Imane Bensalem: “Being A Woman That Challenges The Status Quo and Questions Tradition Within A Highly Traditional Society Can Be The Hardest Task Of All”
Imane Bensalem is the founder of the Tribe of Why, a global community of like-minded individuals focused on providing the support to achieve their dreams. She is currently writing, A Bird Who Lived With Humans — a story of experiences traveling the world asking people one thing: When did you feel the child in you died? What happened? The story is about a bird who went into the city looking for the happiest human to live with. In each chapter the bird chooses a house to live in and tells us with extreme naïveté what he sees. Imane tells me she loves people for a living, and is excited about sharing her story as an entrepreneur and drop out from Islam in a Muslim country & family to a book called, A Mile In Her Shoes.
Q: What are some challenges you faced when developing your venture?
When you are creating something new, be it a piece of art or a business model, you are being vulnerable. Accepting vulnerability and the idea that your work will be out in the world for people to see, experience and often judge (or misjudge), is part of the entrepreneurial journey.
Only for me the challenges went beyond that, being a woman that challenges the status quo and questions tradition within a highly traditional society can be the hardest task of all.
I founded Tribe Of Why so that people can have a free safe space of authentic learning. I wanted them to learn not only about business skills or know-how, but also find themselves through the Arts. Which is very uncommon in the Islamic world, the arts are looked at as a form of strange luxury rather than an actual human necessity. A necessity that shapes conscious leaders, good hearted leaders, we need the arts just as much as we need every other aspect of human progress.
Q: Was there any point when you thought it was over? That you were going to fail?
There is at-least 4 times a day that I think I could fail, and maybe failure is not an option when you are creating, it is a rule, you learn by experience because it simply has not been done before and you never had a learning in how to do it. When trying something new or implementing a new method, I often tell my team: look guys, I am exploring this with you, get ready to fail.
They don’t freak out as much now because they learned that for every failure there are many many successes. Our brain just tends to amplify the negative.
Q: As an entrepreneur how important has flexibility been in developing your venture?
I always say this: be stubborn about the vision but very flexible in everything else. Startups are a lot like love relationships: you just never know how it will unfold unless you make a conscious effort to commit, learn, grow and be open to unpredictable change. Flexibility is key to survival in a fast-pace changing world.
Q: What was was your spark, where did it come from?
This part is very personal: when you are creating you are usually trying to solve a problem for yourself first, then accidentally along the way you solve it for many. I believe traditional societies and religious societies prevent people from questioning, critical thinking and even having the curiosity to know themselves outside of all these rules that have been put upon them. I wanted to know myself, I did not want to sign up to any of the versions of self given to me just because I was born a woman in a religious society. I wanted to think, and thinking is dangerous because then you become absolutely free. I freed my own mind and it took me years of struggle, but I now free others and I initiate them to be fearlessly themselves.
4. What are your non-work habits that help you with your work-life balance?
I disconnect when I must. I simply take a few days when I am overwhelmed and I hibernate. I do nothing until creativity kicks back in, boredom often leads to amazing ideas, because within it you can find a rare sense of clarity. I make sure I have enough alone days and I check my intellectual immunity daily: by that I mean, I ask myself the question: what is it that my society is preventing me from seeing? — the more one answers this, the more you think outside of the box.
5. What is your best tip for entrepreneurs?
Sit with fear until it no longer scares you. Hang on, always hang on and always give things a second chance. Remember that we live once and you chose to live where most people fear to live, be proud of that even on your worst day. Because even on your worst day, you have what many people can only dream of: will-power and freedom.