Kawthar Bin Sulayem, at the age of 31 is the proud owner of KBS Communications; a successful, specialised PR & Communications agency based in Abu Dhabi, which also operates throughout the region and internationally. Driven by a strong desire to break stereotypes and to forge her own destiny as a self-made entrepreneur, she stepped away from a secure position at a prestigious government agency and rose to the occasion of realizing her dreams.
As a Media graduate of New York University, she possesses the accreditation; requisite experience and skill set, to lead her company to even greater success.
Kawthar gives Teach UAE Magazine some insight on her journey and she shares with us how she is breaking down walls in the Media industry as a successful female, Emirati entrepreneur.
Who’s your favourite teacher and why?
My favourite teacher was my science teacher, Mr. Adel. I loved his classes. They were always fun. We spent most of the time at the lab and he always kept us active and focused on learning. He wasn’t just a teacher. He was more like a parent because of his attitude towards his students. He treated us with respect and as if we were adults. This made us respect each other’s ideas and intellectual abilities in solving issues. I love practical learning and self-learning as well. We are still in touch. He still teaches now and I always ask younger students in my family about him. He’s still the same teacher that I had.
What is your source of personal motivation?
I grew up in a family of self-motivators, especially being surrounded by
the family business everyday. I love challenges and always look for ways to achieve and contribute to my country. The latter was a mandate personally given to me by HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid. He’s my guiding light and inspiration.
What made you decide to pursue business endeavours?
As an Emirati with experience working in government and private organisations, i dealt with many different local and international PR agencies. Despite their reputations, they always faced challenges in understanding the local market and this affected the bottom-line delivery. With this understanding, I saw an opportunity to start my own agency to fill the void in the market. Added to that, I want to encourage fellow Emiratis to become entrepreneurs and explore the private sector, especially in Media & PR, so that they can also become job creators.
What was the first reaction from your family when you decided to venture into business?
As a business oriented family, they encouraged me to follow my gut feeling. However, they made it clear that I was giving up a very comfortable government job to pursue my passion and that I needed to be prepared for the challenges. I gave up the reputation associated with a senior position in a very esteemed government office, not to mention the secured income. I wanted to build something of my own and leave a legacy behind.
How much risk-taking is involved in being an entrepreneur?
A lot of risk is involved in being an entrepreneur, you have to be sharp, committed and driven each and every day. Challenges continually present themselves, so I have to constantly reaffirm myself to stay positive and keep running. It is a lot like an endurance race, you need to continually pace yourself to reach the finish line.
When did you start your business as an Emirati woman?
I started in 2006 as a “one woman show” providing strategic consultancy. In 2010, I decided to quit my job and focus on building my company. I now have a very skilled and diversified team in Abu Dhabi.
Did you have any support from local government, women business councils or associations that empower women?
I never accepted financial support. I wanted to build something of my own. I wanted to set an example that with enough hard work and determination one can organically develop a successful business without government assistance. I also wanted to change the stigma that comes with individuals who come from family business backgrounds. I wanted to start something from scratch by myself without support from anyone to prove a point that you don’t need to inherit a business; you can start your own.
How do you manage your professional and personal time?
In the beginning it was a bit challenging. now that we are more established, I make work and life balance a priority. Being a business owner is completely different from being an employee. I have my business, so that I can have a personal life that suites me best, not the other way around. Many people start businesses because they want to be business owners. I want to be an entrepreneur who is actively involved in every aspect of my business. There was a time when I was the CEO, Account Manager, and Office Girl. I’m proud of that!
How do you effectively reach your target market?
My team and I invest a lot of time in this area, its very important that we continually strive to understand the developments throughout the market. This is especially important in a place like the UAE, where we see big changes everyday. We are very involved with the community, business and social activities so we can keep ahead of the developments and find unique opportunities.
What expansion model have you adopted to extend the brand’s presence?
We work with quite a number of government and semi-government bodies, while our private players include companies with an established level of success that are looking for the same quality of senior communication that a large agency would offer but with more personalised service and competitive rates. We have experienced strategists and a talented bunch of taskmasters. We liaise with half-a- dozen associates who work with us at any given time. Our flexible team model works well. We’ve got bench strength to work on larger and more complex projects, while keeping things simple and streamlined. We will continue to focus on our team model for the next five years. our goal is to expand our offices in some of the other GCC and European countries over the next 10 years.
Share with us a major business goal.
We are in a good position and we’re growing at a fast rate. My philosophy has always been to pursue one’s passion, be brilliant at what one does as an agency and profits will follow. With our agency’s work philosophy, our aim is to be one of the most distinguished SMEs in the Pr & Communications sector of the region, continually contributing to future development of the UAE and its people.
What is the best advice that you’ve received?
The best advice I received was from my late father. He used to say, choose your friends and business partners carefully. It’s not about how long you know them but how well you know them.
How do you relax?
Recently, a very close friend introduced me to Transcendental Meditation. I didn’t believe in it at first, but now I can’t stop. I do it twice daily for 15 minutes. It relaxes me and makes me more focused.
Share one of your main achievements.
I would say my best achievement to date in terms of business was working on developing the concept for Fashion Fever Grand Prix. I have been working on this for the past 3 years. We recently hosted the second edition of this (copyrighted) event in Abu Dhabi. Fashion Fever Grand Prix is the only by invitation red carpet fashion show in Abu Dhabi.