-written content.
What sort of impact has becoming a published author had on your business?
Like any industry award, it inspires confidence in the services offered and it has also encouraged a lot of positive interest from media and clients alike. My role as author also led to being nominated as one of Ahlan’s Hot 100 People 2017.
How to you find time to run your business, write your novels and parent two children? What advice do you have for other mothers?
I have an amazing support team around me and I couldn’t do any of it without them. I also try to be as organized as possible and use a lot of online tools and Apps to organise and remember everything! It’s also important to schedule in a little time just for yourself!
Who inspired your career and what’s the greatest piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
I am very thankful to my parents who have always encouraged me to go for whatever I want in life. Their constant support and unwavering belief in me has led to a career where I get to write and experience new cultures. My husband also inspires me - not just by his strong work ethic - but also the fact that he is continually learning. In terms of career advice, I would say it’s about finding a career that doesn’t feel like work!
What was the biggest challenge you faced when starting up your company in Dubai? How did you overcome these pain points?
Dubai is a city where there are many entrepreneurial opportunities and I have always felt very supported here. The main challenge, probably similar to many business owners, was cash flow, as it needs constant attention. I found a way to manage it by working with a business coach who encouraged me to focus on repeatable revenue streams.
If you could change one thing about your start up process what would it be?
If I were to set up another business in the future, I would consider working in a partnership with someone. It would be nice to have another person to work with and bounce ideas off.
What are your insights into the future of marketing?
Now, more than ever, digital marketing is critical to the success of any business. Approaches such as content marketing are no longer considered a ‘trend’ but a key strategy to drive more business.
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It was truly an inspiration to interview Karen - she has a constant drive to achieve and her new book deal is testament to this! This is the first part from Deals in High Heels' new series on UAE Entrepreneurship - there is more to come! Stay up to date by subscribing below, or you can find us on Instagram or Facebook.