Society Stars Making Waves in Business Read the Fascinating Stories of 8 Society Successes in Our December Cover Story

Intelligent, charming, dedicated and tenacious, these individuals have been tried and tested every step of the way. Although it may seem that they were born on the path to success, they have actually had to step up and prove their worth at every turn. Through all the trials and tribulations they’ve faced, it was their passion and vision that kept them moving forward. These industry leaders have made it into the big leagues on their own merit.

NARDINE FARAG

TV PRESENTER & ACTRESS

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This is her third year with “ET bil Arabi”, and Nardine Farag is more active than ever.  With her constant travels, being a supermom and branching out into a new career, this successful woman seems to have it all figured out.  Her positive can-do attitude towards life appears to be the drive behind her success.

Farag got her start as a radio presenter for Nogoom FM, one of the top radio stations in the country.  She had no problem with working long hours and barely taking any days off.  To her, it was worth it.  As she notes, “Radio has this indescribable charm because people only get to know you and love you through your voice and words.  Social media wasn’t very widespread back then…so people had no idea what I looked like.” Sadly, she had to put her career on hold to raise her girls.

Balancing work and family remains the biggest challenge for Farag, but she has no regrets about the choices she’s made.  “I know that I may have given up a lot of opportunities that would’ve advanced my career, but I chose to be there for my family, and it was worth it,” she says.  Fortunately, once her kids were old enough, she got right back in the saddle and hosted a morning show on OTV.  This gave her the experience and confidence she needed to audition to host MBC Group’s production of “The Voice”, and even though she didn’t make the cut, she got a call-back to host “Arabs Got Talent Extra.”  Her outstanding work as a TV host is what prompted MBC to give her the opportunity to co-host “ET bil Arabi” and to work around her demanding schedule.  “Because the show was being recorded in Dubai, and my little girls lived here, MBC Group was gracious enough to accommodate me.  I fly out to Dubai every 2-3 weeks, and when I am here, I record segments for the show in a studio in Egyptian Media Production City,” she explains.

With her fast-paced life, it’s hard to imagine that Farag has time for anything else besides her job and her family.  Always one to shatter expectations, she managed to land an acting role, starring alongside Yousra in the Ramadan TV series, “Foq Mostawa El Shobohat” in 2016.  “Although I felt ready for an addition to my career, I was a bit intimidated and didn’t feel ready to venture into it, but Hani Khalifa, the director, convinced me to do it.  Acting is very stressful, and I used to cry almost every night, but the outcome was worth it,” she recalls.

Farag is also interested in sports.  She somehow manages to work out every day, even when she’s out of town.  She is quick to note, “I’m always trying different kinds of workouts and trying to change up my routine.  It gives me a lot of positive energy when I’m feeling down.” However hectic her life may be as she juggles her family, her career and her other interests, Farag wouldn’t have it any other way.

Watch Enigma’s Editor in Chief Yasmine Shihata get up close and personal with Nardine Farag, by asking the famous Enigma Questionnaire:

SHERIF ABOU TALEB

CEO OF STARLIGHT DEVELOPMENTS

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The dynamic Sherif Abou Taleb is a key player in the family business and has helped turn Katameya Heights Golf and Tennis Resort into the successful compound that it is today. He has since taken on numerous other projects and is certain that the best is yet to come. 

Armed with a degree in civil engineering, Abou Taleb began working on the development of Katameya Heights.  From there, he went on to develop Katameya Dunes and The Cove, a residential resort in Ras Al Khaimah, U.A.E. “The Cove was a huge undertaking and it was the first project I supervised on my own from start to finish.  Its success gave me a lot of confidence in my ability to venture out on my own,” he states.

Abou Taleb came back to Egypt to oversee the extension of Katameya Dunes, which involved the construction of office buildings, residential apartments and The Westin Cairo Golf Resort & Spa.  To facilitate the completion of the project, Abou Taleb established several other companies that provide interior design and building finishes services.

The next exciting venture for this energetic developer is Katameya Coast on Egypt’s North coast.  “I want to do something unique that has never been done before.  I want all residents to have a full view of the sea from their properties,” he explains.  Abou Taleb admits, however, that they face some challenges. “The problem is that there isn’t a proper infrastructure. There’s no downtown and no investment from the government.  To overcome that, we provide our own facilities,” he adds.

Even though so many of his acquaintances pressure him to get into politics because of his success, Abou Taleb prefers to stay away from the spotlight. “Once you become a public figure…you will, inevitably, become a topic of conversation… but I would love to work with the government to develop areas around the country,” he states.

In his free time, Abou Taleb tries to stay active.  “I joined the Heliopolis Master swimming team, after which we started training and winning championships.  I still compete to this day,” he says.  He remains focused and tries to perfect every aspect of his life.  His passion lies in “creating communities where people can truly enjoy their lives.”

Watch Enigma’s Editor in Chief Yasmine Shihata get up close and personal with Sherif Abou Taleb, by asking the famous Enigma Questionnaire:

SHAHD EL SADAT

CEO OF ALUTEC (SADAT GROUP)

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Shahd El Sadat has made it in the business world on her own merit, even if her success was in developing her family’s holding company, Sadat Group, which provides solutions in the industrial and renewable energy fields.

El Sadat is the eldest of her siblings, so it was only natural that she would take over many aspects of the family business.  “It was very overwhelming, especially because the revolution started soon after I had moved back to Egypt. My dad assigned me to one of our industrial companies. I was responsible for a factory, its workers and an engineering team when I didn’t have an engineering background. I felt like I had to step up and prove myself,” she recalls.

Her main work was in AluTec, a company that manufactures aluminium facades, such as windows and doors for buildings.  In a short period of time, she was able to revolutionise the way the company operated by focusing on the calibre of her employees.  “We travel abroad a lot, so we are up-to-date with the latest trends in design.  We are also the only company in this field in Egypt that has a research and development department.  I invest in my engineers and provide them with proper training.  As a result, I am able to enter the market on a commercial level and develop improved, competitive systems,” she emphasizes.

Perhaps it was this tenacity that landed her a spot in President El-Sisi’s business delegation to China in 2014.  Another thing she is very proud of is her company’s business development unit, through which the company engages in many forms of public-private partnerships, and acts as a consultant, investor or leader of the consortium.

Despite the distinctive progress that the company has made under her leadership, El Sadat faces several challenges that hinder her company’s performance.  “We have had to endure an unstable economy, and there was the currency problem.  We also have trouble attracting foreign companies because our investment laws aren’t very inviting.  But all that aside, I think the main problem we face is that we can’t find people who want to work and put in the time and proper effort,” she says.  To overcome this problem, El Sadat provides training twice a year for current and potential employees, free of charge.  She also sponsors a facade engineering diploma at the American University in Cairo.

El Sadat has certainly proven that she is much more than “just a girl who owns a family business.”  She has worked hard to earn her CEO title, the respect of her employees, and the trust of her stellar client list.  Going forward, she is determined to “keep going and growing, in spite what other people might think is enough.  I want to keep adding value to whatever I do.”

Watch Enigma’s Editor in Chief Yasmine Shihata get up close and personal with Shahd El Sadat, by asking the famous Enigma Questionnaire:

HASSAN MORSHEDY

CEO OF MEMAAR AL MORSHEDY

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Hassan Morshedy is a pioneer who was not afraid to take a chance when he assumed the helm of Memaar Al Morshedy, the real estate giant.  His obvious success in breaking new ground for his company has undoubtedly contributed to Morshedy’s self-confidence and established his reputation as an astute businessman.

Morshedy doesn’t seem to be interested in the spotlight; he is very low-key and is only concerned with improving the family business, Memaar Al Morshedy.  Once he became CEO, he took the company in a completely unexpected direction.  “I started to concentrate on middle-income housing and community housing.  This has been my main focus since the revolution in 2011.  I want to change the concept of middle-income housing and community housing by creating something that people would want.  That’s the bigger market segment anyway,” he explains.

To push his company over the top, he has partnered up with Philippe Starck and Marcel Wanders, designers who are renowned for their work on hotels around the world.  According to Morshedy, “we work with them and with upcoming local architects to develop very exciting products. Just because a house is affordable, it doesn’t mean it can’t look high-end if you have a good sense of design.”

While his company’s profits have been on a steady increase, Morshedy faces some challenges due to the instability of the currency.  He overcomes this problem with his analytical mind and unique foresight. “It’s not hard to maintain success if you always look around and see what’s happening in the industry.  Do your research.  Do something you are passionate about and figure out how you can stand out.  You don’t necessarily need to think out of the box, but just try to target a niche in your industry.  See what’s missing and try to figure out how to fill in the gaps,” he explains.

Morshedy also knows how to live it up during his time off work.  He loves to travel, especially to Athens, where he is also starting a business.  “It’s a beautiful city and it’s only an hour and a half away from here,” he exclaims.  “It has great weather, a vast history and amazing architecture.  I am there most of the time,” he adds.  Among his other passions are horseback riding and interior design.  

For the time being, Morshedy has no plans to expand his business beyond Greece because he finds that “in most European countries, and even in the U.S., there are too many rules and regulations.” He adds, “We’ve also considered Dubai and have worked in Ras Al Khaimah, but the demand is highest here in Egypt.  We are 100 million people and Cairo is very dense. However, I might consider Spain next.”

Watch Enigma’s Editor in Chief Yasmine Shihata get up close and personal with Hassan Morshedy, by asking the famous Enigma Questionnaire:

NANCY ALI HASSAN

FOUNDER & CEO OF HEDEYA

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Nancy Ali Hassan is the unstoppable force behind Hedeya, one of the largest and most popular children’s shops in Egypt. With grit and tenacity, Hassan singlehandedly started her business from scratch, taking in stride the challenges that came her way. Today, she has a slew of shops that provide everything a mother could need for her children.

Hassan started her career as a marketing and PR manager at El Nada Hospital, her family’s business. On the job, she discovered that she had a knack for buying and selling, and a passion for being in charge. She also saw a business opportunity. “I decided to make use of the fact that El Nada Hospital is a maternity hospital and that all the patients are women by opening up a shop to sell baby supplies to them. I started with a 2m x 3m shop in 2007. The business quickly developed from there,” she says.

With an unwavering belief in the shop’s potential, Hassan quickly put together a comprehensive catalogue of products and services, and sought out sponsors. She decided to name the store Hedeya, which translates to “gift” in English, because she “started with a catalogue and all children’s shops names were in English at the time, so having it in Arabic made it stand out. The catalogue was a gift because it was full of products and articles, and babies are gifts to their mothers.”

The journey was very tough for Hassan in the beginning, as she ran the operation on her own for the first couple of years, even making the deliveries herself at times. Currently, Hedeya has branches in Dokki, Heliopolis, 6th of October City, Katameya Heights, Alexandria, a standalone building in New Cairo and a new branch in Maadi set to open soon.

Hassan’s business acumen and decision-making process is unique. “I always trust my instincts. I make a spur-of-the-moment decision followed by immediate action. This is the only way to get things done here; you must be persistent. Once I set my goal, I become totally devoted and work 18-hour days. I can do this because I love my work deeply, so I never delegate any tasks to anyone and I am always involved in every detail,” she emphasizes.

Wandering around any of her stores, you can see the effort exerted in every detail. Despite the challenges she faces due to the dollar crisis and the fact that children’s toys have a lot of customs and taxes imposed on them, Hassan is determined to use the situation to her advantage. “To counteract the problem with imports that the country is facing, we have started to manufacture breastfeeding pillows, nursing covers, beddings, baby wraps and baby carriers to be sold at all Hedeya shops and to be exported and distributed worldwide,” she states.

This business woman is hard to keep up with because, as she puts it, “I have to stay one step ahead of the competition. I don’t ever want to slow down because it’s my dream to make an Egyptian brand go international.”

Watch Enigma’s Editor in Chief Yasmine Shihata get up close and personal with Nancy Ali Hassan, by asking the famous Enigma Questionnaire:

AHMED NOUR

CEO OF NOURPACK GROUP

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Ahmed Nour has always had a head for business. At a relatively young age, he was given the reins of his family’s company.  Although he doesn’t take anything for granted, his successful experience and unique insight have set him on the path to a bright future.  

As soon as he graduated from the London School of Business and Finance, Nour moved to California where he started his own company. “I came up with the idea for PitchChat LLC, which is an online platform that connects investors to potential entrepreneurs based on their shared interests and backgrounds, eliminating bias against individuals.  This brought people closer,” he proudly recalls.  The company was over budget and ended up selling their algorithm for a huge profit.  Nour says he found success at such a young age by “staying away from the noise, which is anything that distracts you from adding value to your life and improving yourself. It also means focusing on having real friends who offer you constructive criticism and push you to achieve more.”

As soon as Nour moved back to Egypt, he started a company that imports and sells printing and packaging machinery to local markets.  However, when his dad passed away, he took over the family company, NourPack Group for printing and packaging solutions, and merged it with his own.  This strategic move would later prove to be very successful.  “I had to modernize a lot of company procedures based on my education and experience.  We invested in marketing and made sure we had a strong online presence. It worked out very well,” he states.  Although being CEO of such a well-established company can be quite overwhelming, Nour still plans to take his business a step further by opening up a new factory for a new type of packaging, using new materials.  With obvious enthusiasm, Nour acknowledges, “It’s a huge risk, but I think it will pay off because this is a great time to invest in Egypt. Our focus will be on international markets, as well as local markets.”

When he is not working, Nour makes it a point to engage in activities that contribute to society, such as working with Rotary International, one of the largest charity organisations in the world.  And when he decides to live on the edge, he goes for a ride on his motorcycle.  In fact, he hopes to open “a fully-fledged body shop for car and bike maintenance and upgrades.  Maybe even a motorcycle circuit or a go-kart track.  I would like, not only to run this business, but also to work with my hands.”

One thing that stands out about Nour is his insistence on paving his own unconventional path in life. “I plan on retiring in my 40s and traveling the world on my own to explore as much as I can and familiarize myself with different cultures. I want to be free and become more spiritual,” he emphasizes.

Watch Enigma’s Editor in Chief Yasmine Shihata get up close and personal with Ahmed Nour, by asking the famous Enigma Questionnaire:

BAKR ABDEL-WAHAB

MANAGING DIRECTOR OF EFG HERMES PRIVATE EQUITY

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As the managing director and head of infrastructure at EFG Hermes Private Equity, with a focus on leading energy investments in MENA and Europe via the Vortex Energy platform, Abdel-Wahab is heading up some very exciting ventures around the world. With business savvy and an unwavering focus on the future, he is constantly improving and expanding the reach of renewable energy.

Armed with a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in engineering from the University of Leeds in the U.K., Abdel-Wahab took a job in London as a civil and an environmental engineer, perhaps to follow in his family’s footsteps, who are heavily involved in the real estate and civil engineering industry.  However, his own career path was far from conventional.  After going back to university to earn a master’s degree in business from Imperial College London, he decided to focus on the financial side of environmental and civil engineering.  Ten years later, his outstanding work caught the attention of EFG Hermes, a leading investment bank in the MENA region.

Even though he currently works in Egypt, Abdel-Wahab mostly oversees investments abroad. This did help him during the upheaval of the Egyptian revolution in 2011, where, as he recalls, “most companies, including EFG, were affected by the revolution, but the fund I was responsible for wasn’t because most of its equity available for investment was in euros, with a focus on projects in the region. We had around $400 million to invest in many areas in the Middle East, including Egypt.”

As head of infrastructure and energy at EFG Hermes Private Equity, Abdel-Wahab‘s main goal is to invest in renewable energy projects and companies, and to return a profit to the investors. Alongside a strong investment team, he has taken the initiative to start Vortex Energy, a platform company that invests in the European renewable energy sector. The aim was to utilise Vortex to invest Middle Eastern funds in Europe with EFG Hermes Private Equity acting as the investment manager. “It was a hard sell to convince regional institutions to invest in renewable energy in Europe, but we were able to do it,” he states.  In addition, he led a $170 million acquisition of a 49% stake in Energias de Portugal Renováveis (EDPR) France, a company that owns and operates 33 windfarms across France. “We’ve experienced tremendous success as a result of this exciting first deal and decided to continue to look for investment opportunities in Europe. This summer, we were able to make our second investment amounting to $550 million by acquiring a stake of a 664MW pan-European portfolio of operational wind farms based in Spain, Portugal, Belgium and France,” he adds.

Abdel-Wahab credits his tremendous success to his philosophy, which as he explains, is “improving personal traits. Don’t just work hard, work smart. I always set a target and measure my performance based on achieving it.”

When he does get a bit of free time to unwind, he chooses to “spend weekends in El Gouna with my son just relaxing on the beach and going out to sea.”

Watch Enigma’s Editor in Chief Yasmine Shihata get up close and personal with Bakr Abdel-Wahab, by asking the famous Enigma Questionnaire:

YASMINE YEYA

BRIDAL DESIGNER & FOUNDER OF MAISON YEYA

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Yasmine Yeya’s name has become synonymous with the most stunning wedding gowns in Egypt.  A few years ago, Yeya seemed to have suddenly appeared on the bridal design scene and almost immediately risen to the top with her amazingly flattering wedding gowns.

Although she started out working in advertising, Yeya has always had a passion for fashion design. She would make dresses that were admired by her peers. “A friend of mine asked me for a dress and word spread quickly and here I am. I never studied design, I learned by doing,” she recalls.

Yeya’s designs have all been bridal gowns so far, and that’s been a deliberate choice of hers. “My twins were babies at the time and following up on many small projects was a bit difficult.  With bridal, you have more time and you are contributing to something meaningful. There’s so much happiness and pleasure involved in designing wedding gowns. The emotional component makes my job very rewarding,” she explains.

Yeya’s passion for designing wedding gowns shines through in every piece she makes.  She always seeks to highlight each bride’s individuality and never compromises on her vision. “I make it a point to get to know the bride-to-be before I start designing the dress to ensure that the design reflects her personality,” she emphasizes.  Yeya finds that the biggest mistake brides make is to blindly follow trends.  She stresses that brides should embrace their individuality.

When it comes to managing her everyday life, Yeya has a delicate system.  “I decided to stop feeling guilty and just spend quality time with my children when I’m off work.  My weekends are sacred and spending time with my children is a priority.  When I am at work, I focus only on that and nothing else.  This is why I try not to take on too many clients at a time.  I always give 100% on every dress I make,” she says.

Yeya believes that “real success isn’t measured by fame, but rather by balance.” She is convinced that “success is doing what you love with passion, being happy and maintaining your individuality.  Many people focus only on one aspect of life and lose sight of everything else along the way.  This is inevitably followed by regret.”

Watch Enigma’s Senior Editor Mona Soliman get up close and personal with Yasmine Yeya, by asking the famous Enigma Questionnaire:

Get the exclusive behind-the-scenes look at the making of eniGma Magazine’s High Society Glamour Issue December 2016 cover shoot!

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