Launched in 2018, Female First Sessions was founded in order to start a conversation about empowering and elevating the community. An events company with a mission to showcase the talents of the local female community, co-founder Nour Zaghloul, tells Goumbook about her future ambitions and shares some great advice for those starting out on their career path.
Please could you tell me about FFS (Female First Sessions), how and why you set it up?
Together with Megane Quashi, we set up Female First Sessions to start the conversation about empowering, and elevating others within the local community. We noticed that there were gender and racial divides at a social, and economic level and wanted to offer a safe space to bring the community together to start having important conversations in hopes of improving people’s situations through bringing people together. Megane is a DJ and a programmer, I have an extensive career in events management and project development, so together, and our close friends were very talented in content creation and design, so we were able to set up very quickly and launch our first event series. We immediately received a great response within the community and things took off from there on. Now we are gearing our business model towards being able to raise enough money for an annual music & lifestyle festival at a larger scale.
Can you tell me about some of the sessions/events you have had already?
At first our events were organized to take place a monthly basis. Our events are focused on delivering important messages each one is themed around an important narrative. We try to encompass the full story or shed light on things that aren’t being confronted enough in social events. We use various art mediums to express our narratives, music is specifically one of the more dominant mediums. When we started our first season of events in 2018, the programme was aimed specifically at highlighting the local female talent who we felt had not been given enough credit for their incredible talents. All events were open to the public, we featured a unique format that included spoken word, live performances, talks, and live DJ sets and were able to share their stories through their art each time. Through celebrating female talent from within the local community we were able to bring the point across in a positive manner and soon enough had raised awareness of the matter across to other brands who would book artists that we featured, or we could see artists collaborating with each other and elevating each other, so we quickly found that our formula was working.
Why the focus on women?
We focused on women at the time because the we wanted to showcase if you gave women more opportunities, we could all succeed. We wanted to highlight that the issue lies in offering women more opportunities rather than in their talents of capabilities. The message being that there are too many male dominated industries and glass ceilings. We studied Gender Gap stats and acted accordingly. Our narrative changes with the times but our overall mission is to promote equality. Currently we are expanding our focus to promote Anti-Racism and diversification.
What would you like to see more happening here in the UAE to enable more start-ups to succeed?
Funding has been one of our biggest challenges as well as finding partners that can share resources or collaborate with us that are more established. It seems like most of these organizations are personal undertakings facing the same challenges as us. Since we added creative services to our scope, we have been able to work with more brands occasionally to raise some money for our annual festival. We have an active community but lack of funding, staffing, and resources sets us back from reaching our higher potential.
The pandemic has hit many start-ups hard. What does your post COVID world look like?
The pandemic has hit us pretty hard as we are not able to host any events. We have responded by working on a digital music and life style festival called Ultraviolet DXB to keep up the spirits of hope and positivity. We are also working on our online social media content and using social. Our platform has been about bringing the community together, though we are embracing alternative digital solutions, we can’t wait for real life events to happen again, that’s where all the magic happens. Post Covid for us means the time where people can safely unite together at our music Festival celebrating equality.
Why do you think SDG#5 Gender Parity is so important can you share any experiences of this?
Studies show that the world would be a better place not just socially but economically too if we could attain Gender Parity.
It’s a basic human right, it is important because it’s wrong to deny women fair game.
What challenges have you faced as a woman in business?
I have found that other women have not been as supportive as they should be towards one another throughout my career. I found often that men think that they are smarter and that women are more emotional even when working in situations when such biases do not apply. Surely there are biological differences but space should be made for these. People have yet to prove that men make better CEO’s and yet the majority of CEO’s are men. The glass ceiling is a big. Hence why I have taken on entrepreneurship.
What is the best advice you have ever received when starting out on your career path?
Learn from people that have succeeded before you as much as you can and stay open to other opinions and perspectives. Make sure you know the process inside out so you can tweak and improve along the way. You should listen to those that work for you and with you.
Most times your intuition should lead the way, rarely will it be wrong, but everyone makes mistakes, see it as a learning curve and keep going. I have found that there isn’t always an obvious right and wrong way to reach your goals so waiting to find it could set you back. People that offer advice often give advice based on their own experiences, you should apply this to your situation in the best that you can though it may not always be the same, most good advice is helpful in some way, so take it!
One of the most important things to remember is that our egos get in the way of far too much. We should learn how to control that.
Finally, I have learned that the goal post keeps moving, so a career is basically a bunch of milestones, wins and losses, take rest when you need to, the work isn’t going to go anywhere or run out.
Last thing, if your business or product is serving the community and useful for people, that’s the biggest reward in itself.
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Nour Zaghloul – Co-founder of Female First Sessions
Hailing from Holland, Nour arrived in Dubai over eight years ago upon finishing her Degree in Engineering. With over seven years experience in large scale events, her technical background is matched by her creative flair.
As a result, much of Nour’s work has been integral to molding the cultural landscape of Dubai through events and activations. A passion for transforming spaces into community hubs, she is one of the founding members of FFS, helping to seamlessly unite the many moving parts.