Egypt's famous not-so-good girl Amy Mowafi explains why women can't have it all

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The four Mowafi siblings are nothing if not savvy about creating buzz. After moving back to Cairo in 2002, the four siblings, Amy, Tamim, Adam, and Walid, launched a slew of e-content, web development, and social media management businesses under an umbrella company, MO4, earning a reputation for being the closest thing Egypt had to  Rocket Internet, the famous German clone factory. Yet with a focus on upper and upper-middle class customers, the siblings hardly seem like the Samwer brothers; they seem to have a lot more flash and a lot less bite

Their empire began with Tazkarty (my ticket), an online ticketing site that launched in 2009 and quickly rose to popularity. As they continued building localized versions of global ideas under the MO4 umbrella, a few bombed, but the majority became popular, including Cairo Zoom, a social diary website filled with photos of recent parties, Cairo Scene, an entertainment and social blog about Cairo, and Greater Than Fashion, a fashion e-commerce website. Their latest project, Kiteology, is perhaps more unique, as a portal for kitesurfing lovers.

Amy Mowafi is the only woman in the bunch, the oldest of the four, at 33, and a latecomer to entrepreneurship. After spending ten years as the Managing Editor at Enigma, an Egyptian monthly magazine for jet setting women, she decided in the summer of 2011 to  join her brothers to complete the ‘M’ empire, or the MO4. At the same time, she was running a household and about to give birth. Even before back in 2007, Mowafi wrote a book, Fe-mail, that set forth her trials as an Egyptian girl looking for love, commitment, and marriage in Egyptian society. She now published the second part of her book as a married woman with possibilities to have a third part on her motherhood life.

Although it was criticized by some for its elite perspective, the book became one of the most popular and successful books among Egyptian youth. And as Amy confesses the trials of her journey as a mother and entrepreneur, her story may ring true with mothers running businesses anywhere.

Social Marketing

“I was very hesitant when I started because I didn’t have a clue about online business,” Mowafi says. As a business providing e-content, the primary source of income for all of their sites was advertising. But after the Egyptian revolution, a sharp decline in the Egyptian ad market, especially in e-advertising, drove Mowafi to think about attracting advertisers by launching an e-marketing service that would manage their social media channels. 

The team found a large market for ads on social media sites. “We started by creating and managing the social networks of InterContinental Semiramis hotel, and today we have 65 advertisers including L’Oréal, Sprite, Mohamed Al Sagheer, Dandy Mega Mall. With a few London-based clients as well,  we operate on a global level,” Mowafi explains. She and her brothers quickly built the business up from four siblings and two programmers to 40 employees.  

Motherhood 

Once she decided to become an entrepreneur, Mowafi underwent a significant transition. Once she launched Fe-mail, she also began presenting on a television show about love and marriage, got married, and gave birth to her daughter, Maya, who is now a year old.

“My priorities have changed, but I’m grateful for being a mother. I now work for my daughter, to become her role model,” Mowafi explains, saying that Maya sits in front of the computer and plays with the keyboard buttons imitating her mother.

“I have always been the first one to come to the office and the last one to leave," Mowafi says about her work at MO4, which represents in her opinion her own patriotic mission to return and build a new Egypt, instead of leaving the country as she says others are doing. One can’t help but notice Mowafi’s love for her three younger brothers (Tamim, Adam, and Walid), all in their twenties, the strength of their relationship, and her desire and hard work to build a name for the Mowafis.

The young businesswoman believes that she wouldn’t have been able to achieve what she has accomplished so far without the support of her family, including that from her husband, Yousef, who is extremely understanding, according to her, or from her mother, who takes care of Maya while Mowafi goes to work at the company’s headquarters, two levels above the house in the same building.

Despite this support, however, Mowafi still feels guilty about not being around more for her daughter, causing her at times to burst into tears under the pressure she feels in terms of her work, husband, and daughter. However, she always returns quickly to her daily work, realizing that if she were to leave her work, she would be letting down too many people who have put their faith in her.

“No woman can do it all. She can’t cook and do household chores and be a wife and a first-class work owner at the same time,” Mowafi says, even if her situation now is not very different from what it was before marriage and entrepreneurship, as she doesn't do housework.

Yet the pull of motherhood is strong, even for the most career-driven woman. Towards the end of our meeting, Mowafi surprised us by revealing that she is ready to have a second baby, and adding that if she were to go back in time, she would have had babies earlier and put giving birth at the top of her priority list.

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