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A Decade In Review: Soukaina Rachidi Alaoui, Founder, RisalatComm A look at the pluck and gumption that has defined Alaoui's journey from recognizing her passion for writing a decade back to her first foray as a full-fledged entrepreneur with RisalatComm today.

By Aby Sam Thomas

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

RisalatComm
Soukaina Rachidi Alaoui, founder, RisalatComm

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.

Soukaina Rachidi Alaoui remembers that as a teenager, she always loved to write; however, she never saw herself as a writer. But all of that changed when she graduated from university, and began working as a media relations coordinator for a Dubai-based startup called Melltoo in 2014. It was in this role that Alaoui attended Entrepreneur Middle East's first-ever event- the Enterprise Agility Forum 2014- in November that year, and while she was still new to the local startup scene then, she remembers feeling oddly "at home" with the community who had come together for this particular conference.

"I felt like I had found 'my people,'" she recalls. "During the forum, I listened intently to the different speakers as they shared their experiences, and I studiously took notes to make sure that I soaked in all their wisdom. The day after the event, I remember waking up feeling so energized and inspired that I picked up my event notes, and started furiously typing on my laptop. I was in the zone for hours, and before I knew it, I had a full article on my hands." That article -a wonderfully comprehensive distillation of the key insights shared at the Enterprise Agility Forum 2014- got published in Entrepreneur Middle East's December 2014 issue, and according to Alaoui, the day that happened marked her transition "from someone who liked to write, to a writer."

It is thus that Alaoui decided to pursue a career in writing, with one of her key undertakings in this regard being Soukie Speaks, a platform that aimed to reimagine the narrative of the MENA region, and empower a new generation of leaders and entrepreneurs, which she kicked off in 2016. "I launched the Soukie Speaks platform for a multitude of reasons, but at its core was my desire to reclaim my narrative, and a sense of responsibility to empower fellow youth in the MENA region to do the same," the Moroccan-American says. "The Soukie Speaks experience was transformational in so many ways. Firstly, it helped me deconstruct the internalized oppression that had robbed me of my confidence and agency for so many years, and it allowed me to write a new story for myself. Secondly, it allowed me to challenge the negative media narratives about the MENA region by shining the spotlight on MENA youth and entrepreneurs, who were launching innovative businesses and inspiring initiatives in their countries, despite all the odds. Lastly, it allowed me to travel, expand my horizons, and build an amazing network of global changemakers that I still draw strength, support, and inspiration from today. While the Soukie Speaks platform no longer exists, the tenacity, resilience, and creativity that it cultivated in me continue to drive so much of the social impact work that I do. So, in a way, the Soukie Speaks spirit lives on in everything that I do."

It is this pluck and gumption of Alaoui that is instantly recognizable now in her first foray as a full-fledged entrepreneur running RisalatComm, a social impact communication and consulting agency that she launched in Morocco earlier this year. "Since joining the UAE startup world in 2014, I always dreamed of having my own business, but I wasn't sure what kind of business I should start," she says. "I grew up in a service-oriented family; so, I couldn't imagine running a business that wasn't impact-driven. For a long time, I also struggled to figure out how to leverage my skillset to develop a sustainable impact-driven business. It took me five and a half years of freelancing and working with civil society organizations in Morocco to develop a deeper understanding of the pain points of Moroccan youth, leaders, and organizations. Then it took an unexpected job loss -and a devastating earthquake- to make me realize that life was short, and that I didn't want to spend another minute wishing I was doing things when I could be doing them- and that is when I decided to launch RisalatComm."

RisalatComm -which translates to "your message" in Arabic- provides communication, design, project management, and capacity-building services in English, Arabic, and French to individuals and organizations in Morocco and across the globe. In addition to providing bespoke, high-quality communications, and consultation services to a wide range of Moroccan and international actors, RisalatComm also strives to serve Moroccan communities by developing capacity-building programs for local community organizations and youth. According to Alaoui, with Morocco set to soon host the African Cup of Nations in 2025 and co-host the 2030 World Cup with Spain and Portugal, the country is thus poised to welcome all kinds of new economic, cultural, and sporting opportunities, and she believes that her enterprise is well-positioned to take advantage of this momentum.

Related: A Decade In Review: Maha Abouelenein, Founder And CEO, Digital And Savvy

Soukaina Rachidi Alaoui, Founder, RisalatComm Source: RisalatComm

"As Morocco's popularity as a tourist and investment destination grows, I believe that the multilingual services we provide at RisalatComm will become essential to individuals and organizations who want to contribute to and benefit from the boom that the Kingdom is experiencing," Alaoui notes. "Having said that, I'm also very keen on making sure that everyone can reap the benefits of Morocco's current and future growth. In fact, RisalatComm hopes to promote more inclusive development in Morocco by providing innovative and relevant capacity-building programs for youth, women, cooperatives, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and other deserving groups. Not only does RisalatComm aim to make high-quality, bespoke communication, design, project management, and capacity-building services accessible to all, but it also aims to make empowering Moroccan communities easier by providing individuals and organizations who are interested in funding such efforts with a wide range of capacity-building programs at different price points. Whether you're a successful freelancer, a medium-sized plumbing company, or a big multinational, RisalatComm believes that anybody who wants to contribute to building a better Morocco for all should have the opportunity to do so."

Alaoui is clearly dreaming big when it comes to RisalatComm- however, impact is the name of the game for this writer-turned-entrepreneur. "In the next 10 years, I want to see branches of RisalatComm open all over Morocco and North Africa," she declares. "In the next 20, I would like to see branches of RisalatComm open across the Middle East and the rest of the African continent. But even if that doesn't happen, I hope I can inspire more people to launch impact-driven businesses. In a world that is suffering from the negative impacts of climate change and other profound global political and socio-economic shifts, we don't need more businesses that are driven by an insatiable need for money and power. We need businesses that are value-driven. We need business leaders and employees who put the well-being of our planet and our communities at the core of what they do. If I can inspire just a handful of people to make social impact a part of the DNA of their businesses, then I will consider myself, and RisalatComm, successful."

Hindisight is 20/20: Then-Versus-Now With Soukaina Rachidi Alaoui
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?

"One of the biggest challenges that I've faced over the past 10 years may seem mundane on the surface; however, it was precisely the pedestrian nature of the beast that made it so destructive. What challenge could be mundane and destructive at the same time, you're probably wondering. Well, it's more common than you think, and most people aren't even aware that they're struggling with it. What is it? Perfectionism.

Honestly, perfectionism has probably been the root cause of most of the burnout, insomnia, anxiety, self-doubt, and self-flagellation that I have struggled with over the years. That dogged desire to make sure that everything is 'just so' is so draining, and if you're not careful, it becomes a merciless slave master that would have you genuinely believe that nothing you do is ever 'good enough.' It also distracts you from the important things in life, and it robs you of the learning opportunities that can only come from venturing outside of your comfort zone.

In retrospect, I feel like I could have done so much more in the past 10 years if I had allowed myself to act without needing everything to be 'perfect,' or knowing exactly what was going to happen at any given moment. While I don't want to undermine all of the great things that I've been able to achieve over the past several years, I would be lying if I said that fighting my perfectionist urges to do so didn't take a toll on my mental health at times. Learning how to navigate perfectionism hasn't been easy, and some days, I'm not sure if I've learned anything at all. But I have learned that the first step to dealing with it is to accept that most things are out of our control. The truth of the matter is, that nobody really knows what's going to happen, ever. Living through a global pandemic and the aftermath of the 7.0-magnitude earthquake that struck Morocco on September 8, 2023, only served to prove that point unequivocally. Even though most of us have been taught that we should only act when we are 'certain,' I have learned over time that true certainty is rare.

Most of the time, our decisions are driven by the desire to please others, or to protect ourselves from some imagined future failure or harm. When the truth is, most days, the best we can do is make a calculated guess, and pray for the wisdom to be able to 'recalculate' when the time is right. If I could go back 10 years, I would tell myself to not worry about being 'perfect,' or doing things 'perfectly.' I would tell myself to eat properly, sleep more, exercise, and enjoy the company of my friends as much as possible, because deadlines come and go, but time and health don't come back. Reflecting on the past 20 years, I realize that some of the best choices I ever made were made when I decided to tackle life with reckless abandon, and much to my perfectionism's chagrin, you can't do that without things getting a little messy or unpredictable.

While perfectionism has often policed my path, I am grateful that I have always had a very strong intuition and internal voice that have consistently rebelled against it. It was that voice that urged me to keep speaking my truth, even though it felt like nobody was listening sometimes. It was that voice that urged me to keep writing, even though it wasn't always financially rewarding. It was that voice that urged me to move back to Morocco after spending a lifetime abroad, so I could serve Moroccan youth and communities.

Alhamdulillah, I don't regret any of these decisions, I only regret that I questioned them so much that I made myself miserable in the process. Like I said before, true certainty is rare, but I have always known that I needed to live in my truth, honor my gifts, and serve my community, and after a very long journey with many twists and turns, my unshakeable commitment to these three principles has led me to launch my venture now."

Related: A Decade In Review: Iman Ben Chaibah, Founder, Sail Publishing

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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