Samah Al Wahaibi, Oman
When Annual Giving Chair, Samah Al Wahaibi, participated in Breaking the Glass Ceiling (Session 447) as a first-time Fellow, she tempered her expectations. Self-described as shy and quiet, she traveled with two colleagues on the advice and encouragement of a mentor who felt the Salzburg session would offer an opportunity to learn more about women in business. Samah says that, at the time, she and a small group of friends were interested in doing something more for female fashion designers in Oman, but had no formal plan to establish a business. She worried that the session participants would not take her seriously, having never attended an international conference before. Once in Salzburg, her perspective quickly changed.
“Salzburg was an amazing experience and I was really encouraged. The stories of the talented women in the group demonstrated that nothing is impossible. The inspiration I felt in Salzburg has carried over into our conversations in the months and years that followed our time in Salzburg.”
When Samah returned to Oman, she took two important steps. First, she and her colleagues elevated their conversations around starting a business. Samah says that, after seeing the many accomplishments of women from around the world, she and her partners decided it was time to “get to work.” Samah and her partners expanded their learning about running a business, and soon founded Layali Al Asalah Co., a company that has become well known in Oman for supporting emerging fashion designers.
The second step Samah took was to capitalize on her Salzburg experience by attending more international conferences. Soon after Salzburg, Samah traveled to Spain to serve as a speaker at a conference, then later Milan. The story of her company’s success was one of a select few featured by Springboard, an organization supporting international women in business. She continues to work with high school and college young women in Oman, encouraging them to be independent, attend college, or start their own business.
As Samah notes, the journey hasn’t always been easy. “Our business faced a number of obstacles along the way, and many times the path looked dim. I drew encouragement from the Fellows from my session, many of whom stayed in touch and encouraged me along the way. The Salzburg network is tremendously open, welcoming and warm. My entire Salzburg experience was a catalyst in my life – professionally and personally. Salzburg gave me the inspiration to take our business from idea to reality. At the same time, I have experienced tremendous personal growth, and a renewed commitment to supporting the networks of women across the globe working to make a difference.”
One way Samah is giving back is through her support of the Salzburg Global Seminar, both through a personal gift to the Seminar and in her role as Annual Giving Co-Chair. She would like to provide talented young women around the globe with the same opportunity she had, as “everyone needs the support to express their talents.” While Samah believes that financial support is important, she also values the knowledge one gains when surrounded by successful women, like those she met at the Seminar and the Women and Entrepreneurship conference in the United States earlier this year. Samah is now looking forward opening the second branch of her business in Salalah this July.
“All of that made me the Leader I always dreamed to be, and when I got the title (Leader) in Qatar by H.H. Moza Al Masnad in Young Arab Leaders Seminar 2009 I was really proud of myself and I remember this Leader started from Salzburg.”
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