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A Meeting Of Minds: Behind The Scenes Of The Maison Pyramide And Ego & East Merger A look behind the scenes of the merger between two female-founded entities in the MENA region: consumer brand-building platform Maison Pyramide and talent management agency Ego & East.

By Tamara Pupic

You're reading Entrepreneur Middle East, an international franchise of Entrepreneur Media.

Maison Pyramide
Maison Pyramide co-founders Nathalie Mroue, Reem Kanj, Giovanina Attieh, María Munoz, and Natalya Kanj

The announcement of a merger between consumer brand-building platform, Maison Pyramide, which was co-founded in 2016 by Giovanina Attieh, Nathalie Mroue, and María Munoz, and Ego & East, a talent management agency set up by sisters Reem and Natalya Kanj also in 2016, can be seen as a great strategic move for the two businesses, both of which work out of the MENA region. But, at the same time, the coming together of these two companies is also an indication of the vision-driven plan of the five women leading them, which is to nurture a whole new generation of talent and consumer brands from the MENA region.

While Maison Pyramide has strategy consulting, marcom, and successful EMEA wholesale distribution capabilities, Ego & East manages a growing talent base from the region - together, the two entities will be able not only to groom regional talent into celebrity influencers, but also to help them create and launch lifestyle products. As such, the merger serves as a showcase of the good that can result if entrepreneurs in the MENA adopted a collaborative mindset with each other. "We never envisaged Maison Pyramide to be a small boutique owned by all three founders only, but we welcome like-minded partners to join us and be part of our exciting global adventure," says Munoz.

The deal, which was structured as an all stock acquisition, was led by mergers and acquisition banker Yann Pavie, who has accumulated over 25 years of experience in the private equity and investment banking industry, including as Chief Operating Officer and Board Member of NBK Capital. Pavie invested in Maison Pyramide 18 months ago, becoming a partner and Chairman. "It is essential to have a trusted counselor- an experienced dealmaker leading the conversation; a person who has the right skills and industry knowledge," Munoz says. "Yann was key to defining the role of both parties beyond just putting the deal together, and with his guidance, we will continue to explore merger and acquisition opportunities with like-minded partners to accelerate Maison Pyramide's growth or bolster capabilities in certain key verticals."

Now, these five women -who will now function together as co-founders of Maison Pyramide and jointly oversee their teams based in Cairo and Dubai- are determined for their new entity to not stray away from the masterful execution that their individual companies are already known for. That's why Attieh, who boasts of more than 15 years of experience of working in retail with luxury brands like Vivienne Westwood, Chloe, and Alexander McQueen, insisted on creating a natural synergy with the Ego & East management team before agreeing to a merger. "First and foremost, it is essential to have a clear and detailed integration plan between the two parties, before finalizing the deal," she says.

Maison Pyramide co-founders Maria Munoz, Giovanina Attieh and Nathalie Mroue

"With a merger, there can be a lot of confusion as you're introducing a new team to your already existing structure, and naturally, the culture will need to change. Make sure to listen to your team, and involve them in the process, fostering a united culture. Beyond that, I would also highlight the value of really engaging with the other party to get a 'feel' for how their culture would fit with yours. It is very important and also rewarding to nurture those human relationships while the other more 'bureaucratic' tasks get completed."

For her part, Natalya Kanj considers it gratifying that her company Ego & East has reached a point that it can add value to a larger company. The deal was structured as an all-stock transaction, with Ego & East's two owners, Reem and Natalya Kanj, joining Maison Pyramide as shareholders and executive partners. And now at Maison Pyramide, Natalya Kanj will be bringing in her experience of working with top-tier brands, such as Diane Von Furstenburg, Myla, Dior, Louis Vuitton and Fendi, into her new operationsfocused leadership role. "Processes are important for us to be able to create a fair framework, and to be able to measure the impact our clients make," she explains.

On the other hand, Natalya's sister, Reem, will invest her extensive experience in the digital marketing sector as well as her strong presence as a digital influencer collaborating with the likes of Louis Vuitton, Fendi, and Tiffany & Co into helping expand the company's global and regional reach. Reem finds that coming together with the Maison Pyramide team enabled her "to delve into every corner of her previous business, and study it inside-out." She adds, "It taught me how to appreciate the value of an external view, but also the importance of remaining true to my initial ethics and values as a business owner. The beauty of this merger was the undeniable match in synergy between Natalya and I and our new partners. We couldn't have asked for a better company to merge and unify our vision with."

Related: When Two Become One: M&A As A Growth Strategy For Your Startup

Maison Pyramide co-founders Natalya and Reem Kanj, formerly of Ego & East.

Going forward, Maison Pyramide's merger with Ego & East will add significant capabilities to the execution of its upcoming brand activities, from Chopard's regional activations and Threads Styling's public relations in the Middle East, to advising and executing on a strategy and impressive array of activations for Saudi Research and Media Group's Hia brand. As such, to ensure that the company continues to deliver excellence in all that it does, the five co-founders are adamant on staying as close to their audiences as possible. "Too often, strategists and marketers are waiting to speak, or offer services and answers, rather than listening to what's really happening with their customers, or within their industry," explains Munoz.

"We nurture the relationships within our network, and prioritize the conversation with each of them." At this point, the third co-founder of Maison Pyramide, Nathalie Mroue, who has more than a decade of experience in international marketing and communications (including with Elie Saab London as its Head of New Media and PR), adds that organizations need to be analytically driven in order to spot trends in advance. "It is done by using the right tools and, of course, by hiring the best people," Mroue says. "We are keen on making Maison Pyramide home to all of them by offering everyone an exciting career path all the way, leading to them having the opportunity to eventually becoming partners and shareholders."

Here, Attieh adds two important tips for entrepreneurs in the luxury sector wanting to stay atop trends that have the potential to change the status quo in the coming years. "Firstly, localization is key," she says. "The tides are turning, and we are no longer just looking towards the West, but they are looking towards the Arab world. Then, commitment and responsibility are at the heart of every company today. We are looking for brands to be transparent, and holding them responsible for their actions; therefore, forming a relationship with your customers is dire."

Related: Why Organizations Should Take A Customer-First Approach During Unprecedented Times

Maison Pyramide co-founders Nathalie Mroue, Reem Kanj, Giovanina Attieh, María Munoz, and Natalya Kanj

Trends come and go, Mroue adds, but "there always has to be a differentiating element that can help you stand out and grow as a distinctive business," and if given the right tools, regional brands can make their mark on the global stage in this way. "Global consumers today are more conscious on what they buy, and they are after brands that have values and real purpose, which are the two elements that we see as embedded deeply into our culture, and that have been translated into the works of many regional brands," she points out.

In the years since its launch, Maison Pyramide has worked on successful marcomm strategies for different clients, from small brands to multinational corporations. Mroue claims that these campaigns have had a strong impact on the bottom line of their respective businesses, adding that the formula for success in this regard is to find one's niche and bring real value to that audience. One way to do this, Mroue adds, is "to work on a brand's value proposition in a way that deeply resonates and builds loyalty."

This is something that Maison Pyramide has excelled at– it has already proved successful at guiding and nurturing regional talent towards creating their own lifestyle brand and product. Mroue now believes that the full 360-degree approach offered jointly by Maison Pyramide and Ego & East will give the choice of even more verticals to regional talent interested in launching their own brands. "Talents who share their true authenticity with the world through their platforms, via their content and the various projects they chose to work on, are always the ones who reap the most reward," Mroue adds. "It may seem tempting at times to follow trends outside of what truly represents yourself or your personal brand, for the sake of growth or added exposure, but it's not always the key."

Maison Pyramide render

In the next 24 months, the five co-founders plan to onboard new partners that will help them to accelerate growth or bolster capabilities in certain key verticals. "We're always working with a global reach in mind," concludes Reem. "We have been developing side by side with the market." And so, as these women promise to continue working on giving talent from the region a global audience, it seems to be well worth your while on Maison Pyramide's future prospects- just watch this space.

Related: Global Millennial Capital Founder Andreea Danila Is Making Use Of A New Model For Value Creation And Venture Capital In The Middle East

Tamara Pupic

Entrepreneur Staff

Managing Editor, Entrepreneur Middle East

Tamara Pupic is the Managing Editor of Entrepreneur Middle East.

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