Five Inspiring Young Egyptian Entrepreneurs

If you're a young individual with a promising idea, but you're too afraid to start, take a look at this article! We talked to five inspiring young Entrepreneurs who told us about their start-ups, the obstacles they faced and gave us advice that is definitely beneficial to anyone who's too afraid to dream! It's always okay to aim so high and start something of your own, as long as you have the full passion for it and willing to go to the end of the world! These five entrepreneurs wowed us with how much dedication and devotion they have, as well as how much they're willing to make a difference in the world, even if they have totally different target segments.

Ahmed Sameh; Founder and CEO at Emmkan

(Courtesy of Ahmed Sameh)

What made you start Emmkan?

“When I graduated, I was so lost in my career, I volunteered in a lot of places and then I discovered that my passion was somewhere else other than Engineering. It was so difficult at the beginning trying to search for a job that I love and I couldn't actually find the one thing I wanted to do most. Having to believe that I'm a victim of an educational crisis, I asked myself why can't I solve this issue and help those who undergo the same problem? Hence, I started Emmkan, an organization that provides students with a platform to learn and develop a new set of skills, learn more about themselves, who they are, their potential, mindsets and know more about the job market and life experiences in general. As you see, the non-academic development is always beneficial, and is the one thing that can boost your confidence and help you succeed. That's what Emmkan provides: a non-formal education that can be delivered in various ways.”

What kind of obstacles did you face in the beginning?

“First of all, it's the risk itself; the fact that I was planning on ditching the safe and traditional route that was commonly found amongst our society, even my parents couldn't imagine how this would eventually turn out to be. However, I didn't stay in this phase for too long because I knew deep down what I wanted to do and how I'm willing to dedicate everything to it. Second, what Emmkan does and delivers can't be found anywhere else, and this hugely affected choosing the right team; I used to explain to every person what exactly we do and what our approach is, as Emmkan had a different concept than all the other corporates in general. Third was the market penetration, as after we had already built our team and developed the idea, it was time for us to start introducing the concept to people and convince the parents themselves how it's beneficial and crucial.”

What advice would you like to give to young people who want to start their own businesses?

“You have to be aware of the voice inside you that always triggers you to change a certain thing; the cause itself. You have to know from within that you want to dedicate yourself to your idea and that you're willing to enter all the dilemmas in the process because of how much you believe in it. It shouldn't be about money. When this urge inside you is found and is always nagging to bloom, begin working on how to formulate your business model, work on the structure and formula, but all of this comes later, because your business model has to overshadow the inner motive you have inside. So in a nutshell, focus on the framework, but don't overdo anything. After being sure of your cause, and your formula and structure, it's about time that you enter the third stage, which is the will to exclude and learn. You have to learn a lot in order to succeed and gain experience, it takes a lot of time, but again as long as you love what you do and are willing to go to the end of the world for it, you never mind the time.”

Also, you have to bear in mind that social businesses in general are different than tech startups, they're two extremely different directions. In social businesses, if you really believe in your purpose enough and work hard for it, this is what will help you grow.

Nada Taalab; Founder and CEO at Chefox

(Courtesy of Nada Taalab)

What made you start Chefox?

“Chefox is a Leading Fitness and the first Weight Loss Camp in Egypt to help people who want to lose weight, stay in shape and change their lifestyle. It's not a usual gym or a fitness center, but it actually provides the guests with an environment where they train, practice a healthy lifestyle and get to know their bodies and how to develop their habits.”

“I was an athlete and a swimming champion and I had no problems with my body or weight-loss in general. However, after a shoulder injury, I gained more than 50 kilos and started having struggles in losing all the weight I gained. I'd always commence with huge enthusiasm in the beginning of the process and then quit. Therefore, I wanted to help myself and all people who were struggling with the same issue (having in mind that nearly 167 Million in the MENA region are considered obese, according to World Health Organization). Hence, I began the idea of Chefox.”

What kind of obstacles did you face in the beginning?

“When we actually launched Chefox, a lot of people were against the whole idea; those who didn't understand the idea of a fitness camp started criticizing us, as they couldn’t comprehend the outcome of the whole camp. On the other hand, those who understood the idea and the process, preferred to travel and participate in a foreign fitness camp instead. So, it wasn't that easy at first. However, getting to participate in the camp myself in order to lose weight and change my lifestyle, encouraged people to trust more in the idea and the results. Also, a lot of people thought that the camp was expensive, not putting in mind all the things we provide throughout the days.”

What advice would you like to give to young people who want to start their own businesses?

“You have to focus on the quality that you deliver to people, not on the quantity or the money. You have to put a strategy from day one and try your best not to deviate from it; as long as you're following it, you'll definitely grow. Secondly, you have to follow your passion, believe in your idea, and make sure that you have all that it takes to run a business. I personally strongly believe in what I'm doing and I'll never give up on it, and everyone should do the same.

Don't forget to focus on the corporate identity, the business model and invest a lot in marketing. Also, motivation has to be mutual between you and your target segment; because in my case, when I motivate people, they always reflect back such energy and that's a huge part of the process; the motivation of whom you're dealing with and helping.”

Amr El-Selouky; Founder and Marketing Director at CampUs

(Courtesy of Amr El-Selouky)

What made you start CampUs?

“We started CampUs because we felt that we wanted to share our experiences and knowledge with the students who really needed them, since my partners and I had very high leadership skills due to student activities and student unions' positions. Hence, we wanted to do something beneficial with this kind of knowledge and put it into something effective. Basically, CampUs is a university students' community that works on capacity building for university students, student activities, student unions or individuals; helping them find their passion, assess their skills and eventually connects them with the companies/organizations/service providers and careers that match them and that they prefer.”

What kind of obstacles did you face in the beginning?

“Actually, the awareness itself. Most of the students didn't even comprehend the importance of development that they should do on themselves in order to grow. So, in the beginning, we were explaining why this is relevant to them in the first place and how it's going to affect their lives; and this was the hardest part and our greatest challenge.”

What kind of advice would you like to give to young people who want to start their own businesses?

“Find a problem that you're passionate about solving. If you're planning on initiating your own start-up, there has to be a problem that you're willing to solve and is going to benefit the society, a certain category, certain group or anything in this lane; let it be in an easier way, more creative way or a cheaper way. Actually, 90% of the start-ups fail because there are a lot of people who start them for they merely want to be their own bosses for example, so never do that. Always focus on the problem and how to apply your passion in solving it.”

Mustafa Hashisha; Co-founder and Managing Partner at iSpark

(Courtesy of Mustafa Hashisha)

What made you start iSpark?

“I started this because if we take a look at the market, we'd see a lot of people who aren't competent enough in what they do; there's a huge talent crisis going on. Moreover, if we look at universities and colleges, we'd notice that 70 percent shift their careers after setting foot into the real life and more than 40 percent at schools can't decide on what they want to do when they graduate. I wanted to change that. iSpark aims to help high-school students choose their own careers and majors. It provides them with the scientific tools and ways to discover themselves and give them sufficient practical experiences.”

What kind of obstacles did you face in the beginning?

“One of the major obstacles was choosing and building the right and suitable team for the job; this was a huge issue in the beginning. You need to be fully aware when you're choosing your team because it's going to help your idea grow. As for the failures, there's no such thing as shear failure, because you always learn and gain knowledge throughout the whole process by trial and error, so it's always a matter of experience.”

What kind of advice would you like to give to young people who want to start their own businesses?

“I’d tell them not to rush things out; they should take some experience first; let it be internships at different startups/companies or joining student activities to understand how things go. They should make sure that they're competent enough and not under qualified for the job. Owning a start-up is something huge, so they need to learn first. Adding to that, if one's motive is merely "having my own startup" "being my own CEO" "leaving an impact" then, it will eventually fail, you need to have passion for what you do and understand that you can have an impact anywhere, even at your own home. So, having a start-up doesn't necessarily mean that you're leaving an impact, it's not always related. Also, don't worry about the money, as for the things that you'd need to focus on the most; you need to concentrate on having a good team, the market, and the things that you lack experience in the most.”

Yara Yassin; Co-founder of Up-Fuse

(Courtesy of Yara Yassin)

Why did you start Up-fuse?

“In the beginning, people always told me that I couldn't make it happen and that my idea would never be stable or successful enough, but I was so stubborn and determined that I wanted to prove them all wrong; this is what kept me going. Besides that, I wanted to help the society in general and produce something ethical, and that's when Up-fuse came to life. Up-fuse aims to upcycle plastic bags into fashionable luggage. At first, we realized that Egypt produces a good fair amount of waste especially plastic waste and that's why we calibrated with an NGO in Mansheyet Nasser, where they actually live on collecting garbage and wastes. We taught them how to upcycle plastic bags and we helped the boys over there in learning how to produce something ethical that doesn't harm their health as well instead of merely collecting waste and garbage. We eventually succeeded in bridging between producing an eco-friendly product and the fact that we really want to help the society; and that was our main motive from the beginning.”

What kind of obstacles did you face in the beginning?

“The obstacles were mainly design related and market penetration. We didn’t have quite the impression from the product designers as we were producing something different and unfamiliar to the whole market in Egypt, so that wasn’t compelling enough to them. Adding to that, we were always financially tightened as our families didn't completely help us in supporting the idea financially, so Up-Fuse independently supported itself through the whole process.”

What advice would you like to give to young people who want to start their own businesses?

“Firstly, do not put a lot of money in the beginning, little money creates innovation. Find a partner that you believe in more than believe in yourself; it's never about competition it's about growing together. Personally, whenever I see my partner, I feel blessed because I'm getting to experience everything with her and this is something I find very touching. Also, you can apply for schools and competitions; Injaz and Rise Up, for instance. This is where you get to know more about business planning and how to conduct your ideas. I travelled to Germany and went to The Do School where I gained a lot of knowledge and experience about business and the whole journey. Hence, you need to focus on your plan a lot before you begin as amplification is very hectic and once you set foot on the business ground, there's no time for you to modify anything.”

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