Lamice Joujou “It’s not easy to be director and CEO at 23 and lead a team 99% older than you”

Lamic Joujou started Dent De Lait 23 years ago. She was only 23 years old with a 9-month-old baby. She did this out of the need for a good daycare for her daughter. An entrepreneur through and through, after she searched and couldn’t find what she wanted, she started her own! That is not all, in the year 2000, her other company Mazitou started by pure coincidence. A friend had asked her to offer entertainment to a crowd of a thousand orphans. Lamice said yes, despite her lack of experience in entertainment. She made it happen and it was successful. Since then, Mazitou became an official production house for family stage shows and parades. We speak to this inspiring entrepreneur and learn all about her incredible work.

Between Dent De Lait and Mazitou, does it get overwhelming at times being the CEO of two different companies?

It most definitely does, not to forget being a mother of three. The most important thing I’ve learned during this journey is balance. When you have balance in your life everything flows and you are able put things into priority. But we have to have realistic expectations; work sometimes is demanding and you need to compromise in your personal life, some other times it’s your family that needs you more. Being organized has helped, as well as listening to my inner voice. I’m lucky that I’m surrounded by an amazing team whom I trust. And most importantly, a family that is always by my side. 

Has your background in psychology been partially responsible for the direction you took with your companies? If so, how?

It did in a way, since in Lebanon to be able to open a nursery, you have to have either a background in Education or Psychology. Also, generally, when parents come to the nursery director to register their children, they come with concerns, questions, and a lot of anxiety especially if it’s their firstborn, and this is where I felt the added value of my background. Even though one might not think that this could be linked to my business, it often deems itself otherwise. 

You have made the choice to close two of your companies to focus on Dent De Lait. Was there a moment of clarity when you realized this is what you needed to do? How did you come to that decision?

In 2014, I was chosen to be part of a women economic empowerment program with Vital Voices and I met there 23 business women from the MENA Region. In one of the sessions, I was having a chat with one of the fellows and she shared with me her experience having had four companies then selling three and keeping only one. “The day I decided to sell was the day I gave my real business the room to grow”, she said. Two years later I closed both companies and started focusing on growing the nursery. I think this was the best decision I took, and I wish I took it earlier.

Your work at Dent De Lait is very closely associated with children. How do you use this platform of yours to promote gender equality to the young generation?

Gender equality is a subject very close to my heart and I make sure it’s very well portrayed in every aspect of my company. I’ve tried my best to include male figures within the team, so that the role of teacher and nurturer is not associated solely with females. Our superheroes are both women and men. STEM is offered to girls and boys alike, same as Art and Cooking. When children are raised in an atmosphere of gender equality at school and at home, I don’t see how they wouldn’t comprehend this notion later on.

Have you faced any obstacles when you first started out? How did you overcome them?

I’ve faced many obstacles, just like any entrepreneur, in addition to starting out my business at a young age and being a woman, and to top it all off, in a country in the Middle-East! It’s not easy to be director and CEO at 23 and lead a team 99% older than you. I didn’t overcome it, I just lived with it until I grew up and learned from it. Being a successful female business woman in the Middle-East showed itself to be problematic to a number of male businessmen I worked with. At most times, I wasn’t taken seriously and was ignored. It did slow my growth but it never stopped me.

In your opinion, how can female entrepreneurs join forces to support other women in the community?

It starts with individual effort, when we start supporting each other, we grow together. Through mentorship, coaching, financial aid and working together, we can make sure that we flourish as a community of female entrepreneurs. 

Do you believe strong, successful women like yourself have a responsibility to set a good example to young girls? How is that accomplished?

Absolutely! I believe that we need more strong, successful women in societies worldwide to continue breaking the limitations. I do what I do to be able to inspire girls from my community about the broad horizons they are able to reach, these same horizons that we have been prevented from reaching given our normalized role in society. The only way I am able to propagate this idealization of gender equality and set the best example for the youth, is by cherishing the relationships I nurture in this field of work. For it is in these human connections that we plant the seeds of love for all.

What are your future plans for Dent De Lait?

Growth, to be able to impact and touch the lives of as many families as possible.

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