Startup Focus – Clarisse Halawani

Full name:
Clarisse Halawani

IE program & graduation year:
EMBA 2016

What is the name of the company?

What inspired you to start the company?
When I think about it, it’s all due to IE and it actually happened on two fronts. Initially, when I joined the eMBA, it was “just” to consolidate my bases/knowledge and feel more confident at work (I was then the youngest Director in a medical equipment company). Case after case, course after course, professor after professor, IE managed to give me enough confidence to ask myself “why not me?”. In parallel, the rhythm of work and studies was pretty intense between my professional responsibilities and also my eMBA tasks during lunch breaks, evenings and week-ends. I discovered that a nap of few minutes during the day was the only way for me to keep up with the long hours of constant thinking. However, finding a place to rest for few minutes outside of home was almost impossible and discussing it with colleagues as well as friends, I realised that several persons were in the same situation (sometimes hiding in cars, offices or even toilets to break for few minutes). During the eMBA at IE, I discovered my business idea to open my company and mostly, gained enough confidence to decide pursuing the exciting entrepreneurship path after 10 years of corporate work.

How do you make sure you maintain a good work/life balance?
First of all, it is critical to know what is important for you and what brings you positive regenerative energy, next to work, in order to feel happy and fulfilled in your life. For some people it’s sports, others it’s reading or spending time in the nature or cooking, etc. For me, it’s the quality time with my family and true friends. Despite being tired or very busy, I block evenings or week-ends where I’m fully focused on the ones I love. Those special moments are in my agenda, with my Customer meetings and working tasks so I always remember them.

How did IE prepare you for your new business venture?
I wouldn’t have jumped or even considered opening my company without my few months in IE. It started with all the Finance, Marketing and Sales courses that were completely knew to me (I have an Engineering background) and that gave me the basics to understand the different aspects of a company. Then we had a wonderful and very practical course on Entrepreneurship that lasted several months. We were able to work on a real business idea (chosen by the students themselves) with a small group of colleagues and this was one of the best way to really taste the entrepreneurial world already. Last but not least, most of our business cases were about founders and start-ups (success stories or failures) but also, several of our professors were entrepreneurs themselves, sharing their experiences with us. In other words, IE have put everything in place to break the walls, make us understand, live and feel the entrepreneurial world, while staying in a safe environment (the eMBA) so we feel confident to try it on our own too, after the graduation.

What tip would you give to fellow alumni who are about to launch a startup?
Grow and use your network as much as possible. By the way, Networking was one of the first courses we had during the EMBA and i truly understood its value when I started my business. Go out, meet other entrepreneurs, attend events, give your business card, don’t be afraid to talk with people, share your business idea and ask questions/help. I was positively surprised to see that people want to help and several times, I was able to progress, get new customer contacts or fine-tune ideas through my network. Just use it! My second advice is to have a solid (moral) support around you. Whether it’s your partner, your family or your friends, make sure you have people that truly believe in you, that you trust and can count on when you have doubts, feeling tired or when things are moving slowly. The best thing is to discuss it openly with them before you start your business so you can share any concerns.

What do you like most about running your own business?
Working for your own company is so fulfilling. It can be stressful sometimes as no one is responsible and accountable but … you! However, you end up learning so much (because you have to do almost everything yourself in the beginning) and what a big joy and satisfaction when you progress and achieve even small milestones. You put the hours, energy and passion that you want, for something that you fully manage. It’s a wonderful experience that I definitely recommend!

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