Sunday April 21, 2019 By: Amira Salem
Hend Gomaa, Co- Founder and Managing Director of Digify, has been working in the digital field for 20 years. When she started, there was just a handful of women working in this field in Egypt. She established Digify, a Digital Advertising Agency in 2011 and in 2016, she was named one of the Women to Watch in the Gulf Cooperation Council.
WOE: You started your own business in digital advertising almost ten years ago, a field that was dominated by men. How did you come up with your business idea?
HG: I started my career in online business and digital advertising 20 years ago. I first started as an editor and translator editor, and then I learned everything that could be done digitally; content creation, design, product development, SEO, social media and digital advertising.
When I started back in October 2000, there were very few women in this industry, and I was blessed to start at that time, and become a pioneer in this field. Then in 2014, I established my own business based on what I have learned, and I utilized my long experience to develop Digify.
WOE: A young woman starting her business is challenging anywhere in the world, starting a business in Egypt is even harder.What were the challenges you faced as a young female entrepreneur starting your own business?
HG: Actually, it’s not only in Egypt but also in gulf and especially in Saudi Arabia, as we do have business there. But, I do not face challenges with my clients as a woman in this field. Yet I can say that the main challenge was always the team. Although most of time I was blessed with good teams, and I am not an easy manager, yet I believe I have the talent of building human & friendly relation between me and the team who works with me which made things more easily. Yet, still hiring good calibers and maintaining them is the main challenge.
WOE: Have you encountered more challenges with your clients because of your gender?
HG: No, actually most of my clients enjoy dealing with me as a woman in this field. I always see that they are impressed when they meet me, not only as a business owner but also as a woman who has been working in this field for twenty years. And even if we didn’t close a deal, I think I leave a good impression on them.
WOE: What challenges have you encountered as a business owner?
HG: The only challenge I always stress to overcome is to be up to my clients’ expectations and to deliver high-end service. I don’t want to leave an impression with our clients that we didn’t achieve the desired outcome because we are a group of delicate women, not strong or reliable enough, especially that more than 60% of my team are young women.
WOE: Are there specific advantages, disadvantages to being a women business owner?
HG: The only advantage of being a woman, is that a client or an employee will not hit me in the face if they get angry. We know of another agency where two guys ended up hitting each other, one of them was the business owner.
The disadvantage is that some clients, especially the older ones or those from old school industries, they don’t trust women in general, a business owner or otherwise, yet again our work speaks for us and proves the opposite.
WOE: Has the environment for women business owners changed over this past decade?
HG: Yes, there are few organizations that support women in business and women in tech in specific, there are a number of competitions in the gulf area targeting women and I have joined one of them at Gitex Dubai last year. Mainly these organizations support women business owners. This didn’t exist few ago.
WOE: You mentioned that women business owners, especially single ones, are stereotyped as being aggressive with hard personalities, even if men show the same attitude when running their business. Why do you think women are perceived this way?
HG: By default, in our Middle Eastern communities, a woman should be a nice cute lady with low voice. Yet to be a business owner you can never survive this way. We have to be more tough (not aggressive) to be able to manage a whole team with diversified personalities, culture and attitude. Yet men by nature are tough and sometimes aggressive, so nothing new here. No one will comment on the behavior or attitude of an aggressive manager.
WOE: Can women do something to change this image?
HG: We don’t have to do anything. Business today is hard and competition is extremely aggressive. In order to survive in the market, we have to be tough. No one understands this unless he/she is a business owner.
WOE: For women entrepreneurs, what specific advice would you have for young women who would like to become an entrepreneur and reach their potential?
HG: Don’t rush, take it slowly but surely. Don’t stop working so hard. Don’t let anyone convince you that you can’t. Believe in yourself and your capabilities. Find a mentor.
WOE: What tough decisions have you had to make recently?
HG: The hardest decision in my whole business was to terminate someone in my team.
WOE: What’s next for Digify?
HG: We are expanding very hard in Egypt; we used to do this only in gulf. Also, we have a new team with fresh eyes, who I believe this will help Digify to achieve a new milestone.
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