Raising funds from the most prestigious Silicon Valley venture capital firms to begin two startups has placed Joy Aljouny among the top one percent of female entrepreneurs. Her first project, Bonfaire, a fashion-focused platform for hard-to-find and exclusive pieces, arose after she dabbled in retail and opened a store in New York. After successfully selling Bonfaire to online fashion giant Moda Operandi, it was time for the e-commerce industry professional whose influence in business and entrepreneurship has spanned the globe to thrive again.
Palestinian-American Aljouny went on to become Co-Founder of Fetchr, a Dubai-based GPS- steered delivery startup. Address-based dilemas in the region, like a lack of clear postal codes, create blocks for e-commerce startups when it comes to things like delivering a package to clients. And by allowing these startups to use a mobile phone’s GPS location as an address, Fletchr has provided them with an innovative solution. It is the only company in the Middle East to be funded by such a large and successful venture capital firm in Silicon Valley, New Enterprise Associates, and it has been named as the top startup in the region by “Forbes Middle East.”
As part of our series on highly successful women who have been invited to speak at the 19th Global WIL Economic Forum taking place in Dubai on October 25-26, we have a chat with the inspiring entrepreneur. We ask about the barriers women face in the region, her most difficult decision, tips on climbing the career ladder and a lot more.
Name three women who have inspired you.
I love women who made it against all odds and women who dare to make a difference:
1- Oprah Winfrey
2- Mother Teresa
3- JK Rowling
Can you share some strategies that can aid women achieve a more prominent role in their companies?
I try to lead by example. I am the first one in and the last one to leave; I show them a strong work ethic and determination. I also let them know I don't have an MBA from an Ivy League school, nor was I the best student. What is important today is having a strong emotional intelligence and determination, this is what can really move mountains. I talk to them about being confident in who they are and to remain focused on what their passion is and with that energy you can accomplish anything.
Tell us about the most significant leadership lesson you’ve learned in your career.
Lead by example, you cannot expect others to follow you if you do not set the right tone.
And what are the most important barriers to female leadership in the region?
I believe it is the traditional mind set that getting married and having children is the definition of a successful woman in this region. I believe we need to break through these traditional roles and see more women setting examples and taking up leadership roles in organisations.
Which kinds of challenges do you think the new generation of women face?
This new generation has too many distractions and is not as focused within as they should be. The social media wave has forced this generation to focus on the superficial aspects and what everyone else thinks, rather than focusing on what is important to them and what goals can be accomplished with real effort and determination.
What is the most difficult decision you've ever made?
Leaving my whole life behind in the USA to start anew in Dubai, not knowing anyone and taking a chance on building a startup.
Which particular qualities (some of the things you couldn’t include on your CV) have helped you get to where you are today?
That is an easy one, determination, not letting negativity affect me, relentlessness, not fearing rejection and most importantly not taking no for an answer.
What do you do to keep yourself centred?
I keep negativity and negative people out of my life and accept what I can't change as well as accept what is. It sounds strange but acceptance of what is has brought me a lot of peace.
What is your favourite quote?
“Everything is energy and that’s all there is to it. Match the frequency of the reality you want and you cannot help but get that reality. It can be no other way. This is not philosophy. This is physics,” Albert Einstein.
What’s the most exciting part about participating in the Global WIL Economic Forum?
The fact that they have recognised startups this year and the importance they have in creating jobs and disrupting industries. I am also excited the WIL wants to help boost the startup ecosystem as we need a lot of support and funding, the exorbitant cost of doing business in the region is a huge challenge.
The theme this year is ‘The Butterfly Effect – From Intent to Impact.’ Why do you think it’s particularly important to focus on enacting social change at this time?
Anyone in a position of authority and responsibility should make enacting social change a key priority of their agenda. I believe as a society we are at a juncture where the focus needs to go beyond pure profitability, rather businesses need to focus on sustainable change and innovation where profit may be the outcome and not the pure focus.
The agenda explores diversity as the driving force of our collective future. Could you elaborate on that?
I completely agree with this train of thought. Diversity is truly the driving force of our future. The world is now much more interconnected and change and innovation cannot focus on a single culture, rather it needs to transcend boundaries and focus on the broader society. I am excited to discuss this agenda and diversity during the conference.