Every once in a while we get to watch a young Egyptian find their way to success at such a young age in a way that gives us hope and belief in both ourselves and the future.
One of those bright lights of tomorrow is the 26-year old journalist/author/entrepreneur/and social media personality Mirna ElHelbawi.
Mirna has been in the spotlight for over a year now ever since the release of her bestseller book “مر مثل القهوة حلو مثل الشوكولا”.
Mirna has been working on herself and her career for more than 8 years now, and counting. Working as a journalist and an editor before starting her own business and managing it; Mirna has had a lot on her plate.
But apparently, she is nowhere near done. The latest and most recent challenge Mirna decided to so courageously take on was starting her own make-up line.
And though it is not a surprise for her to tackle unknown territories, we just had to talk to her and know more about it, her, her journey and her extremely promising career.
So we reached out and thankfully were able to get some inspiring answers…
What did you want to be growing up?
Funny fact: I never knew what I wanted to be. Which was kind of disappointing to me because somehow I always knew deep inside that I’m meant to do something special.
How did you start your professional journey?
It all started when I created my online blog in 2011. It suddenly felt like I have so much to say. I never realized that I’m good at writing. But looking back at some childhood memories, I always did use writing as a way to express my feelings to everyone. I used to write so many letters to my family and friends.
In February 2012 when I was only 19 years old, I came across someone looking for young writers to join a new magazine. I applied with my blog, and luckily, I was accepted.
But as you know, I’m from Alexandria and I was -then- in my second year of college and the magazine was based in Cairo and needed me to be a full-time writer/editor. So I had to move to Cairo all solo, of course with the support of my brilliant mother. And I kept working in journalism for more than 5 years.
What do you define as the turning point of your career?
I guess it was when I was a shortlisted nominee for the Arab Journalism Award in Dubai and came in second place for my interview with Mr. Vincent Cerf, the internet father and Google’s vice president.
I was only 23 at the time and I was nominated along with a lot of professional journalists -who are older than me- from all around the Arab world. The Arab Journalism Award committee receives hundreds of thousands of writing pieces every year.
So being shortlisted (with only 3 other names on the shortlist) was something big for me.
If you had to pinpoint just one factor to which you’d relate your success, what would it be?
What made you decide to be an entrepreneur after several years in journalism and writing?
I grew up with a multitasking mother who did everything in business. And I learned from her that It is okay to have several interests and that it is possible to pursue them all.
Journalism and writing bring fulfillment and recognition, but business and entrepreneurship bring money.
What was your inspiration in writing your book?
I used to travel alone every year. I traveled to more than 15 countries. So, naturally, I had so many stories to tell. And after quitting my job in journalism, it felt like the right time to start writing them down.
Back then, some friends told me that they are a good material for a book so I started looking for a good publishing house to help me, and thankfully, I found Al Karma.
Is it hard maintaining your creative side while managing two businesses?
Super hard! It feels like my brain doesn’t shut down even when I sleep! Business puts so much pressure on you that it’s so hard to unwind at night and start writing with a clear mind.
However, thankfully, I got pretty good at handling pressure during my hectic years in journalism.
What made you decide to bring your Alexandria-based business to Cairo?
Expansion is definitely every business’s dream. Even though Alexandria is great but it is still a small market compared to Cairo. OPA (my restaurant) has come a long way, made a great name though it’s been in business for only 3 years.
However, we still receive numerous messages on a daily basis from our Cairo customers urging us to open a branch in Cairo, so we listened! And we open this month in Sheikh Zayed.
What will be different about your make-up line?
I managed to collaborate with the best cosmetics company in Europe, the one which produces most of the high end make-up brands’ products. We have a super nice and different concept; we are merging different products in one product.
So eyeliners and eyebrow pencils will both be in one product, blushers and lipsticks in another, and so on.
It is mainly a concept for all the strong independent women out there who don’t have time to put so much makeup. So we are bringing them all the basic products in two or three products without the hassle of a big makeup bag.
When can we expect to see it in stores?
We haven’t started producing yet. But we (Me and my sister Yara who is my partner in this) are hoping it would be available on the market by the end of this year, granted there are no delays.
Out of all your talents and activities you do, which is the closest to your heart?
Which of the fields you tackled was the hardest to crack your way into? And what was your biggest challenge throughout your journey?
Journalism was the hardest. You always have to be different and creative, always have to be the first in writing a piece or doing an exclusive interview.
The biggest challenge, however, was writing my first book. I always suffer from self-doubt so I never thought anyone would be interested to read my writings, but VOILÀ! A bestseller for more than a year now!
Based on your inspiring journey, what advice would you give to all the up and coming women with promising careers?
Be stubborn! It is okay to cry in the bathroom but make sure to wipe away these tears, get out and show the world what you are made of. If you want something, do whatever it takes – as long as it is legally and morally fine- to get it.
It is okay to feel like you want it all; the career, the family, the perfect social life, so don’t let anyone make you choose between this or that.
But always know that everything comes with a compromise, so make sure to surround yourself with good people who support you and hug you whenever you feel like giving up.