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Salwa El-kasabgy

Salwa El-kasabgy

In this interview, Salwa Magdy El-kasabgy talks about being CEO of Sara’s Advertising, as well as her personal life, religious convictions, and working in the field of advertising and marketing in general. Salwa introduces herself as a mother and businesswoman. At Sara’s Advertising, Salwa and her team help their clients market their factories and projects and develop their businesses. With Salwa’s help, they may even discover some aspect in their business they were previously unaware of. Salwa specifically talks about the “feeling” one gets when they hear the name of a trademark, such as Coco Chanel or Nike, and says that such feelings lie at the core of her work in advertising. Salwa believes in corporate responsibility and donates 2.5% of the company’s revenue to the underprivileged.

Salwa’s passion for advertising began at an early age. She says that Tarek Nour’s advertising company greatly inspired her as a child as she hoped she would one day have her own advertising company. Salwa was also hoping to work in a field where she can relate to people. She got into advertising when she could not become a doctor as she wanted. In the interview, Salwa differentiates between marketing and advertising, as marketing is the stage of planning that comes before advertising, and includes product analysis, its quality, its packaging, etc.

Salwa previously worked with Engineer Mamdouh Hamza, the designer of the hanging bridge above the Suez Canal and the half-sunk sun design of the Bibliotheca Alexandrina. She describes him as a “legend” in the areas of engineering, business, and management and says that she learned a lot from him while working on the inauguration ceremony of the library. Among the lessons she learned from him was treating people working with her as team members, not mere employees. Salwa believes that she, too, is a team member and disagrees with the common adage that people in business believe in, which says that they got into business so that they can be their own boss. Salwa believes that her clients are her boss and that satisfying them is her mission. She also considers them partners. Salwa gives some female clients who work with her a discount when they are going through difficult circumstances and works closely with them to impart her experience to them. Sara’s Advertising is considered one of the top 10 companies in working with start-ups in Egypt.

Salwa spoke about her role models. She considers her mother, an engineer, a role model. She also loves Zaha Hadid, the Iraqi architect, Jehan Sadat, TV talk show host Oprah Winfrey and Khadija, wife of Prophet Muhammad. Salwa believes that Islam teaches Muslims valuable lessons about business and cites examples from the Muslim tradition about management and negotiation skills. She also believes that men and women push each other forward if their relationship is healthy. She criticizes some mothers, who, despite their education and culture, lean more towards their sons, not their daughters and thus do their girls an injustice. She asserts that, despite what is common in our culture, Islam does not ask women to do domestic work, but the patriarchy does. She does not exactly believe in equality between men and women but believes that Islam holds women in great respect and that just like they have duties, they also have rights. Salwa strives to be a good representative of her country when dealing with clients abroad and wants to prove that Arab and Muslim societies are not backward.

As for her family and her friends, she said that they were all supportive of her work. Her mother was helping her financially and her father was constantly giving her advice. Her siblings too supported her. Salwa talks about her first marriage, which did not last, but she says that her current marriage is one of the reasons behind her success in advertising. Salwa tries to teach her children self-confidence and independence and does not lean toward “spoiling” children. In this vein, she takes billionaires like Steve Jobs and Bill Gates as role models, as they disinherited their children to compel them to work hard to achieve their own success. Salwa does not take the employees’ age into consideration when hiring and does not believe that entrepreneurship is only in business, but it could be at home, where properly raising children is a rewarding job in itself.

As for challenges that she faced, she said it is corruption and bribery in Egypt that are huge challenges she must deal with. She says she rarely encountered that when dealing with clients abroad. She also said that it took her a very long time to learn about accounting and taxes, especially with a constantly changing Tax Code.

When asked about gender and business, Salwa said that the team cannot solely consist of either men or women. They both must work together because they complement each other. She believes that manual labor, as in organizing events for instance, is more suitable for men. Jobs that require an artistic sense are more suitable for women, on the other hand. As for her being a mother and a wife besides being a business owner, Salwa said that she benefitted from time management skills, but sometimes work impacts one’s personal life and vice versa. She believes that people must be flexible and accept that this is a natural part of being a working woman.

Salwa views the COVID-19 pandemic from a religious point of view, citing the “7 years of hardship” in the Quran and the fact that it is impossible for life to stay the same. She also stated that it was a challenge for her business and that she switched to working online as many other business owners did to guarantee their business’ sustainability.

The interview, thus, covered many aspects of Salwa El-kasabgy’s life, most importantly her work in advertising and marketing, her personal life (specifically her husband, children, and family) and the importance of religious values in her life. She concluded the interview with asserting that a society is strong when women are strong.


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