Laila Sedky, Founder and Chief Marketing Officer of NOLA Cupcakes in Egypt.
Laila Sedky, an Egyptian entrepreneur and an avid foodie… Laila founded NOLA Bakery at the age of 23; the first ever cupcake shop in Egypt. The business that started with a single shop in 2010, just two months before the beginning of the revolution, has now grown to 19 locations across Egypt. Laila and her brother saw an opportunity of being the first movers into the market, they grabbed this opportunity and acted on it.
Laila focuses on branding and product development ensuring that customers will have a magical experience from the moment they step into NOLA; by paying attention to details and offering high quality mouthwatering freshly baked cupcakes. Laila is not only focused on business but also on giving back to the community, which drove her to start the ‘NOLA Gives Back’ foundation that supports children with autism and cancer. Also, giving leftover products that are not sold during the day to orphanages across the country after the end of every working day. Laila hopes for the NOLA brand to become internationally recognized in the future. Laila believes that persistence and perseverance are key for the success and sustainability of any business.
Name something that guides both your personal and professional development and helps you regain focus during challenging times.
I am surrounded by a support network consisting mainly of my family, friends and team. I’m lucky to be working with my brother, as we always help each other focus on our objectives. Also, being an entrepreneur, I would say that self-motivation is a skill that I learned which helps me survive and cope with challenging times.
Professionally, my father, brother, team, and endeavor (an organization of entrepreneurs and mentors that supports high impact entrepreneurs) are my source of guidance. Also, being active within the entrepreneurial community keeps me focused and helps in my development.
Personally, I try to find the work-life balance that would allow me to stay connected to my family and friends and to create memories with the people I love, who has been always there for me helping me get through tough times at work. Hence, I developed the very important skill of time management which helps me in creating a balance between my personal and professional life. Finally, establishing a daily routine that works for me helps me stay focused, which is usually a challenge for me.
What do you believe is at the core of women’s hesitation to step out and pursue leadership roles where they are?
In my opinion, fear of failure is the main reason why women don’t step up and pursue leadership roles.
Tell us one of your greatest professional accomplishments, and why it meant so much to you?
Starting my own business and creating a new brand; opening the first ever cupcake shop in Egypt ‘NOLA’ and seeing it grow to 19 shops across the country (10 NOLA owned and 9 franchised) with over 250 employees.
The world is a scary place – how do you manage fear and anxiety in both your work and personal life?
I manage through therapy.
What do you believe will be the greatest benefit to having more women as leaders in the world?
Women represent half of the working force and they deserve equal opportunities to pursue leadership roles. In addition, it has been proven that women deliver better results and that their tolerance for conflict is stronger. They are also more compassionate and are very good at building long lasting relationships.
Tell us what your greatest personal challenge is, and how you’ve achieved success in spite of it.
Lack of knowledge and experience was my biggest personal challenge back when I started my business as a fresh graduate at the age of 23. It was a self-learning process. Also, being young and new to the industry was very challenging. Yet I used my age and being young as an opportunity to network, meet people and learn as much as I can in order to grow my business.
What role should men play in supporting more gender diversity?
Listening to women and understanding them plays a major role when it comes to supporting gender diversity. I’m lucky to be working with my brother who’s the person I trust the most in the world. We support one another and understand each other’s roles which are complimentary. At Nola, we build our team taking into account gender diversity.
What is the meaning of life for you?
Giving back to the society, making a difference and leaving my footprints in the world.
What advice would you give to young women around the world?
Never take No for an answer!