Sail Magazine founder and editor-in-chief, Iman Ben Chaibah, caught the reading and writing bug early in life. Her love of words has been a support through good times and bad and also led her to a life of entrepreneurism.
“My complete belief that reading is a huge, pure and healing power drives me,” says Iman. “It has helped me so many times in my life, both as a kid and an adult. And I really believe that you learn and you grow from reading, and that’s exactly what I want to do [with Sail].”
Sending the right message
Founded in 2010, Sail is an independent Emirati online magazine and publisher of digital content, created entirely by UAE Nationals. Sail, and Iman’s, philosophy is that when young people read about diverse topics and increase their knowledge, there’s no limit to what they can make of their future. And so the mission of Iman and her team is to curate original, smart content and archive Emirati contemporary thinking.
Iman herself began her working life in IT after completing a degree in computer science, followed by an MA in project management. A highly motivated person and passionate reader, it was actually a sudden abundance of time that set her on the path to turning Sail into more than just a passion project.
“I was in IT for 10-years in various companies,” recalls Iman, “and my masters’ degree, along with my work, took up a huge amount of time. On a good day, I would finish work at 7pm, but if we had a lot on it would easily be 1am. So between work and my masters, I never really had room for anything else. But the moment that my masters was over, I suddenly had a huge amount of time that I didn’t know how to fill. And that’s how my company started.”
Although Iman had been running Sail for number of years as passion project, gradually growing an audience and reputation in Dubai and beyond, it was a huge step to leave a comfortable life in IT. “It was scary,” she says, “It was really scary. Because you’re jumping from a very safe net. Money comes into your account every month… it was a very safe environment. How was I going to make a living? How was I going to hire people? All those questions came into play. But because I’m really passionate about it, I couldn’t imagine it going any other way. I wouldn’t change anything to be honest.
Words to live by
Iman started Sail as a way of creating content and stories that were relevant to a young Middle Eastern audience who she felt were not being served with enough local work. Sail is now proudly staffed by Emirati writers, editors, and illustrators covering diverse topics including cultural interests, society, everyday matters, lifestyle, parenting, fashion, art, sports, and much more.
Iman is almost entirely self-taught, having started by writing and publishing articles on her own, before bringing in editors and writers as contributors and team members. In 2014, Iman and Sail were awarded the ‘Young Digital Publishing Entrepreneur Award’ from the British Council. As part of this award, Iman worked with a mentor from the publishing industry who helped her with some of the commercial aspects of the business. “She pushed me towards the business end of things,” says Iman. “How to you make sponsored content? How do you make a media kit? How do you package your advertising? There were so many times when I’d say ‘I can’t believe I’ve never known this.”
A team beyond the office
Iman’s eagerness to learn and willingness to ask questions make her a natural journalist, but it also means she has been able to join a community of fellow entrepreneurs in the UAE and beyond who help each and offer regular advice.
“I am close with a lot of people who have made it before in similar industries, as well as people who run their own or family businesses. And it’s so important to build relationships, so at any point, if you need advice, you can just reach out and say ‘I have a problem, what do you think I should do about it?’ It’s much easier to reach people on Facebook and Instagram, because we all follow each other and we all know about each other’s work. So it’s much easier to ask for advice or say ‘let’s grab a coffee.’”
Iman is dedicated to growing Sail’s audience and continuing to tell important, relevant and timely stories. Iman’s goal is to make Sail the voice of the UAE’s next generation of leaders, and a powerful platform for debate and conversation around the issues that are engaging young people in the UAE today.
As a passionate reader and writer, Iman knows the power of words. “Once you pick up on reading,” she says, “you become curious to learn more, and you learn to be empathetic to others, and you learn to be more tolerant towards others, and that’s really what our community is about.”
Learn more about Iman Ben Chaibah and Sail