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A Decade In Review: Iman Ben Chaibah, Founder, Sail Publishing "One of the lessons I learned through my entrepreneurial journey was to simply allow the business to constantly pivot, and expand beyond what I might have originally planned for it."

By Aby Sam Thomas

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

Iman Ben Chaibah is the founder of Sail Publishing. Source: Sail Publishing

With its February 2024 issue, Entrepreneur Middle East celebrates its 10th anniversary! To mark this milestone, we revisiting 10 entrepreneurs and entities that we featured in the publication a decade ago- we find out how far they have come, and what's next for each of their stories.

Iman Ben Chaibah made her debut appearance in Entrepreneur Middle East in May 2014 when the Emirati entrepreneur penned a piece sharing the lessons she had learnt running her business, which, at the time, was a digital publication called Sail eMagazine. That enterprise has since evolved into a full-fledged publishing house called Sail Publishing, which, after having started out with a focus on digital books, now counts print books as the main source of its bread-and-butter.

Similarly, while it started out by publishing books for kids, Sail's portfolio now includes fiction, poetry, self-help, and more, with titles in both Arabic and English. As Ben Chaibah recalls the transformation her entrepreneurial undertaking had had since she started out in 2010, it seems like she too can't believe the growth -and impact- Sail has had. "Back then, Sail was just an online magazine," Ben Chaibah says. "It's been quite a journey for us, having published about 50 books in the years since." According to Ben Chaibah, Sail is what it is today owing to one key decision that she made when she was starting to build the venture- and that was to not treat it as a side hustle, and instead give it all of her time, attention, and dedication. "That allowed it to grow," she says. "I wouldn't have been able to do that if I was still in a job at the time."

Sail has definitely come a long way since those early days, and Ben Chaibah hopes for it to keep continuing with its mission to publish quality books for the general public. "In 10 years' time, I do hope that we continue to be the reading destination for our community, when it comes to contemporary local reading material for kids books and adult books," Ben Chaibah says. "Plus, I hope we can get back to the online magazine we started with, and expand its content model to adapt to the preferences of the new generation, and provide them with great content to consume, in the manner that they prefer, which, honestly, can be sometimes hard to keep up with, but I hope we can get into that again. I also hope that through the expertise we built, we start to modularize and commercialize it in new ways that can expand the benefit of spreading consumable knowledge for the public in sustainable ways."

All of this makes it clear that Ben Chaibah is as attuned to her entrepreneurial enterprise as she was when she had just launched it, and that should make the rest of us excited about how it is set to evolve -again- in the years to come. "I think when it comes to content, there is always something new," Ben Chaibah points out. "As such, it's just a matter of keeping our eyes open to the new shifts and trends, and seeing how can we adapt and pivot with them."

Related: Five Tips For Starting A Business In The UAE's Publishing Sector

Hindisight is 20/20: Then-Versus-Now With Iman Ben Chaibah
Looking back at the stage of your entrepreneurial/career/business trajectory you were in 10 years ago, is there anything you'd do differently knowing what you know now? Alternatively, what's the biggest lesson you wish you'd known 10 years ago?

"I wish I had challenged my personal preferences more than I actually did. Because one of the lessons I learned through my entrepreneurial journey was to simply allow the business to constantly pivot, and expand beyond what I might have originally planned for it. For instance, had I stuck with only digital books and not go into print, merely because I believed in only digital at the time, the company would have struggled. Similarly, had I stuck with only English books, and not expand into publishing in Arabic as well, the company would have struggled a lot as well. So, it's been a constant realization that my personal preferences shouldn't dictate the company's direction; instead, I have to continuously see how the market is changing, and grow the business according to it."

Related: A Decade In Review: Prince Khaled Bin Alwaleed, Founder And CEO, KBW Ventures

Aby Sam Thomas

Entrepreneur Staff

Editor in Chief, Entrepreneur Middle East

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.  

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