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Amira Azzouz: An entrepreneur wandering between telecommunications, fashion and travel

6 years 7 months ago

As a student in the German University in Cairo, Amira Azzouz seemed to take steady steps towards her pretty clear plan: finish her degree in telecommunications and join her family business. Azzouz’s steps, however, took her to a different destination. By the time of her graduation, she had launched her own company, Fustany, a fashion and lifestyle portal for Middle Eastern women.

Now, five years later, Azzouz recalls the highlights of her experience in a conversation with EgyptInnovate.

“My graduation project was about elevators, I was going to be an Engineer and I had no plans to become otherwise,” Azzouz explains. The plan was disrupted when the senior student got a freelance job as an editor for a lifestyle magazine based in London. “I discovered my passion,” she said. “The magazine was a bit limiting- they were a bit old school. I decided to start my own portal.”

In September 2009, Azzouz launched Fustany on her own. The idea for Fustany was originally creating a “support system” for Arab fashion designers, but the bilingual platform developed over the years to include content that “empowers women to live a life that is full of creativity,” Azzouz explains. “Fustany covers everything that can be important to the Arab women. We feature content she can relate to.”

The personal journey

For most Egyptian families, becoming an Engineer is something they look up to. But was it easy for Azzouz to give it up? Maybe. How did she take the leap? She followed her gut feeling. “I love taking risks. If I feel certain about something, I just do it and then figure the rest out,” she said. But the decision of becoming an entrepreneur isn’t the kind of news parents usually want to hear. “My parents were a bit worried. They questioned many things,” she continued. “How are you going to run the company? How are you going to get the money?” she quotes her parents.

Most of her friends and family did not get her idea either, but now they see her differently. “My parents saw how responsible I am and how I managed to deal with the hard times I experienced with my business. My father sometimes takes my advice even in business,” she said. “My friends have always seen the hipster in me,” she continued.

Keeping the balance between work and social life isn’t an easy task, but Azzouz says that she managed, over the time, to acquire such skill. “I work more than the average person, but I take time off, see friends and go on vacations. I need to keep my balance so I can work and stay creative.”

Azzouz learnt more than a way to keep her balance. 

“I used to have no patience. Work has taught me that we work and put efforts, but never expect instant results,” she said. She now believes that “change is the only thing that is constant.”

“Sometimes you are on the top of the world and sometimes you are not. You need to learn how to deal with it,” she explains. In a field where men dominate the scene, Azzouz does not think that being a woman makes much difference in her career. “It neither worked in my favor or against it,” she said. “I think women are very persistent, though.”

The fact that there are not many women entrepreneurs in Egypt motivates people to support the ones who try to do something, she said.

No place for worries and regrets

Coming from a telecommunications background, Azzouz says she had to learn “everything as she went.” Marketing, finances are examples of topics that were not her cup of tea, but now she can actually help other people who are struggling with them.

“If I had a chance to start over, I would have learnt certain skills that would have helped me achieve what I did but in a shorter time,” she said. “There is a certain amount of knowledge that can reduce the time of trial and error.” To Azzouz, worrying is a “waste of time.” She learnt this after sleepless nights that took her nowhere. “I exert all the possible effort, and God makes it happen.”

Dreams and aspirations

Currently working on a sister project of Fustany, as she reveals to EgyptInnovate, Azzouz thinks exploring new areas is exciting but challenging. “The new platform will hopefully enable women to interact.” But the young entrepreneur’s aspirations go far beyond launching her second platform. “I hope someday Fustany becomes a fashion empire for Arab women,” she said. “Whenever someone thinks about Middle Eastern fashion, I want them to think of Fustany.”

The hopes of expanding her business are mixed with the hopes of getting it acquired. “I would like to go help my family in their business, and start two NGOs: One to help children with cancer and another for dogs.”

Azzouz hopes she can travel the world one day with her family.

“To name a few cities, I want to visit Aswan, Santorini, Venice, San Fransisco and Amman.” Yet Azzouz thinks she won’t ever leave Fustany if she was offered more money somewhere else.

“I am not doing it for the money, it’s my passion,” she said. “If I sold it just for the money, then the passion is not strong enough to begin with.” Despite all her energy and passion towards Fustany, Azzouz thinks that any aspiring entrepreneur will “have a really hard time.”

“They need to know what they will be going against. It’s not an easy ride- it’s the most challenging and the most exciting,” she said. “It’s worth it.”


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