Entrepreneur Middle East's Achieving Women 2016: Iman Ben Chaibah, Founder, Sail Publishing
Since launching Sail eMagazine in 2010, Iman Ben Chaibah has come a long way in her journey as an entrepreneur- her portfolio today includes Sail Publishing, a digital publishing house for online magazines and ebooks, and special print editions. But that is not to say that this Emirati lady has reached the levels of startup success as, say, a Steve Jobs, or a Mark Zuckerberg- on the contrary, a cursory glance at her Twitter timeline (@ImanBenChaibah) would be enough to understand that this is an entrepreneur still navigating several challenges with her growing enterprise. But while others may have been tempted to call it quits with the business, Ben Chaibah has steadfastly refused to- and the reason for this can be essentially drawn back to her vision for Sail.
“Being genuinely interested in the craft of reading and writing tremendously helped sustain and preserve Sail as a vehicle to nurture writers and original content,” she says. “And it’s what held it back from deviating into running what’s commercial, rather than what’s intelligent and useful content for Emirati youth.” But while the hurdles along her path may be aplenty, Ben Chaibah is also getting better at dealing with them. “One of the major personal challenges I keep going through with Sail is that being a very private and introverted person, I tend to not exactly push for the business in every potential platform that I attend, and find it a little difficult to talk about the amazing success and growth and value the magazine and the publishing side has achieved, because it often feels like talking about myself. I still work at it with having the right mentors and support systems that help me shape my message in a way that works with who I am, without feeling like fraudulent in it. It’s not easy, and it’s about pushing myself out of my comfort zone constantly- which does pay off every now and then.”
But being an entrepreneur also means that you need to know your allies in the field--Ben Chaibah tells her peers in the ecosystem to be wary of sham supporters of entrepreneurship. “One of the most hard learned lessons I learned along the way was to able to differentiate between those who invest in me and the company to grow, not necessarily through direct funding but with sponsoring trips to very important conferences and training abroad (which tremendously help in growing the business), and between those who claim to support or invest in us, only to realize after wasting few days with them that they just needed my name as an Emirati or a SME or an entrepreneur to associate with and fulfill their PR quota on seeming to be supportive. [With these kind of so-called supporters], I don't end up with any financial reward or funding to help sustain or scale the business, nor any added knowledge, nor any new connections; just a number of wasted hours (or days in some cases) that I will never get back, which I could have worked on important stuff at the magazine instead," she notes.
Aby Sam Thomas is the Editor in Chief of Entrepreneur Middle East. In this role, Aby is responsible for leading the publication on its editorial front, while also working to build the brand and grow its presence across the MENA region through the development and execution of events and other programming, as well as through representation in conferences, media, etc.
Aby has been working in journalism since 2011, prior to which he was an analyst programmer with Accenture, where he worked with J. P. Morgan Chase's investment banking arm at offices in Mumbai, London, and New York. He holds a Master's Degree in Journalism from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism in New York.