“No one is useless in this world who lightens the burdens of another.” Omnia Eteyari is the true representation of Charles Dickens’ quote. She might not fall into the new definition of the word “influencer” that we know today, but she is definitely a real-life influencer who touches and changes the lives of the people around her, and beyond. Omnia, who became a serial entrepreneur by chance, has always put “helping others” as the blueprint for her business ideas, and she undoubtedly excels at that.
For those who are planning to start their entrepreneurship journey, this interview is a must read! And for entrepreneurs who are facing some bumps in the road, Omnia’s words can help you in ways you might have never thought of.
A quick look at your impressive LinkedIn profile reveals the fact that you’re a serial entrepreneur who strongly believes in her creative ideas. Away from the spotlights of the professional network, how would you describe yourself in 5 words?
In fact, the goal was never to be a serial entrepreneur, but to do the things I’m passionate about and provide value to society with what I do.
If I have to say it all in 5 words, I would say:
A Passionate Dreamer & an Enthusiastic Designer of Life.
In elaboration, what I really love to do and keep doing is dreaming and designing new ideas that can change people’s lives; starting with myself and my own family, and spreading to the society and the globe. Continuous growth is my goal for all!
Your entrepreneurship journey started with “Mazadah” in 2012. What sparked the idea of Mazadah, and what/who encouraged you to start paving this path?
Mazadah’s start is one of the biggest lessons I learned in this life. As you can see, Mazadah is a technology company, far away from my profession and expertise back then (architecture and railway design). So, I would have never thought of starting something like this on my own.
It happened after the Libyan revolution in 2011. As I came back to Libya after the liberation from the Gaddafi regime. The people were determined to rebuild the country, and new social initiatives were starting in every corner.
With some other Libyan youths, I co-founded The Environmental Friends of Libya; a youthful NGO that tackles the environmental challenges and tries to create the proper solutions. One of our programs was raising awareness through cleaning campaigns, taking place in both Tripoli and Benghazi every Saturday in a public place (e.g.: garden, beach, ..etc). These campaigns were immensely popular among young people in these cities and were the target of many donors. However, we didn’t accept cash. We would only accept in-kind donations.
One Saturday, the cleaning campaign in Tripoli was in a garden located in-front of the office of one of the biggest IT companies in Libya (Libyan Spider). The owner of that company wanted to help, and since we didn’t accept cash, we requested a website for our NGO. To plan the details, and since I was the director of the NGO, I had a meeting with the owner discussing the look and info we needed on the website.
After sitting together for one hour discussing technical issues, he asked me: “what do you do in life? and what’s your expertise?”
I told him that I worked for 5 years with the German Railway, and I’ve been volunteering through my NGO since the day I returned to Libya. He asked me on the spot to partner with him on his new business idea since he needed someone to initiate it with him and manage it after that.
After thoroughly evaluating the idea and my potential business partner, I decided to accept.
And that was the inception of Mazadah, and the beginning of a comprehensive learning journey in business and in life!
And the lesson I learnt here was: Big opportunities can be waiting for you in the most unexpected places. You need to keep working, moving, digging, and growing for them to reveal themselves!
As we mentioned earlier, you’re a brilliant serial entrepreneur who keeps WOWing us with different initiatives and projects. Let’s travel in time with you so you can take us through the various projects you’ve launched throughout the years. We’d like to know more about each one of them; the reasons behind their launch and extinction.
Let me start with Raakez.
In 2016, after 4 years of working on Mazadah, and expanding it to become one of the leaders in Open-Source technology in the region, with multiple international projects. And after I received some valuable business and leadership training through various international programs, e.g. (TechWomen Fellowship in Silicon Valley, Executive Education at Harvard University, Business training and Mentoring by Vital Voices and Bank of America), I wanted to share my knowledge and expertise to help entrepreneurs in the region; Hence, I started: Raakez.
Raakez was meant to be a platform that provides Arab entrepreneurs with the knowledge and tools to help them grow their businesses successfully and compete regionally and internationally.
I participated with this idea in the business competition of the Global Entrepreneurship Summit and was the first Libyan project that reached the semi-final stage of that competition.
Through Raakez, I was able to mentor entrepreneurs in their first steps in business and help them build successful ventures. I also held a massive lecture called “From Idea to Company” with more than 300 attendees.
As I was planning the platform, I received an offer from the International Trade Center to join them in building the first Libyan Online Business School Libus.ly.
Because I was genuinely concerned with the final result more than the idea itself, I found that Libus.ly could provide most of the value I was planning to give through Raakez, with a bigger budget and a stronger team. So, I decided to join them, where I became the main tutor and one of the two curriculum authors.
After closing Mazadah, and finalizing my work with Libus; and after going through a distinctive journey in learning public speaking and effective communications with Toastmasters International, I was looking forward to starting something new that fulfills my passion for helping people grow. This time, with my husband Hamzeh, who is a Toastmaster himself; we started BulbulHub Academy of Public Speaking, the first of its kind in Jordan. Targeting young youth between 11 and 17 years old.
Through BulbulHub, we were able to help our first cohort of exceptional youth to find their voices, overcome their fear of the stage, and learn how to express themselves through well organized and interesting speeches.
Unfortunately, we had to put our BulbulHub activities on-hold because of COVID-19.
During the lockdown in Jordan, we spent our time researching and working on making an alternative for BulbulHub, that is compatible with the situation caused by COVID-19, and can benefit as many people as possible. That is how our latest idea was born.
Instead of focusing only on the younger segment (-18), we decided to target people who have a more pressing need to communicate effectively and influence people around them. And that’s through Oratoriia.com, where I share the extract of 14 years of work experience in different countries and with multiple nationalities and cultures, to help young aspiring leaders gain the Power of Influence through learning the essential effective communication skills and strategies, and the ability to create businesses, partnerships and teams that are healthy, productive and successful.
Before COVID-19 invaded our lives and turned them upside down, you co-founded BulbulHub Academy that aims at improving the public speaking skills of the youth. Now that schools and educational institutions are closed and students are being taught everything remotely, how have these measures been affecting the academy?
BulbulHub is pivoted to Oratoriia. We might go back to activating BulbulHub Academy of Public Speaking again sometime in the future, but at the time being, we feel that kids are being overwhelmed with so much online learning with their schools, and adding BulbulHub won’t be something healthy nor attractive for them.
Don’t wait, don’t fear the unknown, and don’t fear failure. - Omnia Eteyari
Your latest project is “Oratoriia” which currently consists of online content that aims at empowering people in the communication field. Why did you choose to launch this project now? And will you turn it into an official venture?
At work, many people struggle everyday with endless problems and conflicts that cause tension, resistance and decrease in productivity; causing loss in both, the emotional and the financial aspects.
Armed with 14 years of working experience in different countries, as an employee, consultant, advisor, mentor and an entrepreneur, adding to that the priceless training I have received throughout this journey, and the countless conferences and events I attended globally, and spoke on the stages of some, I decided to share the knowledge and insight I learnt about the dynamics of business and the effective techniques of communications, through which leaders can maximize the potentials of their efforts and their teams, minimize conflicts and reach the highest level of productivity. That’s what I’m providing through Oratoriia.
And yes, it’s not only the lessons and strategies we provide on our social-media platforms, but we also provide official training on public speaking and effective communication, as well as consultancy service for organizations on managing teams for higher productivity.
As a restless entrepreneur, what are the elements that keep you motivated especially during such unprecedented times?
Yes, I believe that we can change lives by helping people learn, grow, and overcome the challenges they are facing. People’s lives change when they have a shift in mindset, reaching the Ah-Ha moments. Sometimes you can change people’s lives, just by painting a new picture of how life can be, raising hope and inspiring people not to give up.
I was lucky enough to have heard “you changed my life” from many people who read my words or heard my story, and that’s what keeps filling my tank, lighting me up, and moving me forward.
What has been the most rewarding part of your life and work so far?
The most rewarding is the most challenging; being a Mother!
That’s an independent project on its own that I work on day and night. No breaks, no weekends, or sick leaves. A project that requires constant research, learning and growth; where a small failure is not easy to amend, and a little mistake could have a long-term impact.
But it is also the most rewarding and fulfilling project that I ever handled 😊
In the coming decade, what kind of changes do you aspire to witness in the MENA’s business sphere? And where do you see yourself contributing to this vision?
I hope to see more collaboration and partnerships between businesses, with less conflicts, and aggressive competition.
In addition, I wish to see businesses putting their teams and human capital first. Nurturing them, respecting them, and building them to create a sustainable and productive human power that drives their businesses to success and growth.
All that requires leaders to use the right way of communication. Communication with oneself, and communication with others around them. And that is what I’m hoping to achieve through Oratoriia.
The pandemic changed almost every aspect of our lives; from daily errands to how businesses are conducted. Living in the “new normal” era, what is the key advice you would give to the ambitious entrepreneurs who have just started their journey?
Don’t wait, don’t fear the unknown, and don’t fear failure.
When you free yourself from those fears, you learn, you grow, and you move forward. But if you wait and hesitate, you don’t just stay where you are, you actually move backwards. because the world keeps progressing, and it won’t wait for you!!
Hence, standing still is the ultimate failure!
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