DMS (The digital arm of Choueiri Group) recently hosted the 2nd installment of its “Food for thought” webinar series on June 24th. The event which is moderated by Ziad Khammar (DMS’ CEO) will continue to invite industry experts, influencers and thought leaders to virtually share their journeys, life experiences, industry related developments and much more with the DMS team over the span of lunch. The ongoing series is scheduled to be held on the last Thursday of each month.
Ziad introduced his guest speaker to the DMS team by saying that “It is always interesting to be able to host someone from outside our direct industry to inspire us. Today’s conversation is with such a personality – Loulou Khazen Baz – Entrepreneur, Investor, Podcast Producer & Host and founder of Nabbesh.com”.
Loulou began by reflecting back on her remarkable journey of entrepreneurship and how destiny guided her way after she suffered an unexpected job loss: “As bad of a time as it was, this is when I realized I had to do something on my own. Met with investment bankers, learned the ropes around due diligence and funding and 2 years later at the age of 30, I stepped out on my own. The older you are the better you are able to manage your company. It was fully funded by my own savings and I went all in”.
She also elaborated on how the Nabbesh concept was built around connecting people who did not have full time jobs and how becoming part of an 8-episode competition show focused on entrepreneurship, led her to a Million Dirhams in prize money: “I didn’t think I would win, but it was a great opportunity to gain publicity for my company. When I was shortlisted to the top 10, this is when I thought I might have a chance. It was a highlight in my life for sure, but it boiled down to being at the right place at the right time”.
On giving advice to DMS’ staff members interested in dabbling in entrepreneurship, Loulou rendered some very practical tips and life lesson: “Entrepreneurship is not for everyone. People romanticize it, but you need to know what you’re getting into. Get a few years under your belt and know that both money and people will be challenging. Having partners is crucial too, as no one can be good at everything. Startups are made or broken by the quality of the team. The biggest challenge is how do you afford good people. Must have co-founders as well, with complimentary skills in order to save money and not have to do everything all on your own. Find partners who you have worked with before. You need people who will roll up their sleeves and do multiple jobs. People who are honest, who you can trust and share values with”.
She also spoke about the importance of strategizing exits, as one of the biggest dilemmas for startups: “You have to place in deadlines and milestones with KPIs and know why you’re not hitting them. Are you up against market issues or money issues? If things are not going as planned, you have to pivot and move. At some point if you’re confident you’re doing the right thing, and it’s still not working, then bite the bullet and call it a day”. She also defined one of the lowest points in her journey as being linked to losing a critical member of the team - “When our Chief Tech Officer left the company, and we almost had to shut down”.
Since selling Nabbesh, Loulou has made a very successful transition to media, with a Podcasting career that is making steady waves.
“When I sold the business last year it was a very confusing time with the entire Covid-19 Pandemic coming into focus. The podcast was a way to force myself to speak with people and share two decades of work. I started by inviting friends, as it is important to have friends who support you and are in it for no direct benefit. Podcasting is great because you get to speak with people who you normally wouldn’t and share personal dialogue. The business angle however is challenging, as I’m always at work, editing, or figuring out the distribution strategy, monetization, etc.”.
Ziad went on to ask her about growth prospects for the Podcast, to which Loulou replied: “Yes, it’s been featured on Apple Podcast and surprisingly with 60% of the audience in KSA, despite not being in Arabic. So, it seems to be clicking. I enjoy what I do and am not necessarily seeking popularity. As an independent podcaster I do what I want. My guests don’t need to be famous but are always people who I like or interest me”.
The final segment of her interview focused on the power and potential of LinkedIn as a vital business tool. Loulou elaborated on how she utilizes the platform and spelled out how to gain the most from it: “People come to it when they need something, are in trouble or have lost their job.. This very often is too late. By this time your posts will get no reach. It’s all about networking and building connections with a long-term view. Connect with people, see what they like and engage with their interests and content. I’ve met some incredible people on LinkedIn, who would otherwise be inaccessible. My advice is to comment on posts and build relationships. As for the biggest mistakes which people can make, I would say it is people who say they don’t have time to fix-up their profiles. You have to stand out to get the maximum benefit from it. My three greatest tips would be:
Always remember, LinkedIn is a professional network, so your job is to maximize contacts on there, don’t be shy of adding people who have great profiles even if they are not directly in your network or have met them before.