A rising star on business horizon

A rising star on business horizon
1 / 2
A rising star on business horizon
2 / 2
Updated 22 May 2013

A rising star on business horizon

A rising star on business horizon

Saudi businesswoman Sofana Dahlan is the CEO and founder of Tashkeil, the first Middle Eastern platform to help creatives succeed by equipping, facilitating and fostering them to reach their full potential. As a creative entrepreneur, motivational speaker and life coach, Dahlan focuses on guiding and incubating other creative entrepreneurs through the Tashkeil platform to help expand their businesses and give them the opportunities, network and know-how to help them flourish. To fulfill this mission, Dahlan has appeared in various media, such as Al-Jazeera, LBC, MBC, Al-Hayat, Al-Watan, Saudi Gazette and Arab News.
We met Dahlan at the Tashkeil office and Creative Space in Jeddah and talked about her early life and how she built her company from scratch.
Having served as a lawyer, banker, consultant and adviser throughout her professional career, she views herself as just simply Sofana. “Throughout my years I learned that by working hard and to one’s full potential is what truly builds up your self image. It is important to have pride and respect for good and honest work. There are many professionals out there that act out of self-importance or claim ethics without having a clear picture of what that means. In reality the ones that are most grounded have the clearest sense of where they want to go. This understanding came after a lot of experiences, challenges and reflections. When you really know who you are, you develop your weaknesses and build on your strengths. Then you can then start defining yourself. At this stage in my life, I define myself as a Tashkeilist.”
The essence of her experiences in life — from being exposed to various cultures, traveling, diverse careers, social life and studies — has shaped Dahlan into who she has become today.
“My parents really invested in our education. I never understood why my mother homeschooled us after our actual school hours. We learned everything from piano lessons, tennis training, martial arts, French lessons, Qur’an classes to calligraphy,” she said. “I remember when I was 12 I became rebellious and I kept asking my mother why everyone I knew only studied at school, but we had to do all these extra classes. She explained that school classes help you be a part of society. Homeschooling is to help you develop your personality and be unique.” In my later years, I understood that these side activities helped shape my personality and build it tremendously,” she added.
Dahlan decided to study Law and serve as a rolemodel for other Saudi women to actively contribute to their society. She later graduated at the Faculty of Law in Cairo University and acquired a bachelor’s degree in Law and a master’s degree in Islamic Law. She was also the first Saudi female that the Saudi Ministry of Higher Education gave permission to study law.
After graduating Dahlan pursued different corporate careers, while obtaining and MBA degree, in Lebanon and Kuwait. After six years, she moved back to Beirut and discovered Tashkeil.
When Dahlan informed her father about wanting to start her own business he told her: “I invested in a lawyer, you want to be anything else that’s your choice but you’re on your own.”
This independence was the best gift anyone could give her. “I wanted to start over and look for something new. I wanted to meet a few goals for my society and for the society that my daughters were going to live in. I made a list of all my experiences, my studies and my personal background and that’s how I got the idea to start Tashkeil. It reflected my identity and many of those around me in society,” she said.
Tashkeil started as a social enterprise that helped promote independent designers to assist them with their branding, strategic positioning, operations and legal matters. A socio-economic model was then developed that served as a sustainable goal to help designers in the Middle East develop the skills and creativity to facilitate their direct participation in the development of proper projects, which was presented at the United Nations in 2011. From the beginning, Dahlan was determined to make the business a success. “I did not have the funds to start it, so I started giving courses to designers on how to read their contracts in a very creative way because they are visual people. This is how I combined my Law and MBA experience to provide the courses,” said Dahlan. “I asked how much it would cost me to create my company and I was informed that I would need up to $ 20,000 (SR 75,000). I didn’t have that much money,” she added. Luckily, her uncle is in the coffee business and her husband’s family owned a date farm. Dahlan walked into her kitchen and found a huge number of gift baskets full of Arabic coffee and dates right before Ramadan. “I remember taking them all, loading them into my car and heading to Bahamdoun, a region in Lebanon where people from the Gulf stay. I thought it was the perfect product at the perfect time because everyone wants coffee and dates during Ramadan,” she said. “I remember making $ 5,000 (SR 18,750) from selling the gifts. To me it was the most precious money I ever made in my life.”
Dahlan discovered she was an entrepreneur, as she identified an opportunity and knew when the time was right for the product and how to sell it. “After registering the company, I moved to Saudi Arabia because I wanted to invest in my own country and discover local designers.”
As her business partner and shareholder, Yolanda Perez, a former JP Morgan investment banker, joined Tashkeil SAL in Lebanon in 2011. “It has been a great pleasure working with Sofana. She is not a conventional person and always has new ideas and thoughts to bring to the table. Coming from different cultures and professional backgrounds, allowed us to integrate radical and beneficial ideas into our consulting work to help our clients. We love the fact that we have gotten to a stage where we are able to choose which clients we want to work with, regardless of the size. This is how you differentiate true passion for a career from a job. I have seen her inspire many Saudis of different backgrounds through her approach and ability to make a difference in their lives. Some people say she is aggressive and overzealous, most probably because she is quickly becoming known as a prominent businesswoman and role model in a very short time. I say that the market is aggressive and if a business cannot run with it, then it shuts down. Others just want to be like her.”
In a span of two years, Dahlan hosted and met many international guests. In 2011, she was selected as the first Saudi Fellow for the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations (UNAOC) and the same year was also chosen as one of the participants in the Harvard Executive Program for Emerging Arab Leaders, where she presented Tashkeil as a social platform for change and development. She also spoke at the closing UNAOC session in December 2011 with Sheikha Moza and the President of Austria. Dahlan is the first Middle Eastern person to be chosen for the Amsterdam School of Creative Leadership and was recently nominated as their ambassador for the region. “I joined the program with the School of Creative Leadership in 2012, because it was very beneficial to understand my different leadership styles and realize them. A manager and a leader are different, if you are a leader you can be a manager but if you are a manager you cannot be a leader and they taught me the difference,” she added.
She is also a member of the board of directors of the RSDFHD Foundation for Human Development, a foundation focused on building leadership capacity in the field of human development in the Arab World. Last year, she served as a part-time marketing lecturer at UBT College of Business Administration. “I accepted this job, because I needed to know how this new generation thinks. I wanted to learn more about our current society,” she said.
“I thought I was settling down as an entrepreneur but I discovered that my company needed a solid leader and someone who is stable and not a risk taker. We needed someone who could set policies and procedures to continuously improve on our work methods. My major role will always be a motivator among my people inside and outside the office,” she said. “My advice to young Saudis starting a business is to have confidence in yourself and not resort to copying or unethical behavior. The best thing about a market is that there is competition. This allows services to develop quicker for the wider audience. We have had many experiences where individuals and companies have used our words on their websites or modified theirs to match ours, tried to copy our work and sell them to clients, make unfounded claims against us and we even had a call from a businessman claiming he will start Tashkeil in his country whether we liked it or not. We laughed and told him to go ahead, because we realized through all our efforts, we have actually motivated people to start acting. People are speaking our language and training themselves to see like we see and we cannot ask for anything more,” she explained. “Secondly, I would warn them to be very careful about who they bring on board to give them advice. The market is full of many people claiming to be consultants with no industry experience. This can prove very detrimental to work projects, so do a thorough background check to ensure that they have sufficient industry knowledge. Trust your instincts.”
With the recent launch of the Creative Space and Design Road in May, this has proven an already hectic year. Through regional partnerships with entities such as the British Council and the Creative Dialogue Association in Spain, Dahlan and her partner have recently recruited a board of advisers from different types of industries, such as Princess Reema bint Bandar Al-Saud, CEO of Alfa International and Al Hama LLC, who has provided instrumental support and inspiration to them in the past year.
“We hope to get the public and private sectors involved to help sponsor creative people in our region, from the starting scholarships to funding their education to help them establish their own businesses and spawn a new generation of creative entrepreneurs, or as we like to call them: Tashkeilists,” said Dahlan.

[email protected]


Greek TV commentator fired for remark about Korean athlete

Greek TV commentator fired for remark about Korean athlete
Updated 28 July 2021

Greek TV commentator fired for remark about Korean athlete

Greek TV commentator fired for remark about Korean athlete
  • ERT television ended its collaboration with veteran journalist Dimosthenis Karmiris following comments he made
  • He said ‘their eyes are narrow so I can’t understand how they can see the ball’

ATHENS: A sports commentator in Greece who made an on-air remark about a South Korean athlete at the Tokyo Olympics that the station called racist has been fired, the country’s state-run broadcaster said Tuesday.
ERT television said it had ended its collaboration with veteran journalist Dimosthenis Karmiris as a guest commentator following comments he made after Jeoung Young-sik beat Panagiotis Gionis of Greece in men’s table tennis.
Asked about the skill of South Korean table tennis players, Karmiris said “their eyes are narrow so I can’t understand how they can see the ball moving back and forth.”
Several hours later, ERT posted a statement on its website.
“Racist comments have no place on public television,” ERT said in the statement. “The collaboration between ERT and Dimosthenis Karmiris was terminated today, immediately after the morning show.”
Jeoung beat Gionis 7-11, 11-7, 8-11, 10-12, 12-10, 11-6, 14-12.


Lebanese fleeing collapse at home seek security, salaries in UAE

Lebanese fleeing collapse at home seek security, salaries in UAE
Updated 26 July 2021

Lebanese fleeing collapse at home seek security, salaries in UAE

Lebanese fleeing collapse at home seek security, salaries in UAE
  • Lebanon’s crisis has propelled more than half the population into poverty

DUBAI: Until a few months ago, 32-year-old Michelle Chaaya was a human resources professional at a multinational firm in Lebanon. Now she works as a bartender in Dubai, sending cash to her family back home where a financial crisis has left many destitute.
The United Arab Emirates has long been a destination for Lebanese businesses and professionals, propelled by instability in their tiny country.
Those who like Chaaya came to the UAE in the past year are leaving behind a Lebanon that was already in dire straits before a huge chemical blast tore through Beirut in August, exacerbating a financial meltdown that has seen the currency collapse and jobs vanish.
“After the explosion we felt like we were hopeless. So the first opportunity to travel outside Lebanon, I took it,” Chaaya said.
Fadi Iskanderani, one of Lebanon’s few paediatric surgeons who this month moved to Dubai, said the plummeting currency meant his wages had fallen by around 95 percent for the same workload.
Having trained overseas, he moved back to help rebuild his country after years of civil war. The decision to leave was heart-wrenching.
Lebanon’s crisis has propelled more than half the population into poverty, locked depositors out of bank accounts and worsened shortages of basic goods.
The country’s prized education and medical sectors have seen talent leave in droves: around 1,200 doctors are estimated to have left Lebanon.
Psychiatrist Joseph Khoury, who moved to Dubai this year with his family, said Lebanese doctors are filling entire departments at hospitals in the Gulf state.
“The pace of doctors coming from Lebanon is astonishing, ” Khoury said.
The UAE is stepping up efforts to attract and retain skilled workers as competition for talent heats up in the Gulf Arab region where countries are moving to diversify economies away from oil revenues.
The UAE, where visas for non-citizens are typically tied to employment, is offering certain investors and skilled professionals new long-term 5- or 10-year renewable residency visas — and even potential citizenship.
Abed Mahfouz, a Lebanese bridal couture designer, said he had been told he could apply for the so-called ‘golden visa’.
After the Beirut blast destroyed his business, Mahfouz re-opened this month in a luxury mall in Dubai, a tourism and trade hub that attracts the high-end customers he caters to.
“Dubai has taken the place of Beirut. What I have seen here (this mall) for the past week or 10 days is what I used to see in Lebanon 4-5 years ago: Customers, people shopping,” he said.
But unlike Lebanon’s professional elite, many younger people are struggling to land jobs in the UAE.
Soha, 28, came to Dubai to look for work after the bookshop cafe where she was employed in Beirut was damaged in the port explosion.
“You come from this tiny pool in Lebanon, so my CV looks like nothing, even though I feel like I’ve accomplished a lot,” said Soha, who declined to give her surname. She is rallying herself for more jobseeking in Dubai, a city that could give her the sense of safety she longs for.
“I just wanted to be sitting in a place where I have that peace of mind that something isn’t going to blow up at any minute.”


As Lebanese suffer crippling economic crisis, MPs celebrate daughters’ lavish weddings

Former Hezbollah MP Nawwar Al-Sahili walked his elegantly-dressed daughter through fireworks-laden walkways and striking strobe lights this week. (Screenshot)
Former Hezbollah MP Nawwar Al-Sahili walked his elegantly-dressed daughter through fireworks-laden walkways and striking strobe lights this week. (Screenshot)
Updated 26 July 2021

As Lebanese suffer crippling economic crisis, MPs celebrate daughters’ lavish weddings

Former Hezbollah MP Nawwar Al-Sahili walked his elegantly-dressed daughter through fireworks-laden walkways and striking strobe lights this week. (Screenshot)
  • Photos and videos of the luxurious weddings were widely shared across social media as they were heavily criticized
  • Photos of Lebanese sleeping on their balconies spread across social media this week as well as ever-growing lines at gas stations

LONDON: Empty supermarket shelves, hours-long queues for gasoline, and resorting to sleeping on the balcony to endure no electricity for fans or air-conditioning in the summer - such has become the routine for the everyday Lebanese.

“These scenes of humiliation, people should not bear,” Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah said in a speech last month, waving his finger as he lambasted the long fuel lines in recent weeks.

“Those responsible for government formation need to listen to people’s voices and look with pain at the cars queueing up for fuel and the loss of electricity and medication,” Nasrallah said as he urged his supporters to be patient and to sacrifice.

Indeed, Lebanese people of all backgrounds should not have to bear with the consequences of years of government corruption and a financial meltdown - and yet, it appears that Nasrallah’s former representatives in government, nor his party allies’ current parliamentarians do not fall into that category.

Free Patriotic Movement MP Ibrahim Kanaan and former Hezbollah MP Nawwar Al-Sahili both walked their elegantly-dressed daughters through fireworks-laden walkways and striking strobe lights this week - not two weeks after former Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri stepped down from attempting to form a government after 10 months.

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by thawramap (@thawramap)

 

Photos and videos of the luxurious weddings were widely shared across social media as they were heavily criticized, prompting Sahili to issue an apology online - claiming that it had not been on purpose.

“Hezbollah is proving yet again how aloof it is to the suffering of Lebanese people. This video of the lavish wedding of their MP Nawar Sahili's daughter, going viral in #Lebanon. No empathy whatsoever,” Malcolm H. Kerr Carnegie Middle East Center Research Fellow Mohanad Hage Ali tweeted.

 

 

The photos and videos were promoted across the well-followed Instagram page “Thawramap” - a page created in the heat of the October 17 nationwide protests - that has become an online watchdog targeting politicians and their lifestyles.

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by thawramap (@thawramap)

 

“It shows once more that the political establishment is disconnected from the people. Nawwar Sahili posted an apology to the party’s partisans on Twitter, as if he needed the backlash to understand the weight of its actions,” one of the individuals behind the page told Arab News, speaking anonymously due to fear of repercussions for the critical content posted.

Photos of Lebanese sleeping on their balconies spread across social media this week as well as ever-growing lines at gas stations; showcasing an extreme contrast between the everyday lives of politicians and citizens.

A family in Lebanon sleeps on the balcony to cool down in the summer due to lack of electricity for fans or air conditioning. (Facebook/Zakaria Jaber)

Earlier this year, photos of the country’s political leaders wearing luxury watches worth thousands of dollars did the rounds on Twitter while the Lebanese pound’s value deteriorated heavily against the US dollar.

At the time of writing, $1 is equivalent to 22,500 Lebanese pounds (LBP) compared to 1 USD to 1,500 LBP in 2019.


Endangered bears leave Lebanon for better life in US animal sanctuary

Homer and Ulysses had been trapped for more than 10 years in a zoo in Tyre. (Supplied)
Homer and Ulysses had been trapped for more than 10 years in a zoo in Tyre. (Supplied)
Updated 25 July 2021

Endangered bears leave Lebanon for better life in US animal sanctuary

Homer and Ulysses had been trapped for more than 10 years in a zoo in Tyre. (Supplied)
  • The Syrian brown bear lived in Lebanon, Iraq, Syria and Turkey but, due to illegal and non-organized hunting in Lebanon, the species became extinct

BEIRUT: Two endangered bears who were living in poor conditions in a Lebanon zoo have been flown to an animal sanctuary in the US after they started to lose weight and suffered from other health issues.
Rights association Animals Lebanon said it managed to persuade their owner that “the bears deserved better” given the creatures’ deteriorating condition.
Lebanon’s economic crisis, considered the worst in its modern history, has affected animals as much as humans.
Families have given up their pets, unable to feed them in light of sharp rises in the dollar exchange rate. Zoos have also been affected, with animals facing malnourishment and owners no longer able to secure their basic needs.
Animals Lebanon said the two Syrian brown bears, called Homer and Ulysses, had been trapped for more than 10 years in a zoo in the southern city of Tyre.
“There are six bears still waiting to be rescued in the north of Lebanon, Bekaa and Beirut,” the association’s director, Jason Mier, told Arab News.
Previous attempts to get the bears to the Colorado Wild Animal Sanctuary had failed due to the pandemic, roadblocks, banks freezing assets, and the wait to obtain the sanctuary’s confirmation to receive the creatures.

FASTFACT

Families have given up their pets, unable to feed them in light of sharp rises in the dollar exchange rate. Zoos have also been affected, with animals facing malnourishment and owners no longer able to secure their basic needs.

The sanctuary cares for more than 650 lions, tigers, bears, wolves and other animals — including a fox and a wallaby rescued by Animals Lebanon.
Animal rescue organization Four Paws offered to help bear the cost of the animals’ trip to Colorado.
Mier said: “There are six zoos we are aware of in Lebanon. In 2017, we passed the Animal Protection and Welfare Law, which regulates zoos. These zoos hold endangered wildlife, local wildlife, and farmed or domesticated animals. There are about 30 lions, 10 bears, and 10 tigers. We believe conditions need to be drastically improved at all zoos.”
Dr. Assad Serhal, director of the Society for the Protection of Nature in Lebanon, told Arab News that the Syrian brown bear was an endangered species seen in the mountainous area of eastern Lebanon, near the Syrian borders.
In 2019, an environmental activist filmed a brown cub playing on the road in the outskirts of Ersal, in the Bekaa valley. That same cub was previously seen with his mother in 2017 in the same area. This species had not been seen in Lebanon for over 50 years.
The Syrian brown bear lived in Lebanon, Iraq, Syria and Turkey but, due to illegal and non-organized hunting in Lebanon, the species became extinct.
Serhal said Lebanon was home to several species of wild animal, but that most had been captured by zoo owners across the country.


EXCLUSIVE: All hands on Le Deck — Sofitel restaurant in Cairo sinks to bottom of the Nile

EXCLUSIVE: All hands on Le Deck — Sofitel restaurant in Cairo sinks to bottom of the Nile
Updated 25 July 2021

EXCLUSIVE: All hands on Le Deck — Sofitel restaurant in Cairo sinks to bottom of the Nile

EXCLUSIVE: All hands on Le Deck — Sofitel restaurant in Cairo sinks to bottom of the Nile
  • The floating restaurant used to be a meeting point for many famous writers, artists and politicians

CAIRO: In less than a minute, a floating restaurant sank in the Nile, which is part of the Sofitel Hotel in the Zamalek district in central Cairo.  

“I was sitting on the opposite terrace having tea and smoking with my friends and at first I thought there was a fight, then I thought someone drowned and then we heard a bang, then suddenly the deck started sinking in a way that reminded me of the Titanic movie,” a British tourist who witnessed the incident told Arab News.

The importance of the floating restaurant does not stop at the distinctiveness of its location, but also with the association of its name with many public figures, politicians and celebrities who used to visit it.

It is a fixed floating boat in front of the Sofitel Hotel, which was the former Sheraton El Gezirah, built in 1984. This limited floating space occupied one of the best locations overlooking the Nile at the other end of Zamalek Island, facing the Garden City neighborhood on the other side.  

The floating restaurant has always been characterized by its simplicity and fame at the same time.  It was a meeting point for many famous writers, artists and politicians. Among them are the artist Sabah, Wadih Al-Safi, the writer Lutfi Al-Khouli, Dr. Osama Ilbaz the famous late politician, Ahmed Qaddaf Al-Dam The famous Libyan politician, and other Egyptian and Arab celebrities.

The 1980s were the time of the heyday for "Paradise", the name of the boat at the time, where a number of VIPs had fixed places.

In the past, its name was Paradise paradise, and its name changed after the hotel’s management and ownership changed, so the name of the hotel became Sofitel and the name of the floating restaurant became Le Deck.  But it still possesses the same beauty features as the site and attracts seekers of beauty and distinction.

All this remained until Saturday evening, at eight and two minutes in the evening, when those close to the floating restaurant heard a strange sound, followed by one of its sides, and then began to sink into the water until it disappeared in fifty seconds.