By Sandhya D'Mello Khaleej Times, Dubai, United Arab Emirates
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Dubai entrepreneur Alexandra Galani shares how she passionately created a unique business that would help other women, especially mothers, gain their independence.
When the going gets tough, the tough get going.
This is precisely what Alexandra Galani, co-founder of Elephant Live, did when, all of a sudden, she discovered she was left alone and had to carve a niche and stronger identity for herself, akin to a fierce fighter and take life head-on.
The MBA holder from London Business School is running a venture called Elephant Live and has joined the In5 in incubator in Dubai Internet City to create a new wave of meaningful and memorable digital marketing assets, based on storytelling and information sharing.
"Our video products are designed to educate, support and inspire both our clients and their end users," Alexandra says.
"So, in simple words, we take whatever product or service someone offers, find the value-added benefits to the community at large and couple it with their expertise to form unique stories, that are interesting, engaging, on point and easy to understand. We like to see our work as re-wiring people's marketing strategy."
Alexandra -- a single mum -- shared her journey of trials and tribulations that she faced, but overcame them to finally smile back with a sense of triumph.
She was happily married in 2016 and was leading a picture-perfect life -- until one fine day it all came crumbling down; Alexandra, at a time she became a mother to a son, was told about a divorce in the offing and was left to fend for herself with a child to support and with absolutely no one to help.
"I thought I was blissfully married, happily bringing up a baby while successfully studying at one of the top universities in the world and in the process of an incredible career jump into the corporate world. The only sadness I thought I had to deal with and overcome was that of my father's passing, just two days after my son was born. I boxed up the pain and concentrated on everything else, fearing it might derail me. I felt so strong and proud. But when my husband announced that he suddenly wanted a divorce, my world collapsed," Alexandra adds.
"Our son was just nine months old, I was in the middle of the toughest exams in my life and I had spent every penny I had on our home and baby. Worst still, there was no explanation [given for the divorce] and the shock, grief and betrayal was overwhelming."
This turbulent phase in Alexandra's life made her strong and helped her set her priorities right. "On graduating the course, I was desperate to create a business that would help other women, especially mums, gain their independence, because I did not want them to feel trapped like I once did. I knew that my experience should be used to help others. So I ran a page on Facebook giving simple and free business advice; I further offer my time to freelancer mums and I'm planning on broadcasting a series of blogs on pitching. To this day, to keep me motivated, I use the fact that life can drop a bomb on you at any moment, and the only thing that can keep you going is faith and your ability to fight."
Few companies are willing to hire a single mother, fearing limited hours, necessary absences and recourse limitations, says the Dubai resident of nine years.
"I can tell you that the world is a tough place for a single mum, especially one who cannot afford help or has health issues. Luckily, a friend that I had been mentoring hired me and gave me the break that I needed. He gave me flexible hours and let me work from home. We merged our visions and skills to create a new joint company. We cut our costs by applying to an incubator [In5 Media] and spent countless hours working on the structure, content and strategy of the company."
Alexandra explains the three biggest challenges she had to overcome was building up the capital to start and run her ventures; working out the best marketing plan to acquire new clients; and designing the right contract to assure payment and final brief agreement.
"In regards to capital, I learned over the years that there is a heck of a lot you can accomplish by being lean, mean and green. I cut out expensive offices and started working out of home and coffee shops. That in turn brought down my bills. I use free software where possible and brought on paid interns. The wonderful part about bringing on an intern is that you get to pass on your knowledge and give someone else the boost they require to build up their own career," she adds.
Marketing-wise, the very first lesson Alexandra learned was that high-quality service leads to loyal clients, who in turn spread the word. "I am super-focused on client experience. I also learnt that there is a lot to be gained by online presence. It might not always bring in leads, but it does boost your credentials. In respect to contracts, I made sure from the very beginning that no work would happen without one," she says.
"I spent many hours finding online examples and then refining them to suit both my needs, the clients and any third party involved. This ensured that everyone knew exactly what would be expected, when and how. It was hard at first because I would miss out vital clauses that would then be used against me, or I would find myself with big clients who didn't want to sign, but experience has thought me that if a prospective client or contractor does not wish to sign a contract, you should immediately walk away."
Dos and Don'ts for women in business . Do not wait for your family or friends to support you. Much of what needs to be done as an entrepreneur is often misunderstood and feared. Rather trust in your abilities, passion and strength to propel you forwards and keep you going . Being a woman or a minority doesn't make you any less capable . Do not give up, give in or lose faith unless you have truly tried everything -- and at least three times . See failure as an opportunity to analyze what went wrong and formulate a different strategy for your next attempt . Understand that it is during the problem-solving process, especially following multiple failures, that the most ingenious ideas come to life . When in doubt, look at your child or imagine you had one, and ask yourself what you would advise them if he or she was in your shoes