Dina El Mofty, A Business graduate from the American University of Cairo, decided to think out of the box and fill in the gaps. Hence, she created Injaz Egypt; a non-profit organization that aims at empowering the youth through training programs allowing them to start their own projects, and preparing them to cope with the labor market.
Dina planted the first seed in 2003, and succeeded in influencing a large number of Egyptian students, transforming their lives.
In this interview, you’ll get to know more about the CEO of one of the biggest region’s NGOs, and she will share golden advice for budding entrepreneurs.
1. The media has been shedding light on your outstanding career as one of the world’s most influential Arab entrepreneurs. Away from the spotlight, how would you describe yourself?
I’m a mother to 3 beautiful kids who keep me very busy, and inherited my passion for travelling and exploring new places and cultures.
Other than being a travel junkie, I'm a very active person who enjoys endurance and extreme sports.
I’m passionate about learning new things, and I’m particularly into anything related to personal growth and mindfulness.
2. You’re a co-founder of one of the most prominent youth empowering entities in the Arab world, Injaz Egypt. What urged you to establish this organization?
I give the credit to serendipity.
I’ve always been interested in the education field, and extremely passionate about addressing the massive gap between the private and public schooling systems in Egypt. Fortunately, I was given an incredible opportunity to pilot a program in Egypt when I was a fresh graduate. The program aimed at addressing the gap between the academic system, and the job market by delivering entrepreneurship, work readiness, and financial literacy programs to students from a young age.
It was a very exciting yet challenging journey. A year later, Dahlia Helaly decided to join me, and together we established Injaz Egypt. We built an outstanding team, and with the support of our board, regional office, and over 50 corporate partners, we succeeded in impacting more than 700,000 students so far.
In early 2011, we noticed that many of our alumni were keen on starting their own businesses, and becoming entrepreneurs. That sparked the idea of creating our startup program that helped seed fund support, and launched over 70 successful startups which scaled and matured over the years.
3. What does a working day of a CEO of a non-profit organization dedicated to empowering and educating the youth involve?
My business partner (Dahlia) and I are fortunate to have a dedicated team whose members are extremely passionate about our cause. And since our work culture motivates ownership, each member of the team operate as if s/he is the CEO of the organization.
Naturally there are always challenges that we face and daily decisions that need to be made. Therefore, a lot of group consultations take place and collective brainstorming happens to come up with solutions to address those challenges.
To put it in a nutshell, my working days include highs and lows. However, when one is lucky enough to be surrounded by a passionate, dedicated, and caring group of people, it is an absolute joy.
4. The entrepreneurship field has been evolving tremendously in the Arab world in the last couple of years. As an expert in this field, what do you think are the top three skills required to be a successful entrepreneur?
To start something out of passion is not enough to create a successful business. You need to be ambitious, and always dream big. You should never lose sight of your end goal so you always stay motivated.
Entrepreneurs will face an endless amount of challenges and obstacles throughout their journeys. It’s how resilient they are in addressing these situations, and how quickly they can adapt and recover when they overcome these difficulties.
An open mind
A successful entrepreneur should not to be stubborn. S/he needs to be open-minded and take into consideration the advices s/he receives. An entrepreneur needs to be flexible and explore every possible way to reach their end goal.
5. What is the most valuable lesson you’ve learnt during your 16 years with Injaz Egypt?
There are certainly so many valuable lessons learnt.
The ones I will highlight are the value of partnership, and the value of a great team. These two aspects are the main reason behind Injaz Egypt’s success since they are THE solid foundation of Injaz Egypt.
I have an irreplaceable bond with my partner Dahlia Helaly, and although we have “opposite” strengths, we share the same values and purpose.
Same thing goes to our incredible team who grew with us throughout the years, believing in our cause and dedicated to reach our end goal.
6. Establishing an organization like Injaz Egypt in 2003 made you a pioneer in the region. Usually pioneers face various challenges. What were the biggest challenges that you’ve faced, and how did you manage to overcome them?
Oh we’ll need another interview to go through some of those challenges, but I’ll mention some for now :)
Although the challenges seem to vary throughout 16 year journey, they have one aspect in common: the doubt received from people around us.
At the beginning of our journey, people doubted us because we were two young ladies trying to pave our path on our own. And after we made it, people started doubting our intentions, our motives behind educating the youth, our “hidden agenda.”
Regardless of all the doubt we faced, and keep on facing, we remained persistent and didn’t lose sight of our end goal. We succeeded in building trust with these doubtful minds, and the fruits that we reaped convinced them our noble cause.
7. How did you manage to nourish Injaz Egypt throughout the years, and how did it evolve into the institution we know today?
Believing that Injaz is our own baby, Dahlia and I were selective when hiring our team, and made sure that we only choose individuals who share the same work ethics, values, and passion that we have. This helped in flourishing Injaz throughout the years.
8. What do you personally rely on to improve your entrepreneurship skills, and what key activities would you recommend young entrepreneurs to invest their time in?
I believe that young entrepreneurs should start their journey by investing in themselves. They need to keep on learning, connecting with various networks, attending workshops and events. They always need to reach out to mentors and experts seeking their advice and knowledge. They should always explore the world out of their comfort zone and learn from every new experience.
9. We noticed that you’re not as active on the social media platforms as your peers. What is preventing you back from using these powerful tools and is social media as important as grassroots outreach?
Great question! I admit. On a personal level, I’m not that active on social media, although I know that I need to be. It’s just I believe it requires time and effort to create rich content on these channels and to be continuously engaged with your followers. And currently I prefer to dedicate the time and effort to Injaz.
That being said, I’d like to clarify that Injaz Egypt, my baby, is very active on various social media platforms.
10. Finally, what advice do you have for people who want to build?
Always question yourself:
Why am I doing what I’m doing?
Will this product or service have an impact?
Is it solving a problem? Is it addressing a need?
Is there a market gap your trying to fill?
Such questions and many more will help you in staying on the right track and achieving your end goal.
Always test your idea with your target segment. It will provide you with a sea of information which might lead to new ideas you may have never thought of before.
Importance of a great partner and team
Focus on setting solid foundations. This begins with finding the right partner who can balance your strengths, and off set your weak points.
Never compromise on the caliber of people who join your team no matter what. Always make sure to bring on people who are the right fit to your culture because your team is a reflection of your business.
Love what you do, and do what you love so that you can enjoy the journey!
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