When she was 21 years old, Wafa Obaidat started Sketchbook Magazine from her London studio apartment. Now, she runs one of Bahrain’s most prominent PR and design firms, Obai & Hill. She took a moment to tell us what it’s like to run her own business, and what it took to reach success.
Tell me what it was like to start your own company at such a young age.
Wafa Obaidat: It was difficult. When I tried to get people involved and they saw that I was 22 years old, they ran the other way! I had to work mostly through email – I spent a good 5-6 hours a day emailing illustrators, designers, and writers to get them to contribute their work to the magazine.
You went from working with magazines to creating your own agency. What was that like?
WO: Change is healthy, and organic and at every stage of your life. You’re in a different mind frame, you want different things, and you want to focus on different elements. I recommend that everyone pursue what they love to do and do it for a living. That way work, love and life all become the same thing.
What advice helped you the most when starting your own company?
WO: Don’t start listing why you can’t do something, that is the easiest thing a person can do. We are raised in a culture of fear, and people are always ready to tell you that your ideas are not realistic, but I think you need to be unrealistic to pursue what you want. If you aren’t passionate about anything, start exploring – these opportunities never come to you, you have to find what makes you happy and make it your career.
Have the best life you can have – don’t settle.
What’s next for you?
WO: Growth is so important to me, growing professionally, physically and mentally is the key to my motivation. I continue to grow both in my personal life and career where I always try to think of how to grow my firm. We are set to launch three Obai and Hill branches in five years.
This year, I turned 30 and I wanted to achieve a big goal in terms of sports. And as a runner I was finding myself a little bored from the short runs and wanted to set my sights on something bigger. I watched a few videos online of Iron Man Races and I got hooked. I signed up to train in March with a group and a coach and never looked back. Training was intense, I spent almost 14 hours per week swimming, running and biking. Balancing everything was a challenge, but once you cross that finish line, it is truly a reason to celebrate.