Introduce yourself! Who are you?
International speaker, serial entrepreneur, retired yogini. Founder and Managing Director of the leading speaker’s bureau in the Middle East called MENA Speakers. We represent over 200 intellectual and impactful voices in the region. An economist from Stockholm School of Economics and winner of the title “Female Economist of the Year”. My expertise lies in the art of high powered public speaking. My passion lies in education and my pro bono work is dedicated to the United World College, where we give talented teenagers scholarships to top high school education around the world.
What is one thing no one really knows about you?
I set up a webshop selling bellydance items with a famous international dancer and guru. I learned so much about that industry and it was mindboggling how much effort a dancer put into each performance and ensembles. I really enjoyed seeing the world through their eyes. I spent months with glitter all over my whole apartment.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
Never a blank page. When you look back at your life, all that really matters is how intensely and richly you have lived the human experience.
What would you say to 16 year old you?
Follow your passion and the money will come.
I heard this from my mentor, a CEO of big publishing house, when I was much younger but I ignored it. But now, my decision making has changed. Even though time is scarce, I would rather choose a project that is for free but I am passionate about. My economics professors would oppose this since it isn’t an optimal decision but I have changed a lot of my decision-making based on intuition and passion and I find myself surrounded by like-minded and lovely people that inspire me and support me. It tends to reward itself. Life is too short to not be lived like this.
What message do you think every aspiring womenpreneur should hear?
For those that are really passionate and really really serious about their business. I want to say, that it will be an interesting journey. You are giving birth to an idea that is so close to your heart and in this journey you should be ready to truly meet yourself.
Learn about what your strengths and weaknesses are, what you like and dislike and it is a very simple equation. It truly lives up to Newton’s third law "To every action there is always opposed an equal reaction”. Imagine how that works when you are having a bad day or even when you are having an empowered day.
What is your favorite thing about where you live?
I love Dubai! After having lives in 7 countries and travelled to 58 countries, I find Dubai to be a wonderful place to live in. The quality of life is incredibly high, the safety is incredible and the amount of innovation and growth that we see from the leadership of the United Arab Emirates is inspirational.
What do you love most about yourself?
My heart, my mind and my body. My heart drives me to be compassionate and loving. My mind that comes up with all these marvellous ideas and my body for holding me up and allowing me to physically be able to do what my mind wants and my heart loves.
What motivates you most?
I built a mission statement based on my values and then translated that into a business. As a person that believes in human equality I realized that through great communication we can resolve any human problem thus my mission statements are:
Global Mission Statement: Improving the State of the World Through Great Dialogue.
Local Mission Statement: To become the biggest exporter of Middle Eastern Voices to the World.
How do you manage your work-life balance?
I love my work and I love my life and they happen to be the same thing thus I don’t need to manage it. I just let the co-exist happily in symbiosis.
Where do you find inspiration?
My big “why”. My hope is to have improved some lives by giving them the knowledge to independently lead compassionate and successful lives. I also have a dream that we get more global speakers from the Middle East and that we showcase the renaissance movement that is happening here. If that also happens to be female voices, then I would truly have lived a life worth living.
What are your biggest passions?
I love working and I love creating value! Entrepreneurship is an all immersing experiencing. It is like your true love, if it is right, then it is all you dream about and all you want to surround yourself with. I have to consciously make time for my friends and family but everyone is incredibly involved and supportive as well.
What qualities does it take for someone to be successful in your line of work? To become a professionally recognized and paid public speaker.
Professional speakers that can do this for a living are treating themselves as a brand and business. They can recognize that they are now CEOs of a company and their product happens to be themselves, as a speaker. They approach the business from a 360 degrees meaning marketing, finance, sales, business development, product development and branding are all important departments that require their fair bit of attention. Individuals outside of this industry think it only requires being able to speak up but in fact it is like any other career. It requires a lot of strategy, planning and effort.
More About Saana
Saana Azzam is an international speaker, serial entrepreneur, and retired yogini. She is the Founder and Managing Director of the leading speaker’s bureau in the Middle East, called MENA Speakers. They represent over 200 intellectual and impactful voices in the region. Saana is an economist from Stockholm School of Economics and winner of the title “Female Economist of the Year”.
Saana's expertise lies in the art of high powered public speaking. Her passion lies in education and her pro bono work is dedicated to the United World College, where they give talented teenagers scholarships to top high school education around the world.