BEIRUT: Nadine Mezher’s dreams and ambitions flew her to Dubai and into the world of startups. Chief marketing officer (CMO) and co-founder of Sarwa wants “to change what is commonly perceived as a luxury for high net worth individuals and make it accessible and inclusive to everyone.”
Back in 2017, Mezher met Marc Chahwan and Jad Sayegh in Dubai. The three fintech aficionados joined forces to set up together the first hybrid automated digital financial adviser of the region, Sarwa.
“While we were setting up Sarwa, the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) launched the region’s first fintech accelerator: FinTech Hive, which mainly allows innovations similar to ours to take place,” explained Mezher to Annahar.
Sarwa’s hybrid model combines technology and investment strategies, a model internationally defined as robo-adviser. It allows investors to get in touch with financial advisers online or on scheduled meetings and thus, provides people the opportunity to invest their money and grow their wealth through exchange-traded funds (ETFs). ETFs are low in cost, so one can start investing without having high sums of money.
“Our main mission is to slowly change the mentality of people by converting their spending culture into a saving culture, one that has healthy financial habits, so people take care of their future selves,” she elaborated. Additionally, the enterprise seeks to incite and educate the public about personal finance and investment.
Mezher owes her early exposure to accounting and understanding of finance to the pro-entrepreneurship environment she was raised in.
“My siblings and I could understand money coming in and out since a very young age, that’s why I really want my kids to be aware of budgeting and financial education. These are key concepts in today’s world,” Mezher said.
Her multidisciplinary career background oscillates between retail and brand strategy, and consultancy and fashion. Young Nadine had 3 main dreams: wearing the white coat of a doctor, holding the briefcase of a businesswoman, and using the design tools of a fashion designer.
Willing to do as much as possible in her lifetime, she let the medicine choice go and first opted for business and marketing. She graduated in 2001 with a BA in business administration and marketing from the American University of Beirut (AUB). A year later, she earned a diploma in Fashion Design and Pattern Making from Lorenzo de ‘Medici Institute in Italy and a high diploma in Fashion Design and Pattern Making from ESMOD Paris in 2003.
“Going through different lifetime enriching experiences adds so much to one’s skill set,” said Mezher as she described herself as “a self-declared workaholic."
When she returned to Beirut, she worked with renowned names such as Zuhair Murad and later decided to open her own boutique. She made use of both her design and marketing skills.
Following the local political instability of the 2006 war, newlyweds Nadine and her husband fled to Dubai. Her work slowly pivoted into looking after the Dubai Shopping Festival, which became more of a retail strategy while “looking into the different market segments, understanding the consumer preferences and the psychographics driving consumers.”
It was then that Mezher realized that she was falling in love with brand strategy. She started working with a number of clients including the office of H.H. the Crown Prince of Dubai.
Her chosen path led her to meet her current partners Chahwan and Sayegh.
“I love how life takes you in different ways,” she noted.
On the challenges facing women in the workforce, she insisted that those differ from one field to the other and from one country to the other.
"There’s a global progress in women's inclusion in the workforce, but I am still not going to lie and say that we have it easy because we do not," Mezher told Annahar.
Mezher thinks that discrimination isn't limited to the entry level and explained that the major problems evolve at senior management levels.
“I wish for gender equality because a lot of pressure is also put on men in this region. We should get rid of the toxic masculinity and focus on gender equality. This can happen through education and support of younger generations," she said.
Mezher recounts being lucky to be surrounded by great inspirational women starting with her mother who raised five children and gave her all to build and support her family, her aunt who defied stereotypes, her sisters, and her sisters-in-law.
“To balance between professional and personal life, you surround yourself with the right people, a support system that inspires you to work and achieve,” added Mezher, who fairly juggles her professional and personal life.
According to Sarwa’s CMO, a lot of work still needs to be done on assisting rising startups in Lebanon amid an unregulated environment, noting that being open to change and not inhibiting innovation are crucial especially in the corporate world.
“ I took ‘Be happy’ as my life motto; my daughter constantly reminds me of it,” she said. “If you have a great idea, don’t be scared. Take the risk and just go ahead and do it, but make sure to have a proper understanding of the problem that you’re trying to solve. Believe in yourself and surround yourself with people who believe in you because it takes a lot of work and you need the proper support around you.”
Sary El Hishi contributed to this article.
Welcome to "NAYA," the newest addition to Annahar’s coverage. This section aims at fortifying Lebanese women’s voices by highlighting their talents, challenges, innovations, and women’s empowerment. We will also be reporting on the world of work, family, style, health, and culture. NAYA is devoted to women of all generations-NAYA Editor, Sally Farhat: Sally.email@example.com
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