Alaa Suleiman clearly remembers when she decided to start her audiobook company. She and her brother, Ala, used to drive to work every day, listening to audiobooks on the way. Later, when Alaa took time off work to care for her sick father, she relied even more on audiobooks for entertainment. But, to her frustration, the only audiobooks she could find were in English. One day, Alaa, a trained sound engineer, asked her brother: “why wait for someone else to do this?” In 2010, she and Ala started Masmoo3, the first audiobook company in the Arab world.
Alaa readily admits the road to success has had its ups and downs. She and Ala raised seed money to launch their company in 2011, but production was costly and raising awareness in Jordan and the Arab world about audiobooks was a time-consuming process. The company ran out of money in 2014. They had to dismiss all their staff, Alaa’s brother returned to work, and Alaa became the CEO and sole employee at Masmoo3. Alaa was very discouraged. “I did not feel I had the skills and confidence to go on.” Then she heard a speech by a female business leader who recommended “invest in yourself, not your company,” and she decided the way forward was to focus on her professional development in order to become the CEO she needed to be.
One of the places Alaa turned to for help was the Business and Professional Women of Amman (BPW-A) business association. BPW-A is a nonprofit, member-based association whose mission is to open pathways and provide platforms for Jordanian women to contribute to the national economy and society in general.
BPW-A’s business skills trainings have helped Alaa develop the knowledge and confidence to take her company from a start-up to a more established entity. Meeting other women who have the same challenges has opened her eyes to solutions and possibilities. Being a part of BPW-A’s supportive community has boosted Alaa’s confidence. “Many of my contacts today are women I met through BPW-A.”