Sara Al Madani: I'm Writing A Book About My Journey
Sara Al Madani is a well known serial entrepreneur - and with the launch of yet another company, Start Up School; she is keeping us on our toes!
Deals in High Heels interviewed Sara to discuss what it takes to run all these businesses, her book, her role as the youngest member of Sharjah Chamber of Commerce, and confidence.
Hey Sara! You are well known and admired for your entrepreneurism, with a fashion, tech, creative, restaurant and even a few weeks ago, another new company – Start-up School was launched! What is the biggest challenge with running so many businesses and what have they taught you over the years?
The main challenge is to keep track of the various things going on around you, whilst also maintaining your personal life. We all know that life-work balance is a myth, instead, you need to create your own balance.
In terms of running several businesses, which are a part of varied sectors, it is quite interesting, in fact, it’s a learning experience that accelerates your growth and knowledge. I wouldn’t call it a challenge instead it’s a fun learning journey!
We love fashion also – tell us what made you decide to start your first fashion company at 15 and what skills would you suggest we need to do the same?
When I first established my fashion design company, I wanted to change the way woman dressed in their traditional clothes. I wanted them to look beautiful but also stronger and confident – this was my mission and vision.
Back then, knowledge was key but there was no solid source to obtain it. However, things have changed and now thanks to the Internet, knowledge is everywhere. There is absolutely no excuse for someone to not gain knowledge in any desired field. I believe if you have zero information on a sector that you want to invest and work in, then hire a team that has the expertise and skill set, learn from them and get them to teach you the ropes.
I wish there were fashion schools when I started out, but there were none. Instead, I learnt by interning at fashion stores, I asked my staff to teach me, etc. The only drawback from this process was that it took me longer to learn, and perhaps as a result, I was not as productive as I would have liked to be.
We hear you are writing a book – what is it about?
I’m writing a book about my journey and all the lessons I’ve learnt from the age of 15 up until today. However, I’m dyslexic, making it difficult for me to read and write. Thus, I’m developing the book in such a manner that it will be a simple, easy and enjoyable read!
We loved the speech you delivered on leadership and your unwavering confidence. Have you always been this self-assured and what would your advice be to women who want to improve their confidence?
I’m so glad you liked my speech on leadership, thank you very much.
Honestly, leadership is a key quality that everyone should try and possess. It’s not solely for those in the corporate world, instead, we should develop leadership in our personal life allowing us to be great leaders that lead by example.
If you are at peace within yourself and if you innovate yourself before innovating in the world – which simply means believe in yourself, break the stereotype, trust yourself, inspire yourself and find your passion, you will then automatically be driven to find the confidence and become comfortable in your own skin. A lot of women, try to innovate on the outside before innovating on the inside, and that causes them to deliver without confidence.
Love yourself and you will shine!
Your fashion label became bankrupt in 2013, how did you overcome this?
Failure is a lesson.
Since I established everything on my own from scratch, I knew how to rebuild it. I didn’t give up, although it was probably the easiest and tempting option. I had put myself through this and I was going to get myself out of it. I told myself that if I work with hard work and passion, I will surely be able to accomplish my goals. Therefore, anyone that is launching a business, needs to be hands-on and learn all the aspects, because if one day it all falls you can rebuild.
We love the fact that you advocate for women and created a calendar that celebrates the achievements of Emirate women. What gave you this idea?
This was not solely my idea. It was also my partner Haleema and a Polish expat, Kate’s idea.
Kate was an expat and believed the stereotype, she thought we were lazy, dependant and spoilt women. She then met Haleema and I and realized this is incorrect. She was so inspired by Emirati women that we all decided to create a calendar, especially since we are all businesses woman and we need to keep track of our day to day tasks – what better way than a calendar/planner.
The 12Emirates is a calendar that includes inspiring stories of 12 women (for each month) from the different Emirates in UAE. We truly believe in giving back to the community and felt that this was one way of doing so. There are a lot of unsung heroes out there and their voices should be heard and known.
What should we expect from Start-Up School?
Start-Up School is a platform that six entrepreneurs, all successful in their own right, built as a way of giving back to the community. We decided to build a platform where we take an idea, help develop (without funding) it, and mentor the entrepreneurs at zero cost.
Who is your mentor or someone who inspires you ?
Any successful women inspires me. I had no mentor when I started out at 15, which was hard but that’s exactly why I decided to be a mentor. I had no help from others and therefore wanted to be the change and help others as much possible.
You are the youngest member of Sharjah Chamber of Commerce. What is your job role and what has it taught you?
Being the youngest board member and being one of the 2 women amongst 18 men has taught me so much. When you become a board member, you are enrolled into various courses – learning protocol, learning about the government etc. – this was all a game changer for me. You get so much exposure and meet several interesting people in your daily life, everything is elevated in terms of knowledge and network.
We get to make vital financial decisions and have to be unbiased towards ourselves. I’ve always been treated as an equal on the board, in spite of me being the youngest. I absolutely love my role and am ever so grateful for being selected.
You like quotes – what is your favourite?
“Somewhere beyond right and wrong, there is a garden. I will meet you there.” ― Rumi
What would be the skills you recommend entrepreneurs have?
There are simple qualities that an entrepreneur must try and develop, this ranges from being confident, passionate, easily adaptable, and always being on survival mode - this is actually a key ingredient.
What’s next on the cards for you?
I have no idea I keep surprising myself! However, I am launching a new tech start-up, it’s going to be an e-commerce platform….watch this space!
Sara Al Madani is a well-known entrepreneur who holds several roles under her belt, including being the youngest board member of the Sharjah Chamber of Commerce and Industry, handpicked by His Highness Sheikh Dr Sultan Bin Mohammed Al Qassimi. She is also a board member of the UAE SME Council in the Ministry of Economy, Dubai.
Sara is the founder and designer of Rouge Couture (now known as, Sara Al Madani Fashion Design), a fashion label that caters to the modest-wear industry, and co-founder of UK-meets-UAE restaurant, Shabarbush, which have both contributed to her success in the lifestyle and retail sector.
Sara's belief in doing good and her inspirational outlook on life has led her to be chosen for global-scale events hosted by the UN, and for expert panels and talks at universities and colleges within the region
In addition to the above, Sara is also the Director and Co-Founder of innovative idea consultancy, Social Fish, and of L.A. based tech company, Hulatek.