Tell us about yourself?
My name is Maha Shirah, I am a Saudi mother of two boys. born and raised in Riyadh city. I have an MBA degree in finance and over 15 years of experience in different fields. Currently, I am the Founder/ CEO of SHEWORKS a business incubator for female startups & freelancers.
What brought you to Riyadh?
I was born and raised here. My parents came from Madina (a small city in the west of Saudi) in the 70s and it has been my home ever since.
How did you get inspired to start Sheworks?
I worked as a freelance photographer and was looking to expand my business so I started to search for a suitable office with good decoration, modern furniture and hopefully some extra services. Little did I know that such offices didn’t exist back in 2013. So I decided to create my own and provide it to other women. and why women, you may ask? Because we are the ones who need these options the most.
What do you do at Sheworks?
Well, I do a lot of things, apart from being the CEO and running the place and checking its day to day tasks, finances, marketing, and PR. I am also the ecosystem manager and business consultant to the ladies at SHEWORKS. I follow up on their business and try to help them whenever they need a helping hand whether it is work-related or a personal matter.
What is a typical day like for you?
I really don’t have a very typical day. It always depends on my calendar, meetings, events, and tasks that I have and what others have for me as well. For example; I follow up on my client’s legal documentation with the government agent to proceed with their business. I consult with new startups. I plan for upcoming events and meetups at SHEWORKS. I set up training sessions and tasks for co-op trainees and students. I am also a member of two committees in Riyadh chamber and council of chambers so I juggle between them as well.
What do you enjoy most about your work?
The satisfaction of helping people, meeting new business owners, building networks, spreading new ideas, inspiring people to be creative in their way.
What is the hardest part of your work?
Keeping myself motivated when things either go wrong or not according to plan. Because everyone is depending on me.
How do you balance being a mum, a spouse and a working woman?
This is a challenge that many working moms face regardless of where they live. It depends on the type of job you do, your husband’s type of job, the age of your kids, the existence of available support, and the amount of finance you have. In my case, I decided to go back to work and open my business only when my kids were old enough to go to elementary school. My parents moved to Madina so I have no family in Riyadh to support me, however, I have a live-in nanny who has been with me for the last 13 years who helps me with house chores and my kids. I live in a compound, therefore my kids have neighbours to play with. My husband is a physician so he is quite busy and away most of the time but when he returns home, I try my best to be home with him and take some time off and postpone any non-urgent meetings to later. I even involve him with some of my meetings and events.
Tell us about your journey of finding a job in Riyadh.
I have created my own job by first starting as a freelancer, then moving on and creating SHEWORKS
What advice would you give women considering starting their own business/ OR seeking employment in the Kingdom?
Study the market really well, and don’t depend on surveys and traditional methods in collecting data but actually monitor people and ask the hard questions. Check the feasibility of the project you want to do, consider whether it’s worth your time and effort. Plan & write a good business plan and focus especially on your financial plan, thus, don’t borrow money unless you know how you are going to repay it. Focus on your partners and team members because they will either help you succeed or drag you down. Get your legal documents & contracts checked. Find your passion and what makes you happy. Finally… remember, business is still very risky, you must be brave, a gambler and a bit crazy to jump into it. it is not for the faint-hearted.
Where can creative women go to network in Riyadh?
It depends on their creativity and interests. If you are talking about arts such as fine art and photography for example then art galleries, exhibitions, and different entertainment and social events. Some embassies have special gatherings and events. Also, some shopping malls, schools, and universities have them too. Follow artists and influencers on social media who every now and them mention something that might be of interest to you. Just go out there and you will find something. Language may be an obstacle but google translate will help you 70% of the time.
Do you have a quote or motto that you live by?
“ When performing any task, make sure to make it perfect” by Prophet Mohammed, peace be upon him.
Contact Information & Social Media
twitter/ instagram : @mahashirah