Stephanie, 32, Lebanon

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What is your story of strength?

I’m an entrepreneur and I don’t know what that means to everyone else but for me, I come up with these ideas that will make something better or easier or more enjoyable and I make them happen. I couldn’t do the 9 to 5. I found it really difficult and I didn’t feel that I could actually be whoever it is that I’m supposed to be or whoever it is that I am. So instead, I do apps. I’m also in F&B, aesthetics, and medical equipment…just a little bit of everything. The problem with that however, is that I have GAD, which is Generalised Anxiety Disorder, so I have a very severe level of anxiety. I think when you look at people with anxiety problems, routine is very important to them because its makes them feel safe and secure, things make sense with routine and they know their daily schedule. Being an entrepreneur doesn’t really work with anxiety at all. My projects are all start-ups and it’s very stressful. My partner and I don’t have investors, we are funding it all ourselves. So I think that would be my story of strength. It’s managing these two things that are both such big parts of me: my entrepreneurial spirit and my anxiety, which is a huge part of me. I have been managing both however over the years. We started with one app, now we have five. The app world is so fast paced but we have had so much recognition, I’ve got to travel to so many different places, invited to speak at conferences and participated in competitions (which gives me serious anxiety!) but its been going well.

Can you tell me about a woman in your life that embodies strength?

This is probably cliché but it would have to be my mum! She is honestly awesome, not only is she a strong lady but she has raised three very strong ladies. She is very inspiring to me personally and I’m sure for my sisters as well. My parents are divorced and I have a lovely dad but my mum is really someone who looks things straight in the eye. As a person with anxiety I don’t always want to do that, I’m too scared. I keep doubting and questioning things, but her attitude is always, “this is how it is and this is how we deal with it.” As a women, I admire that kind of strength, of looking something in the eye, of seeing that lion in front of you and still moving forward. As a person with anxiety, however, I admire it even more since ninety percent of the time, I just want to hide. I feel if I had had any other mum in the world, as much as I may have been loved, my anxiety would have controlled me a lot more. Having this mum, that has the opposite of anxiety, I think has made me be a bit better than how I was born.

Can you tell me about a time you failed or disappointed yourself?

Entrepreneurship started for me when my sisters and I first set up a company together. Eventually we all ended up going down different career/life paths and I was the only one that continued with start-ups. In 2008, however, when we were still working together, the crisis hit and we had to shut down. It was very hard for me to understand that this was something that was happening all over the world and that so many different people were affected. It wasn’t personal but I just didn’t buy it. I saw that some people were surviving, they were few and far between, but those were the people I was measuring myself against. Even now, having a start up and entering competitions that I don’t win, I take it very personally. I really feel like it is in my hands. When we did a big competition a while back at a technology focused conference, it was really tough for me. I was chosen to speak even though I’m not really a “techie.” My partner is into the tech side of things but is not good with public speaking and since I have so much experience in acting and directing, I thought I could do it. I learnt that being a great speaker isn’t going to get you through things when you are talking tech. We didn’t win and I knew that was down to me. It was down to me thinking that I could talk my way through it. I take these things very personally. I’ve definitely learned since then but if tomorrow I spoke at a conference about one of our apps, and gave the best speech and we didn’t win, I would still find a reason why it was my fault.

How can women better support each other?

Women need to get out of each other’s way. I think its getting better but only on the surface. In the past few years, everything around has become about female empowerment. I’m part of many groups and committees and I’m often asked to speak at conferences. For example, I have a trip coming up soon in Beirut to talk about women in business. I’ve done quite a few of these but I did one recently, where it was me and three other ladies whose business focus was more fashion oriented. I immediately stood out (I can barely get myself dressed!). On the surface, it was very much about females joining together but in the discussions, everyone wanted to talk louder than the other person, or talk more, or just be better than the other woman. As women we are still competing a lot with each other, even though in this case for example, we were in completely different markets. There was no reason for us to be competing. I think its after so many years of us firstly, trying to prove that we are just as good as men and now trying to prove that we are “the best” woman. I think women could absolutely rule the world if we would get out of each other’s way. We are not necessarily putting each other down, but we are not lifting each other up. I think just genuinely supporting one another on a deeper level. Not surface level.

 

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