May Abdel Asim is a vivacious entrepreneur in the media and publishing fields, responsible for founding and managing the boutique creative agency Media&More, as well as the publications What Women Want… Magazine and the Travel Mag.
As an entrepreneur yourself and knowing you have been involved in many start up initiatives, are you optimistic about the future of entrepreneurship in Egypt?
Yes, very optimistic. Egyptians have a resilience that is unprecedented. I take my energy from joining the start-up competition as a judge, mentoring or speaking at different events that support that eco system. The amount of hope and positive energy I take from these events is priceless and pushes you to continue. Yet, the government must create ways to embrace this young eco-system as to foster them, not push them away to new markets.
In our day and age, how powerful do you see platforms such as your print magazine and social media accounts in influencing opinion? How do you use this power, and what are some of the causes and ideas that you really like to support in your publications?
What Women Want…Magazine is about empowering women to unleash their potential in every possible way. I believe in the power of print and digital media, each one speaks to a different target segment and it is very powerful. Of course social media has proven to be the “fastest” medium these days and we use it to communicate our stance on gender equality, human empowerment, and many other issues that we experience in our daily lives.
Since this is our women’s empowerment issue, what kind of advantages do you think women have in the field of media?
That would be stereotyping, but it seems that women are the better communicators, #malesh.
What are some of the challenges you have faced while growing your businesses? Which ones did you expect when you started your journey and which ones were unexpected?
My challenges were industry related, not really gender related. My biggest and ongoing challenge is the lack of business ethics that comes with our field, actually in general if I may say so. Egypt is also no easy soil for start-ups or entrepreneurs; we are left alone and suffer red tape and corruption in every government authority we deal with. Yet I don’t want to complain, as this is the situation in our country and we have to find ways to jump hurdles, so in the past 9 years I became quite a good hurdle jumper. The hardest is to survive without losing your integrity; it delays things but it is worth it.
Do you think the professional world is becoming more or less receptive to women taking more active roles, and why do you think this is?
I think we need to be out there and never take no for an answer. Most change-makers are female and it stems from seeing a certain injustice and wanting to free other human beings from it. Also women are more likely to give back to their community so having more women in public life reflects positively on society. So to answer the question it is not about the professional world being ready or not, it is about us claiming what we want.
Do you ever feel like your private life is invaded by your connection to the magazine? For example, are you self conscious about what you post or tweet on your private accounts because the opinions could reflect on the magazine? What do you do to escape and have your own social life?
What Women Want…Magazine is my first-born so feeling invaded is not the right word, we are connected and we stand for the same beliefs and values. Of course there is stuff I say in my private life that What Women Want…Magazine as a brand would not say, which is a good thing. I am a rather private person and the interest of readers is rather in the magazine than me as a person. The same actually applies to my team, they are out and about town, yet remain private in their lives and on social media. Like me they try to maintain this balance. So yes I actually should be more considerate when I rant on social media.
In your experience, why is it important to have more women in positions that shape our media?
We need to have women in every industry, in the political and public life. It shouldn’t be industry specific. We need women in parliament and not just the few quota women who are brought in to say the nasty stuff men don’t want to say. We also need more female ministers to lead impactful ministries.
The addition of Media & More to your portfolio shows your adaptability to the changing market. What are the main trends in media market changes and do you think they are positive or negative?
I founded Media & More in 2007 as a creative boutique and advertising agency. In 2009 we added a digital department that used to develop websites. After the revolution we reduced our agency services to digital solutions and social media management, which was triggered by the digital boom that took place. The future is online and the trends are clear; to survive as a brand or business, adaptability and evolving are crucial. Change is always positive, it’s part of evolution.
We know you are the proud mother of two girls. How do you teach them to be empowered?
My oldest is eight and the younger one is two and a half years old. They are very different in character; while the oldest is very observing, artistic and philosophical. The young one is wild, jumps fences, and is very resilient. I try to allow them to be themselves. As a control freak this wasn’t easy at first, but I learned to consciously let go and push them to be themselves and try different things. I try to teach them to try hard, fail, and continue. They need to understand that they are loved regardless of their choices and that whatever crazy story they come home with that they will find our support as parents. I hope that they will grow up to be free and happy women with free minds.
What do you see yourself doing in the future?
Being happy and healthy.