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Executive Education

Learning from experience – the commitment of starting a business

Layla Al-Dorani has firsthand experience of what it means to put your whole life into the success of your business. As founder and CEO of Raw Middle East, a healthy-living startup in Qatar, she applied everything she learned from the HEC Paris Executive MBA to take the necessary risks to implement her vision.

Layla - food

Based on an interview with Layla Al-Dorani, founder and CEO of Raw Middle East.

Starting your own business: learning along the way

Mistakes are inevitable when launching your own business, and in hindsight, there are always steps that could have been taken differently. More important than getting things right the first time around is learning from the experiences that result from your willingness to dive in and take risks. Reflecting on her own business compels Layla to assert that “the greatest value is in what you learn and apply to the next venture.”

Navigating the business world as a woman adds its own set of challenges, she acknowledges. “As a female entrepreneur in the male-dominated food and beverage manufacturing industry, earning respect has been a struggle.” For other women aiming to start their own companies, Layla offers the following advice: “don’t let others underestimate your dreams or your capacity to achieve them.”

In 2014, Forbes Middle East named her in its list of the 200 most powerful Arab women.

 

Layla - image

Willing to commit: paying the price of success

In 2012, after working in the oil-and-gas and banking sectors, Layla founded Raw Middle East to combat widespread cases of obesity and diabetes in Qatar. “I wanted to create a product that had added value and positive benefits for the consumer,” she says. Since then she has won multiple awards, including first place in the Entrepreneur Achievement Award category at the 2015 Reyada Awards competition.

Layla’s experience founding her company taught her the necessity of commitment. “To be successful you have to make a full time commitment and be willing to take risks,” she says. Of course, this involves sacrifices, and you have to know which risks are worth your while: “you have to really believe in the work you are doing to make up for being away from your family.”

Continuing education: supporting company growth

Success doesn’t mean your work is done – instead, it’s an opportunity to keep growing. Layla aims to expand her company’s offering into retail products and the family market. For instance, her capstone project in the HEC Paris Executive MBA was instrumental in the development of her company’s ready-to-eat product line targeted at children and set to launch in August 2017.

“The Executive MBA program is an amazing opportunity to develop or improve your business. You not only learn from the professors and case studies, but also from the knowledge and experiences that you share with your peers.”

Layla’s top three takeaways from the HEC Paris Executive MBA program? First, “decision-making as a leader is both an art and a science,” requiring both creativity and precision. Second, “business is about creating value – something worth buying, investing in, supporting and, ultimately, believing in.” And, lastly, “your network is only as valuable as the amount effort you put into fostering those relationships.”