PR mastermind Mai Abaza inspires both on the professional and personal levels. This mother-of-twins left a stable job at a multinational company to chase her dream. That dream did not disappoint, and now she is the CEO of one of Egypt’s leading PR agencies: Publicist Inc. We speak to Mai about her journey, entrepreneurship, and girl power!
Why did you first decide to start Publicist Inc?
The idea of Publicist Inc started in 2010. We used to meet in cafes after work, talking about this dream for hours. Rania, the company’s Co-Founder, made the first move, resigning from her job. August 2011, I got a phone call from Rania. I remember that moment so vividly. Rania at the other end of the line “Mai, I’m registering the company. Are you in or out?”. I didn’t even hesitate. I’m in.
What were the greatest obstacles you faced in Publicist Inc’s beginnings? How did you overcome them?
Our first “obstacle” came only six months after starting the company. Rania was moving to London, and I was going to give birth to twins at the same time. So, we were going to shut it down and move on. But then we didn’t. And that’s when Allaa, Publicist Inc’s current Co-Founder, came onboard. We met her, felt instantly comfortable, and invited her to join the Publicist Inc journey as a partner. She held the fort with beautiful resilience, and when I returned from maternity leave to find our then shared office space buzzing with activity, I thought “ok, we can do this.”
How can female entrepreneurs set a good example for young girls?
That’s a scary thought; it feels like such a responsibility. Especially because it’s even scarier to see how much young girls are attracted to what they perceive to be glamorous Instagram lives. This is why I love Hanefra7 Biki Emta. There aren’t enough women out there talking about their journeys as entrepreneurs and inspiring businesswomen. At least not nearly enough to combat that other overwhelming wave of content-free ‘content’ if you know what I mean.
Do you believe it is necessary for strong female figures to support impoverished and marginalized women in the community? How do you propose they do so?
Of course. But this isn’t easy – because this one isn’t just about setting an example for the girls. This is going to take a lot of awareness building and education for the community around them, especially the male figures. This needs to be a longer-term initiative, working from the grassroots. And needs commitment.
Do you believe mothers of boys have a responsibility to teach them to be kind and respectful towards women? If so, what is your approach in order to accomplish that?
Kindness is not sexist. So, we should teach it to both girls and boys equally. I have 7-year-old twins – boy and girl. I’ve seen the mean streak in little girls towards each other and it isn’t pretty. Supporting each other, for girls, should also start at a very young age.
What is next for Publicist Inc?
The first 10 years were about building a reputation. The next 10, I believe, will be about growth and expansion. Our vision was and always will be to help organizations tell stories that win over hearts and minds.
Most Egyptian women have had to answer the question “Hanefra7 Biki Emta” before in reference to marriage, despite any accomplishments they may have already made, what would you say in response to that question?
Well, I got married at the age of 29. So, between graduating university at 20 and getting engaged at 29, I was getting asked that question a lot. Over those years my response evolved from a silent smile and nod, to changing the subject, to “lamma rabena yereed”, eventually to “ana far7ana keda”, and finally, to moving to another country!