- author: Sonny Sangha
From Singing to CEO: Stephanie Farah's Entrepreneurial Journey
Welcome back to another episode of The Reactive Entrepreneur, the show where we combine the tech world with the business world in the hopes to help you achieve success. Today's guest is somebody I really wanted to bring on for quite a while, she is a singer, CEO, and founder of a huge PR agency in Dubai. Landing some of the biggest clients one can imagine, so I'm really excited to bring her on today. Welcome, Steph, how are you doing?
- Steph introduces herself:
So you mentioned singer, what kind of take back a step? Prior to my entrepreneurial journey, I was building a career in singing, so that was kind of a side that not many people know about. Okay, so I am first and foremost a singer. Currently, I am the founder and CEO of Empire Communications, which is a leading public relations and marketing agency out here in Dubai.
- Six years in the market:
We're currently in the market for six years now, crazy. It's weird to say that. Yeah, it was just yesterday that I was like two years in business. And your story with that six years has been nuts, so we're gonna cover that.
- Stephanie's high school dream:
Stephanie Farah, in high school, your dream was to initially go into a singing career, and where did that lead? Because I think it all stems from this, and then it kind of built up to where you are. Absolutely, okay. So back in high school, I was exploring my singing side. I started creating a bunch of covers of like hits online, and then that kind of, a few of them went viral on Facebook. They got picked up by a renowned DJs locally, and with those guys, I started becoming familiar with the entire space. Started to jump on some songs with them.
- Stephanie's achievements in singing:
She did a song with Carl wolf at some time; Snoop Dogg took my segment. I was in a music video with Three Six Mafia and Carl Wolff. She opened up for Flo Rida, so she was this opening act, an opening singer for his event out here; it's huge. That was pretty cool.
- Decision to pursue a degree in Communication:
Stephanie wasn't sure if she actually wanted to pursue a career in music, where number one, it's extremely competitive, and that's not to say that she didn't want to compete; it's just she realized that she still has to focus on other skill sets because she has so much more to offer. So she pursued a degree in communication.
- Working for a PR agency in Dubai:
Stephanie came back to Dubai and started working for a PR agency out here and this is where it kinda started. She was working for a little small boutique agency out here at the time, and then a friend of hers was like, "Steph, The Voice is coming out to the Middle East, do you want to audition?" She was like, "Why not?" So she submitted a video, and she got a call.
- Participating in The Voice:
She made it through the first round, and they wanted to have her audition live in front of the judges. She did her little performance there, and then she got a call again saying she made it to the next round. There was another round of audition, and then she made it to the final round where they flew everybody out to Lebanon.
- Stephanie's performance:
During her performance, she was one of the only English singers at the time amongst the sea of everybody else singing Arabic. And they put her in like a curtain because also she looked very different from everybody else, and she spoke English. So they put her in this round curtain during her performance. And when she was done singing, the curtain dropped, and the judges asked her to come down off stage. They all stood up and shook her hand, and the crowd went wild.
Stephanie's journey is a testament to the fact that success often comes from taking the road less traveled. From a career in singing to becoming the CEO of one of the top PR agencies in Dubai, Stephanie's entrepreneurial journey has been anything but ordinary.
The Journey to Entrepreneurship: From PR Agencies to Starting a Business
After gaining extensive experience working for various PR agencies and handling big accounts such as Ferrari Middle East, JW Marriott, and the Jamiro Group, Stephanie woke up one day feeling like there was more she could offer the world. Feeling young and full of energy, she knew that if she didn't take a leap of faith, she might never realize her full potential.
Learning the Ropes of PR
Stephanie's journey in the PR industry began after she had moved to Dubai and found a job in a PR agency. From there, she worked her way up and gained experience handling accounts for luxury hotels and restaurants, as well as high-end companies such as Harrods. She also learned the ropes of PR, which involves taking internal news from a company and crafting a high-level press release that can then be sent out to key media. The role of a PR agency is to build mass exposure, generate tons of organic news for a company, and help build its credibility.
Mentorship and Self-Learning
Stephanie attributes her success to those she worked with, from the mentors who guided her to the colleagues who worked alongside her. She gained valuable skills and resilience, which enabled her to master her craft and apply it to the real world. Her approach to life was always to "jump out the plane and figure out how to land on the way," something that proved beneficial throughout her career and personal life.
Taking a Chance on Entrepreneurship
Despite having a successful career in PR, Stephanie felt like there was something more that she could do. So, at the age of 25, she took a chance and started her own business. Her family wasn't a family of entrepreneurs, but Stephanie always knew that working for herself was the path she wanted to take.
Starting a Business Without a Safety Net
Starting a business can be a daunting experience, especially when it involves leaving a stable job. This was the situation faced by Stephanie, who decided to take the leap and start her own business when freelancing was not a mainstream career option.
Packing Up and Moving On
Stephanie's decision to leave her job sparked a realization that she had no choice but to move quickly. She packed up her things and set up her workspace in coffee shops around town, pretending to go to work every day so as not to raise her parents' suspicions.
Securing a Key Client
Stephanie's determination and ingenuity led her to an opportunity to secure a key client. She sent out a blast email to thousands of contacts, which resulted in three replies. One of the replies was from a prospective client who wanted to meet with her. Stephanie took the time to prepare and researched the industry, presenting herself as a company rather than a freelancer. Her professionalism paid off, and she was offered an account on the spot.
Leverage and Expansion
Stephanie's first account led to two more from the same client. Word-of-mouth recommendations led to an influx of inbound leads, and Stephanie was able to leverage her network to secure more accounts. She gradually hired freelance assistants to help manage the workload.
Coming Clean and Establishing the Company
Stephanie was hesitant to tell her parents about her new business. But eventually, she mustered the courage to come clean about what she had been doing for the past year. She even went as far as to secure a company license and frame it before approaching her parents.
Stephanie's dad was surprised but proud of his daughter's accomplishments. With the financial assistance of her sister, Stephanie was able to pay for the company license and start running it as a legitimate entity.
Scaling a Company: From Landing Clients to Sustainability
As entrepreneurs and business owners, landing clients is one of the most exciting moments - it's the first sign of success. However, the real challenge comes with scaling the company and sustaining its growth. In this article, we'll dive into the process of scaling and sustaining a company, with personal experiences and tips from successful entrepreneurs.
Landing Clients: Word-of-Mouth and Going Above and Beyond
For many entrepreneurs, landing clients is a combination of networking, advertising, and referrals. However, what truly sets successful entrepreneurs apart is their ability to go above and beyond for their clients. Stephanie, the founder of Empire Communications, explains that she gained clients like Sheraton Grand Hotel and Novikov primarily through word-of-mouth. However, what set her apart was her dedication to making sure her clients succeed because their success meant her success.
Stephanie's dedication to her clients paid off as her company gained attention in the industry and attracted more clients. From Seven Sisters antique bar to Dow South, Empire Communications landed a mix of big names and worked hard to build them up. Stephanie also had the opportunity to work on the PR side of Luv Entertainment, one of the biggest entertainment hubs in Dubai.
Scaling Up: Balancing Reinvestment and Growth
Scaling up a company is an exciting and scary process because it involves risks and costs. One of the biggest challenges for entrepreneurs is balancing the reinvestment back into the company and acquiring new clients to fund the growth. Stephanie explains that she relies on a habit her father taught her: save for a rainy day. She made sure to save at least 20,000 AED every single month to have a backup fund for unexpected situations. This money wouldn't count towards visas or staff salaries but would be used in emergencies like COVID-19. This habit helped Stephanie to sustain her company and to keep her team, even during the pandemic.
Sustainability: Thriving Through Tough Times
Sustaining a company can be challenging, especially during tough economic times like COVID-19. However, successful entrepreneurs know that sustainability comes from planning ahead and having backup plans. Stephanie's habit of saving for a rainy day paid off as she was able to sustain her company during the pandemic without laying off any staff members. She also stresses the importance of always looking for ways to innovate and improve the company to stay ahead of the competition.
Building Financial Stability in Business: Tips from a Successful Entrepreneur
As an entrepreneur, building financial stability in your business can be a challenging and stressful task, especially during tough economic times. The global pandemic has highlighted the importance of having a solid financial plan to ensure business survival. In this article, we will take insights from Stephanie, a successful entrepreneur, to gain tips on building financial stability in your business.
Hustle While Building
Stephanie's journey to success started with a simple principle; she needed to make money to build her dream business. Hence, she worked tirelessly, taking on different clients, including those who could not pay on time. She narrated a story of how she hustled to sell ten washing machines and refrigerators to a company in need of cash. She rented a storage unit and drove down every day to sell the "second-hand" equipment.
This principle of hustling while building is critical in building financial stability. As Stephanie stated, no one would rescue one from financial difficulties, and hence one needs to work hard to build a business that can be relied upon during tough times.
Diversify Your Client Base
Stephanie started with small accounts and gradually built up to managing large clients such as the Regis Move and Pick hotel chains. But, she never forgot her hustler's roots, and she always had a mixture of clients. This mixture enabled her to build a diversified client base, which mitigated risks during tough times. A business with a mix of clients has a higher chance of weathering financial storms as opposed to one that relies on one significant client.
Attracting High-Credit Clients
In the second year of her business, Stephanie was introduced to a member of the UAE's ruling family. Sheikh Salama bin Taza was to be her personal profile's PR, and she later gave her businesses to Stephanie's PR firm. Sheikh Salama paid her lump sums that enabled her to reinvest the money into her business and plan better for the future.
Attracting high-credit clients is critical in building financial stability. Such clients give you more cash flow, and you can use this money to strengthen your business. One can attract such clients by networking and aligning their business with high-powered individuals.
Smart Use of Money
Stephanie invested in a luxury restaurant as an investment partner. This investment allowed her to diversify and increase her sources of income. Investing in other businesses is a smart way to use your money to make more money.
Another smart way to use your money is to have a savings plan. Stephanie's father taught her to build something for herself. Building something for oneself means starting a savings plan, even if it is a small percentage of one's income. Such savings build up over time and provide a cushion during tough times.
Investing in Hospitality and Real Estate: A Journey of Growth and Learning
Investment opportunities come in many forms, and young entrepreneurs must decide which direction to take. They can either leverage their money to make more money or spend it all. Stephanie, a successful entrepreneur, invested in hospitality and real estate, and her journey has been a learning experience.
Investing in Hospitality
Stephanie's first significant investment was in a restaurant. She became an investment partner in Social District, located on the Palm. Her partner, Nahil, approached her to invest in his new hospitality company called Limestone Lab. The partnership resulted in the opening of Social District, which became quite popular on the Palm. However, with Nahil's latest notice to all tenants, including the restaurant, to vacate after a year, Stephanie had to face a new hurdle in her investment journey.
Investing in Real Estate
Stephanie's investment journey did not stop with hospitality. She moved into real estate, starting with buying land in Bali and building a villa. Although she experienced some difficulties with the regulations in a third-world country, Stephanie remains positive about her investment in Bali. Her dream is to enjoy the villa with her family and work remotely from there. Stephanie's investment journey in real estate continues with renovating her first home, and she has plans to sell it for a good profit.
Overcoming Imposter Syndrome
As an entrepreneur with a team of 15, Stephanie admits that imposter syndrome is part of her journey. Imposter syndrome is the feeling of self-doubt or inadequacy, despite evident success. Stephanie acknowledges that imposter syndrome humbles her and keeps her grounded. She focuses on staying humble and uses driving around and singing as a form of release.
Building a Successful Business: Insights from Steph
Steph, the founder of a successful marketing agency, shares her journey and insights on how to build and maintain a thriving business in a rapidly evolving industry. Here are some key takeaways from her experience:
Support and Hard Work
As Steph began building her business, she often worked long hours and weekends to ensure its success. However, having a supportive partner, who eventually became her business partner, as well as a source of emotional release, was invaluable. He understood her daily struggles and was one of her outlets. Support, whether from a partner or a mentor, can be a crucial factor in building and maintaining a successful business.
Expansion and Control
Steph's business has been rapidly expanding, with growing interest and influx of clients from Saudi Arabia. While she sees herself setting up shop there eventually, she values a strategic approach to scaling her business gradually. Steph emphasizes the importance of maintaining control of her business, even as it grows. She is not driven by the desire to be the biggest agency in the field, instead, she focuses on scaling organically and avoiding a race towards expansion.
Character over Experience
Steph carefully selects members of her team, ensuring that they not only possess the necessary experience but also have the right character. She values individuals who are hard-working, funny, and lovely, while admitting that there is no such thing as perfection in any team or workplace. Keeping a positive atmosphere and actively addressing any negative vibes between team members is crucial in creating a supportive workplace culture.
Advice for Those Who Want to Start a Company
Starting a business is not an easy feat. Many people may feel uncertain or not expert enough to take the leap. However, cancelling out negative thoughts and people is essential to pursue your dreams. While it may seem cliche, taking things day by day is critical to avoid feeling overwhelmed and anxious.
Additional advice for those who want to start a company includes:
Follow your passion: Pick a niche that you're passionate about because you will be able to maintain your motivation and enthusiasm for the business if you love what you do.
Stay focused: Avoid multitasking and stay focused on your primary business goal. You can always expand your business later on; however, your focus should be on creating a strong foundation in the beginning stages.
Build a support system: Surround yourself with like-minded people who are driven and have a similar goal to yours. This support system will keep you motivated and help you remain accountable for your actions.
Keep learning: Continuously educate yourself about your industry, skills, and the latest trends because knowledge is power. Also, don't be afraid to learn from your mistakes and experience.
Take action: The only way to achieve your goals is by taking action. Even if you're not a hundred percent sure about something, still take the first step because doing something will always lead to something. So, keep taking baby steps.
Starting a company is a long journey, and it requires patience, persistence, and hard work. However, with the right mindset and attitude, success is achievable.
In summary, stephanie's journey to entrepreneurship began from humble beginnings. she worked for various pr agencies and got to handle big accounts, learning the ropes of pr and gaining valuable skills and resilience that she would apply to her career and personal life. despite having a successful career, the feeling that she could do more never left her. and so, at 25, she took a chance, started a business, and hasn't looked back since. her story serves as an inspiration to anyone who is thinking about taking a leap of faith and starting their own business.
Starting a business without a safety net is not for the faint of heart. however, stephanie's success story shows that with determination, resourcefulness, and hard work, anyone can turn their entrepreneurial dreams into a reality.
Scaling and sustaining a company is a challenging but rewarding journey for entrepreneurs. landing clients requires dedication and going above and beyond, while scaling up requires balancing reinvestment and growth. sustainability requires planning ahead and having backup plans. by applying these principles, entrepreneurs can scale and sustain their companies successfully.
Building financial stability in business requires a lot of hard work, smart use of money, and customer diversification. one must be a hustler in building their business, have a mixture of clients, attract high-credit clients, use money smartly through investment diversification, and have a personal savings plan. by implementing these tips, an entrepreneur can build a business that can weather tough financial times and provide long-term stability.
Stephanie's investment journey is a testament to young entrepreneurs that investment opportunities come in many forms. whether it's in the hospitality industry or real estate, each investment has its risks and rewards. stephanie's journey has also taught her to overcome imposter syndrome and remain humble. as young entrepreneurs, learning from stephanie's investment journey and being grounded will help pave the way for success.
Building a successful business takes time, dedication, and support. setting realistic goals and gradually scaling organically can ultimately lead to a thriving business. additionally, valuing character over experience and creating a positive atmosphere can lead to a supportive and productive workplace environment. steph's insights and experiences provide a valuable perspective for anyone looking to build and maintain a successful business.
In conclusion, starting a company can be a daunting task, but the key is to stay focused and driven, build a support system, and take action. Following the advice mentioned, you can set yourself up for success. Remember, there will be challenges along the way, but don't get discouraged. Stay motivated, and keep working towards your goal.