Musings from Bahraini entrepreneur, design agency creative director and magazine editor, Wafa Alobaidat
On a recent trip to Cyprus, I was at lunch with my girlfriends waiting patiently for our food to arrive after a morning spent baking in the sun. As soon as it arrived, everyone at the table (myself included) instantly whipped out our phones and started framing our lunch for a picture perfect Instagram shot. Amidst the chaos of the smartphones, I waited till everyone was finished before starting to eat. Whatever happened to enjoying the moment? Eating as soon as the plate lands on the table? Chatting to each other over dinner instead of peering into other people’s lives via social media? Trying to embrace the moment that I am living in is truly challenging in times of distraction.
It is easy to forget to let go. I’ve come across many people in the past few months, hardworking as they are, that don’t allow themselves to relax or reward themselves with a break. Learning to switch off and slow down, and rewarding yourself to live the moment actually fuels you for the days ahead.
Letting go and savouring the moment has become a bigger personal challenge for me in recent months. I’ve had a few lucrative offers to sell part of my companies, Sketchbook and Obai and Hill. In the past I’ve written about my struggles dealing with investors, but now as the days are closing in for me to sign up half of my second baby, my agency Obai and Hill, I find myself relaxed, happy, and surprisingly calm.
It wasn’t easy, giving up a chunk of the company that I founded, conceived, nurtured and watched grow for the past three years. At the beginning I was very open to the idea of investment, but when push came to shove I watched as my financial advisor started to evaluate my work, peer over my numbers and my employee salaries, and pricing me and what I own like a product. I felt vulnerable, grumpy, and very frustrated at the concept of giving up power.
During a recent meeting I was sitting wedged in between my investor and my financial advisor as they negotiated my term sheet. They exchanged banter as I listened and wrapped everything up. When it came for me to give the go ahead I was still a little antsy and I found my advisor saying to me, “You are too attached Wafa.”
I had a moment where I felt like a newlywed jealous Khaleeji husband, attached to his wife, not allowing her to roam free, visualizing myself as a block between her and the rest of the world. Or even an overprotective parent who doesn’t allow their children to travel abroad, choosing to have them close so they can watch over them. Not understanding that they have put themselves first over the natural progression of their children.
I refuse to be a cliché entrepreneur, one that is so attached to their business that they refuse to give it away to another for it to grow or take its own course at the right time. I meet parents on a daily basis that talk over their children, not allowing them to express their opinions or create their own identity. And as an entrepreneur my job is to launch my concepts and move on to the next, carefully entrusting it with the hands of partners and investors for it to grow.
Since I made my decision, I felt a wave of relief wash over me. I have secured the longevity of my business and the security of my employees. It is a very exciting path that comes before us; we will be entrusted with some of the largest accounts my business has ever tackled, and we now have room for growth and more seniors to join my team.
Like a proud entrepreneur I find myself at the graduation ceremony of Obai and Hill, proud of how far we have come, and looking forward to seeing where we end up 5, 10 and 20 years from now.
Wafa Alobaidat writes a bi-monthly column for Khaleejesque and muses on fashion, art, culture and culture shock in the Middle East. Wafa is also the editor of Sketchbook magazine and runs design and PR agency Obai and Hill.