Azza Al Qubaisi is an artist and an entrepreneur who has successfully found a balance between her passion and her profession. She is unconventional, choosing to tread the unusual paths. Her works are the artistic link between the past and the present. Born in Abu Dhabi and educated at London Guildhall University, Azza Al Qubaisi has been honored with numerous awards. Her story is worth inspiring many.
Over several interactions with Ms. Sayujya S, GCC Business News reporter, Ms. Azza shares her opinions and experiences till now along with her hopes for the post-pandemic future.
You belong to a small group of people in the world who is lucky enough to have converted their passion into a profession. How important is that happiness to you and the success of your work?
Of course, I can attribute a great deal of my success to the fact that my passion is my profession. As an artist, it gave me great happiness and balance in life to create, innovate and develop a business that revolves around my art and design. This, I feel was essential to the success of my work, as that can be measured on a different scale to that of usual business.
What do you personally like to be described as – an entrepreneur or an artist?
I definitely see myself as an Artist who enjoys creating wearable art and sculptures. Being able to produce bespoke product designs for clients came as an outcome from my art and my need to bring stability and balance in my life.
How would you describe your journey as an entrepreneur considering that you have not been someone who chose the conventional path?
Yes, my career journey has been different from that of the others. I chose it. I have always tried to do things differently. I take particular care to do so while I research and think. I’m keen to have an identity and if you have observed, you can see them in all my works. My Portrait of a Nation is one such example. I like my work to carry my identity or signature if you would like to call it so.
One of the things that my journey has taught me is that networking is very important. The connections that I developed and maintained with the community and its people while participating in exhibitions, trade shows and other events have definitely helped me grow my business.
Who has been a constant source of inspiration in your life?
Shaikh Zayed (May God bless his soul), through his passion and love of the environment and people, has influenced my life in many ways. My art and design are all about the Emirati culture and traditions through my personal interpretation of my identity.
You are often described as “a fierce advocate of all that is homegrown and sustainable”. Staying true to roots is a theme that is reflected in all your works. What is it that makes this idea so intimate to you?
Yes, I’m a strong supporter of homegrown and sustainable materials. There is a quote by late Shaikh Zayed – “He who has no past has no present or future”. I have built the foundation of my career on this thought. Hence, my work reflects them.
My experience of living abroad has allowed me to see the world from a different perspective and at the same time, it allows me to question myself and my identity which has empowered me to dive deeper within myself.
Many prestigious awards have come your way. What do they mean to you?
From my personal experience, being acknowledged is a way to inspire the younger generation. It also has the potential to positively influence other women entrepreneurs and encourage more women to take the big leap. The support that has been imparted to me while participating in festivals, trade shows and exhibitions and through the media has given me so much more confidence in my design and art. Ultimately, the awards that fulfill me the most are when people approach me and tell me that I inspired them or their kids to pursue their passion.
Reports suggest that though the women’s entrepreneurial intentions are as high as 36% in the MENA region, only 14% of more than 1,400 startups launched in 2019 were founded by women. Do you think it could be due to the lack of support from the society, administration, banking and finance sector or entrepreneurial training specifically for women?
I’m not very familiar with the statistics of the MENA region, but from what I have experienced personally in the Emirates, I can say that there is tremendous respect and support is given to women entrepreneurs through business councils and several funding programs. I think at the end of the day it all depends on how the person invests and develops their business.
You have launched some great initiatives to ensure a good future for the next generation jewelers in the Emirates. Is it the struggles you had to face in the initial days that motivated you to do so?
Not really. It’s not about my struggle but the happiness of giving which is my passion. This passion has driven me in establishing those initiatives to support and share my knowledge and experience with my community.
You have been speaking at various webinars. How do you feel about the number of women attending these events?
To be honest I don’t focus on how many women or men are part of those meetings. At the end of the day its who is interested in the subject who makes it to these events. Personally, if I don’t make it to a webinar, I watch it at a later time. It is a new tool that allows everybody to enjoy from the comfort of their home. And I hope this becomes one of the things that will be continued even after COVID-19.
How do you think this pandemic is going to change the world and the way we do business?
I feel that this pandemic has already changed the way we conduct our business. It has made our business more flexible in the way it is run and allowed them to reevaluate the need of staff and resources, directing them to change the way they reach their clients in more unconventional ways than it used to be.
What are your hopes for the world and your business after we overcome this pandemic?
I’m sure that the good days are not far away as we are guided by a leader who is one of the best in the world. He is thinking 24×7 about us. Moreover, there is a competent administration managed by him which can overcome any situation. Hence, we will master this obstacle faster than anyone else.
I hope that after this pandemic, businesses recover rapidly to overcome the financial and emotional losses incurred. Personally, I’m hoping to be able to fully utilize the online capabilities for the growth of my business.
What would be your message to the budding women entrepreneurs?
The market or customers do not differentiate between men or women entrepreneurs. Personally we may be respected for being a woman entrepreneur, but a customer purchasing our product or service is unaware of whether the efforts put into its making is from a man or a woman. Only quality matters.
Thus, my common advice for all budding entrepreneurs as a multi-disciplinary artist and designer is “focus on your passion, always be authentic, research well and test your market”.
Azza Al Qubaisi represents a special breed of resilient entrepreneurs who have fought against all odds to make a name for themselves. We hope that Azza’s story inspires many more like her to rise against the hardships presented by the pandemic all over the world and live a life of optimism.