InterviewsWomen Entrepreneurs

“Do Not Be Afraid to Fail”

Small Enterprise speaks to Alisa D’Souza, the Founder of ALISA PR about her entrepreneurial journey and the learnings along the way

Tell us about your leadership style and philosophy.
I believe great leadership works through emotional intelligence. When leaders drive emotions positively, they create a climate of enthusiasm and flexibility, that is able to bring out everyone’s best in terms of optimism and creativity. Teamwork is important as no one can achieve anything alone without collaborating with the right talents and relationships.

My philosophy is to always keep learning, explore opportunities to re-invent yourself. Spend time alone with your thoughts, think strategically, creatively and most importantly be responsible and accountable along the way.

What made you choose PR and advertising as a career opportunity?
I always had the interpersonal skills and passion to write, paint, visualize and think creatively so either copywriting or public relations is where I wanted to land a career in. Born and raised in Dubai, as a fresh university graduate in 1999 and at the age of 20, it was challenging to get into a full-time position with a multinational agency as one would need to have work experience.

I did, however, manage to start my career in an Advertising and PR agency called Madco Gulf, today known as Intermarkets. I joined them as a receptionist and as an intern to the Advertising and PR departments. While I gained experience with the agency and proved my skills, I finally landed into the career I wanted, Public Relations.

When did you set up your company? Tell us about the initial days.
In 2017 I set up ALISA PR. It was very exciting and out of one’s comfort zone at the same time. To create something of your own that your passionate about and start working for yourself, with a flexible work schedule, building your skill set and the right team helped deliver the objective of offering personalized attention to our clients that’s quality.

In addition, after having 20 years-experience and credibility in the industry, clients whom I worked with in the past retained in trust and new business relationships started to begin. Initially, It is also important to know that having to wear all of the hats yourself can be daunting. Just because you’re an entrepreneur and are starting a business doesn’t necessarily mean you excel in all areas of business.

From marketing, accounting, IT and digital innovations, there are a number of roles you assume as the owner of a new business and have to be honest with yourself about your strengths and understand that, when you’re running a business, your time is precious. So while you can certainly look into training to help grow your own abilities, contracting and employing the right talent and professionals is crucial in order to deliver efficiently and effectively.

Are there unique challenges women entrepreneurs face?
Having reserves and funds to your disposal is important in order to keep the business running for the long-term. It is also important to be able to manage one’s own emotions in the face of drastic change, keep your focus and thinking clearly under pressure.

Always stay on top of things as sometimes the smallest details can be overlooked that can hurt your business. Managing client expectations is as important as your own people management to ensure great work is delivered on time with measurable results.

What are your future plans with your company? Any new markets/target audiences you plan to reach?
To continue to learn and be aligned in our work with the current trends in the field of PR, Digital Marketing and Advertising. We currently service our existing clients across the Middle East & North African region. We do plan to explore and build stronger networks within the Asian and European markets through credible and potential partners.

What advice would you give to women looking to break into the field of PR and advertising?
It all starts from being genuinely enthusiastic and passionate so that you can land into that exciting PR or Advertising dream job of your choice. Get an education in it. Observe and read as much as you can about different kinds of PR & Ad campaigns executed worldwide. Intern with an agency or take up an entry-level position or do freelance work.

I don’t believe you can truly succeed in the field of PR if you aren’t a decent writer. It is important to hone your writing skills first and develop your media relationships and networking skills. It’s also important to decide whether or not you want to work as a company or organization’s in-house professional, or work at an agency for more than one client.

This is one of those businesses that live by the rule, “it’s not just what you know, it’s WHO you know.” Sometimes, all that separates two very talented people is an association with someone in the agency. Don’t be the one left behind because you don’t know the right people. Look for opportunities to meet with people that are actively working in the industry through events, educational seminars, and professional workshops.

Get out there and meet the people who could be your next potential employer. Because the PR and Advertising industry is such a diverse and constantly changing line of work, you can learn a great deal about the opportunities that exist and how to prepare for them by engaging with people who work in the industries.

What is your advice for aspiring women entrepreneurs?
Do not be afraid to fail. You have to move outside of your comfort zone. Spend time alone to reflect and focus on your goals. Keep learning as the key to growth, innovation, and success is knowledge. Get feedback when possible as it is critical to validate your business. Exercise over a walk or hit the gym to bring about positive energy and cut out distractions such as negative people. Network, Dream Big and keep your eyes focused on the Prize!

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