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A Decade In Review: Maha Abouelenein, Founder And CEO, Digital And Savvy Maha Abouelenein is getting close to realizing a personal ambition for herself in the near future. "I am proud to soon become a first-time author!" she reveals.

By Aby Sam Thomas

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

Maha Abouelenein is the founder and CEO of DIGITAL & SAVVY.

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.

"I quit Google to become an entrepreneur!" It was this proud declaration that headlined Maha Abouelenein's first appearance in Entrepreneur Middle East in its September 2014 issue, and it really is a great indication of the incredible savvy this woman possesses on all things media, communications, and public relations (PR). It's an expertise that Abouelenein has garnered over a fruitful career spent in both corporate and entrepreneurial realms, and, today, as the founder and CEO of a strategic communications firm called Digital and Savvy, her record speaks for itself. After all, the past 10 years have seen Abouelenein work with clients from around the world that include high-profile individuals like Gary Vaynerchuk, Deepak Chopra, Karen Wazen, and others, as well as enterprising companies like Careem, Utopia, Bedu, and many more.

"As a business, we're constantly changing with the market, and staying ahead of what's next," Abouelenein says. "We focus on consumer attention, and how it is continually evolving. For example, the internet has changed significantly over the last 10 years, impacting consumer choices, and businesses' growth. We were not necessarily thinking about artificial intelligence and the metaverse 10 years ago, but we are today. What's important is that we are keeping our fingers on the pulse of emerging technologies, because it impacts business decisions and consumer behavior. You must constantly be aware, learn new things, relearn, and evolve to stay relevant."

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Now, Abouelenein clearly knows a thing or two about staying relevant- and so, her insights in this regard are definitely worth noting. "Having smart communication strategies is more important than ever for every business, brand, executive, entrepreneur, and even for students," she says. "10 years ago, you needed an attention-grabbing PR campaign and good key messaging you shared through third parties. Now, you need an arsenal of savvy communications weapons in your toolbox that you deploy directly to consumers to control the narrative with an integrated storytelling approach. And if you don't, your reputation can be in trouble."

With this being the state of the landscape right now, Abouelenein is looking forward to seeing her business grow and evolve in this current milieu. "In terms of my goals for the business in the next 10 years, I envision us shifting our focus to business development and consulting with brands, serving as a gateway for companies who want to invest in the region," she says. "We understand the market, we have deep relationships, and we are poised to help them with brand positioning and strategy at scale. In addition, over the next 10 years, I'd love to build a platform and wide-scale institute in the Arab world for strategic communications, with the mission to train and educate people on how to be effective communicators."

Abouelenein and her team are thus all set to put the hard yards in for these new goals for Digital and Savvy, but it's also worth noting that she is getting close to realizing a personal ambition for herself in the near future. "I am proud to soon become a first-time author!" she reveals. "My first book is coming out in October, and I want to bring so much value to my readers while inspiring them. This book highlights how to master the seven rules of self-reliance, and shares examples from my own life as an American-Egyptian entrepreneur working in the US and MENA markets. This book also gives you a playbook for becoming the ultimate networker, value creator, and powerful storyteller. I am very excited to be able to scale what I have learned in my 30-year career with other people, beyond my direct clients."

Source: Digital and Savvy

Now, as Abouelenein gets set to add "author" to her "founder and CEO" title, it also marks a shift in how she chooses to brand herself today, from how she did 10 years ago. "In 2014, my title was Managing Director," Abouelenein says. "Looking back, I was playing small– it was a clear title that demonstrated I was in charge, but I didn't embrace the title of CEO. Today, I use CEO, because, in 2024, women are CEOs, and I should own the title! I wish I had known then that being your authentic self is important, and that nobody else will value you if you don't value yourself."

Related: Keep Growing, Keep Giving: Maha Abouelenein

Hindisight is 20/20: Then-Versus-Now With Maha Abouelenein
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?

"10 years ago, it was all about the hustle and burning the midnight oil. Today, that behavior is a fast track to the death of your teams, your mental health, and your business. We value different things now- we value grit and ambition, but we also value being balanced, well-disciplined, well-slept, and happiness as the barometers of success. Our relationship with failure and fear has changed dramatically in the past 10 years. We would never call out our failures or shortcomings; failing was bad. Today, failure is how we learn, and we value the lessons it teaches us, and we speak about them openly, and share them publicly with others. We are no longer afraid to make mistakes, or change our minds or decisions, and pivot when something is not working. I love being an entrepreneur today- we can share our struggles with hiring talent or demanding clients without fear, and it's not judged negatively."

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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