With time spent as an Editor under her fabulously accomplished belt, this entrepreneur went on to launch the region’s first-ever luxury lifestyle consultancy, Tea Before Noon
Vacheron Constantin’s One of Not Many Mentorship Programme is a humbling example of what happens when a luxury maison gives back, thinking outside its traditional remit and into something truly wide-reaching and meaningful. Launched six months ago, the house brought together six Emirati women of phenomenal, multi-faceted skills – Alia Al Shamsi, Hala Al Gergawi, Latifa Al Gurg, Salama Al Shamsi, Noora Shawqi and Mouza Aldhaheri – for a scheme that would take six young female Emirati students from Zayed University under their wing, culminating in a six-month internship at either Vacheron Constantin or another Richemont maison.
The spirit of entrepreneurship runs deep in the UAE, as does talent and tenacity. Here, Bazaar celebrate bringing that all together for a bright, beautiful future as Hala Al Gergawi shares her thoughts on the importance of mentorship, networking and what makes a successful entrepreneur.
Why was it important to you to become a mentor in this scheme?
My passion in what we do at Tea Before Noon, at Zayed University, and in my community made me want to give more to the programme. Being a proud alumni of Zayed University, it is an honour to come on board, not only as a partner, but also as a mentor to share my experience throughout my career journey and to contribute in shaping the goals and vision of the younger generation.
What is the importance of having a mentor?
I never had the chance to be mentored, and as much as I value such experiences, I wanted to offer such opportunity to the younger generation. This is one of the reasons that I was so passionate to make this programme happen and was thrilled to see it being endorsed by Vacheron Constantin. Mentoring is important, not only because of the knowledge and skills students can learn from mentors, but also the professional socialisation and personal support to facilitate success in graduate school and beyond. Quality mentoring greatly enhances students’ chances for success.
What was the most valuable lesson your mentee has taught you through this process?
I was very impressed with her contribution and dedication to the projects and how she always came in with a solution. As much as I believed in the younger generation, Ghala taught me to have faith in fresh blood.
How do you hope the mentorship programme will make a difference in the industry at large?
We are not used to such initiatives that are not commercially driven from luxury brands. One of Not Many is community-driven, with a mission to empower Emirati women and Arab women in general. It positioned Vacheron Constantin on a completely different level and the appreciation and admiration perceived from the local community for the brand because of this initiative is beyond expectations.
What does the luxury industry in the Middle East need to do in order to continue to thrive?
We must bridge Emirati talents with international brands and maintain a dialogue between creative industries that are driven by the same cultural values. Being exposed to all these talents, I believe we are ready to become exporters and creators of luxury on an international scale, and this is why, in the effort of being the first mover towards this step, I have launched ELEVENiSH.com this month, which is an online community and e-commerce platform for niche emerging designers seeking global exposure.
There are still many negative narratives around ambitious and assertive women. How do we overcome this?
This is something I have never experienced or seen through my career life. Women in my country have more privilege then men in everything. Sometimes I feel bad for the men!
What advice do you hope to transmit to your mentee?
I worked in ‘corporate’ for more than a decade, which led me to become the Chief Editor of Zahrat Al Khaleej until 2018. However, I have always worked with an entrepreneurial mindset with a clear mission in empowering my community and its local talents. In 2018, I established Tea before Noon with the same mission at its core. I am very excited to transfer my experience to my mentee, to give her direction in shaping her goal through building a career and a life from which she doesn’t need a vacation. I want her to lead with authenticity and extend her network that will become her support system.
We love your statement, “my network is my net worth.” What’s the value of networking?
It’s never taught, it’s never planned, it’s a genuine socialising skill that I grew up with and enjoy. Perhaps it’s a gene I took from my mother.
How would you sum up the mentorship programme?
A tribute to ambitious women.
How do you believe we can overcome a fear of trying something new or speaking up?
Fear doesn’t exist in my dictionary.
What makes a successful entrepreneur?
Simply, dedication and resilience.
From Harper’s Bazaar Arabia’s May 2021 issue
Original content: Harpers Bazaar Arabia