Abi Lindsay Clark talks to Egyptian entrepeneur and Madrileña, Nehad Sharaf, about the forthcoming launch of the Alya Society
On the 3rd of December you will be launching your new company Alya Society with a special ceremony at the Westin Palace hotel in Madrid. Can you give us an outline of your company its goals and what it can offer its members and investors?
– Alya Society prides itself to be Madrid’s first international English-speaking business networking club covering all business sectors. It’s a platform that gathers business leaders and professionals, of all industries, from all over the world to enjoy exclusive lifestyle experiences as they exchange ideas, create opportunities and develop mutual business relationships.
Networking allows for the sharing of information and ideas among people with a common profession or special interest and often begins with a single point of common ground. In the case of Alya Society the common ground shared is excellence. Alya Society is recognised no only as a networking organisation and and whose members are accomplished in their fields and hail from around the globe but also as an organisation that reflects the taste and feel of a luxury brand – affording its members exclusive access to a variety of luxury lifestyle experiences throughout the year.
More than simply a networking club, Alya’s many corporate sponsors provide access to world-class experiences at discounted prices.
The monthly networking events provide members with the opportunity to connect with leading professionals for the purpose of building important business relationships and expanding their exposure to job opportunities as well as learning of current news and trends in numerous fields.
What inspired you to start this new venture?
– Having lived in Madrid for almost 8 years, I realised that there’s a demand for an English speaking business networking club that brings together the international community for the purpose of building connections and creating opportunities, especially as Madrid expands its potential by attracting giant corporations and multinational companies to open its offices in this major European capital.
What does the name Alya mean?
– The name Alya stands for highness in Arabic language. It signifies a high status, eliteness and exclusivity. It also translates to a physical tallness of a person or object. Talking exclusivity, eliteness and excellence, hence the name.
I understand that you present the Alya award which recognises exceptional individuals, businesses and companies. What kind of companies/people would be eligible for these awards?
– Alya award recognises an individual or a company, from any industry, that exemplify and stand out in one of the following categories:
RESILIENCE – honours entrepreneurial initiatives that take innovative approaches towards resiliency.
REINVENTION – honours those who have reinvented and adapted themselves in the face of all challenges and barriers.
SOCIAL IMPACT – honours those who use their platforms and influence for the betterment of their communities
ADAPTABILITY – honours those who have changed and adapted to thrive despite continuous challenges
SUSTAINABILITY – honours those who demonstrate commitment in putting forward sustainable initiatives involving environmental, social or governance management.
A selection panel which consists of experts from almost all fields, undergo the nomination, evaluation and selection process.
I understand that the trophies which can be won in the Alya Society aren’t just any trophies! Tell us about them.
Exclusively made in both Egypt and Spain, the collaborative trophy design incorporates the ancient Egyptian symbol of highness and pride together with the Spanish aesthetic designer creativity.
A finely finessed piece of art embodying Horus, the falcon-headed god in Ancient Egyptian History, embellished with blue lapis gemstone base, the exquisite trophy comes in a smoke-black colour body and a blue lapis base. The name “Horus” means “he who is above” and “he who is distant”. Horus is depicted as a falcon wearing a crown with a cobra or the Double Crown of Egypt symbolising light and royalty.
The luxurious Spanish design house Element & Co led by Bryan Yihsiang Ou Yang and Sasha Sanchez collaborated to create a beautiful and noteworthy design that embodies a unique symbol of the Alya Society.
What events do you have planned for the grand opening ceremony?
For the grand ceremony which will be hosted at one of Madrid’s most iconic historical buildings, the Westin Palace Hotel, will foresee a presentation about Alya Society, presenting the first set of awards and the official inauguration of the club.
The dinner gala will be accompanied by a special performance by the notable bass baritone, Andrés Jiménez-Ramírez and Quartet Mayko. As a bonus, a raffle will take place at the end of the ceremony where some guests will be lucky to win prizes from some of our selective partners.
Following the opening ceremony what types of events do you have planned for its members over the following months and in the future?
– Beginning January, we will kick off our events and activities which will include exclusive lifestyle experiences, guest talks by global leading professionals, trips to European and Middle eastern cities and more.
This is very much an international society, which are the main countries that you will target for your company?
– As an international club, we aim to attract members from all over the world, however in its essence as an English speaking club it focuses more on the english speaking communities in non english speaking countries.
You even have the Alya Society private jet available for its members! Can you tell us more about this?
– Alya Society holds itself for the level of excellence, a characteristic that demands exclusivity and privacy. Considering the consequences of the pandemic and the challenges that come with commercial travel, including first and business classes, we were keen to provide our members an option of peace and privacy when they plan their trips.
Nehad you are Egyptian. Can you tell us a little about you and your background?
– I was born and raised as a TCK (third cultural kid) having lived part of my childhood in Libya where my parents were expats and where I attended a British international school. Upon graduating from university in Egypt I worked as an IT Technical Engineer in the Oil & Gas sector for nearly 3 years during which I met my husband. Pursuing a career that had never satisfied my
aspirations together with motherhood responsibilities especially as we moved countries on our expatriate posts, I decided to quit my job and to prepare myself to what I really wanted to do which is Arts and International Business Management.
As we moved across 10 countries, due to my husband’s job, I started my postgraduate studies securing an MBA, then a Masters in Luxury Management and later pursing PhD in International Business. Despite not knowing exactly what this academic base would lead me to do, I had the guts that I will be fulfilling my passion for arts and business within an entrepreneurial endeavour.
I was also continuously involved in international organisations at a very profound level, in some, holding executive board positions. These include ACCESS, FIGT, Shell Outpost Services Internations, INC Madrid and more. I also volunteered in various NGOS in different countries teaching disabled children, building schools, helping refugee families, assisting at animal shelters and at a substance addiction rehabilitation association in Madrid.
Upon settling in Madrid and calling it home, I decided to start my own business offering consultancy and B2B services to medium-to-highend brands. The diverse network I developed over the past years of expatriation, the skills I acquired throughout my numerous work and volunteering experiences, and the extra languages I mastered on the journey, all helped ease my kickoff start into the international business and consultancy scope.
You have lived in many different countries and have lived an important expat experience. Tell us more about this?
– Expatriate life has its cons but it also comes with a great deal of lifetime advantages. Over the years I have learnt how to engage, compromise and create new opportunities wherever we´ve been based. My expat experiences have really reinforced what I already knew; that all human beings are actually the same the world over no matter what their circumstances.
My family and I were lucky to have our boat sail across many different seas. From the beautiful sandy desserts of Oman and the high-rise stacked avenues of Dubai to the scenic Pyrenes in Pau and the colourful tulip fields in Holland moving to the cowboy ranches in Texas to the clear blue waters of the Bosphorus, to greeting Santa in his swimming suit on the beach in Punte del Este, Uruguay and hustling Buenos Aires.
A wealth of memories, experiences and friends that helped shape the person I am today into becoming more sophisticated, diverse, well-rounded and genuinely appreciative.
You have now been settled in Spain for some time, how do you find Spanish life?
– Life in any place is what people make out of that place, and Spaniards are simply amazing when it comes to enjoying life. Spain has it all, climate, food, lifestyle, arts, quality, culture, sports and most importantly people.
Madrid, in particular, is a very open cosmopolitan city, offering daily opportunities for its people and guests. I enjoy so much the city’s nightlife as well as its day buzz. The relaxed rhythm, the high appreciation for the arts and history, and the passion for a healthy work-life balance all contribute to being a madrileño.
How would you like to see your company in 5 years time?
My aspirations for Alya Society to practise and maintain the essence of networking, developing long-term, trusting relationships in which one gives as much (or more) than they take.
Alya Society will hold itself to the level of excellence commanded by its members and will work continuously to provide support for members’ businesses through access to a high-profile network of business professionals.
In 5 years time the Alya Society will have grown into an international networking organisation that is characterised by EXCELLENCE in both business opportunities and leisure experiences.
Thank you Nehad!
Photo Credit: Calvin Smith