Here are the excerpts of the interview with Alexandra Maia, The founder and CEO of House of Social – Dubai based Social Media Consultancy and Training center offering hybrid social media solutions and education to professionals and social media enthusiasts in the UAE.
Alexandra who headed social media departments in some of the leading agencies in the region quit her job and decided to pursue her entrepreneurial dreams by setting up House of Social. One of the most progressive startups creating ripples in the social media training circle, House of Social is all poised to change the way social is done in the region, forever.
A creative person Alexandra started out in performing arts at the age of 15 travelling between London and New York. After toying with Journalism and Branding for a few years she took to digital media and from then on there was no turning back. Fascinated by this then new field of social – she started working on social media creative strategy, setting up social teams, training talent and integrating social media on 360 campaigns and briefs. Then House of Social happened.
Alexandra Maia’s House of Social
Empower > Transform > Grow
Through tailored consultancy solutions, Alexandra Maia’s House of Social helps companies in the UAE counter their social media challenges. Through social media training it empowers individuals and businesses to transform their talent with the necessary skills to fill in the social media skills gap, while growing and staying competitive in a digitized world.
How would you describe House of Social in under 50 words?
The first institute in Dubai to focus on social media education! But it’s become more then that! In the short amount of time since I launched, it’s fuelled with positivity, empowerment and an amazing community that supports each other! Is that 50 words…haha? I’m so bad with these things! I could say so much more!!
What ignited the spark in you to start House of Social?
For all the years being so involved in the industry here I started seeing a couple of trends:
1- people are so thirsty to know more about social / digital but had no clue how, or where to go get the knowledge. 2- There is really not much around for people to go learn the skills, the skills gap is still big around here! And I’ll just push envelope a little more I don’t think there is no one around deploying so much free educational content around this topic like I am or the way that I am doing! And that was one of the things I really wanted to do! And lastly because I love people, educating, sharing the knowledge, giving people the tools for them to go conquer whatever it is they want to do. HOS is and will continue to grow to be able to provide this!
What were the biggest initial hurdles while building your business and how did you overcome them?
Good question! Hum…. I can’t tell you I had initial hurdles… What I can tell you is that I have daily hurdles….hahaha!!! When you are an entrepreneur and in my case, I’m running HOS alone, I don’t have an investor or taken out a loan. HOS has been self-sustained since its 9 months something I’m so proud of. Every day I have hurdles, there is not one day, I’m not fixing a problem either with clients and projects or the HOS side of the business but that’s what comes with the responsibility of running a business and you are either cut for it and have this mental discipline or you don’t. I don’t dwell on the hurdles, I just go into this ‘street smart’ mode of how can I find a solution and move fast on it, no stress, deploy positivity, fix it and move on and that is on a daily basis. There are bigger more important things to focus on
How have you differentiated yourself from competitors?
By being me! By staying true to my core values on everything that I do. This is the core for me. I will never sway from my core beliefs and never have till now. By deploying a huge amount of free content for people to learn so even if you never want to pay me a $ my content hopefully can still have an impact on you! And this region is still catching up to this concept! You have to give and give and give before you can really ask! And I just firmly believe no one else out here in this region is doing what I’m doing the way I’m doing it! I LOVE it every part of it!
Do you prefer to pursue funding or build organically, and why?
I love to be self-sustained, versus being depended on funding. I just feel it’s smarter because I don’t want to be in a position where I’m depended on someone else’s cash! What if they pull out? What if the marker hits a crisis and it affects the investor?! I’ll rather see if I can prof that my business can be good to self-sustain so I will always have the control. And it might mean a grow slower…But I’ll grow the right way and this is a long-term game. If money was handed out to me I never would have learnt all of what the market has been ‘teaching me’ these past 9 months of what consumers want! Will I never take an investor opportunity? I can’t fully say yes or no I’ll have to see at the time there are always contexts and opportunities that could be good for me to pursue but I will evaluate them when they come for sure.
What would you say is the most important factor of running a consultancy business in the region?
Understanding the context and the nuances of the region. This is a very particular place, nothing like the west. But even saying that… It cannot be an excuse to move slower, It just means for me you need to understand the context of how things are here! And there are so many micro nuances that can really make or break how you do business! It’s very interesting….
What is your favourite aspect of being an entrepreneur?
The daily adrenaline and rush I get every day when I think of something and I have the full power to go and just do or try!! Oh. this fills me with so much excitement and adrenalin! I can’t explain ahaha!!!
Describe/outline your typical day? How many hours do you work a day on average?
I start my day at 5.30 I go train at around 6 or 6.30 for me this is one of the most vital things to keep me sane, focused and energised! It’s also my ‘me’ time. No emails at this time! From around 8 is my day starts and I’m usually on it till maybe 10 or maybe 11 it really depends! My typical day can vary, I’ll have days that I jam pack all my meetings or others dedicated to my work only, others I make sure I’m networking I invest a lot of my time in meeting people this is such a crucial part of building a business developing relationships! Some days I might work till super late then I might get up a little later. Weekends I’ll work but mainly from my phone so I can do ‘weekend things’ .. hahah and I try to keep Saturday’s off line as much as I can! So how many hours is that…16 hrs.. hahah I’ve never had done the maths!!
What do you do to recharge when you’re feeling drained?
Really good question! One that I am trying to figure out! I have a problem since I’m little I never know when to slow down so then I go into over drive and crash! Which of course is not good! So… now I’m learning to self tune in with myself when I need to slow down! I love the beach or the sea, as it helps me a lot to decompress. And my closest friends spending time with them laughing and talking silly stuff hahaha!
To what do you most attribute your success? What would you say are the five key elements for starting and running a successful business?
- Passion! You have to LOVE what you do!
- Being ‘hungry” for it! – Meaning you got to really want it! You! From withing you! Call it drive I don’t know, but if you don’t have that no else will and it’s something you can’t buy or acquire!
- Discipline – With running a biz comes discipline to keep consistency to ‘show up’ everyday! It’s a huge foundation building block. Because on the bad days discipline kicks in and the machine keeps going!
- Execution – You have to do! Ideas are just ideas they are not the real thing! You have to go and play in the ‘dirt’ to really taste it!
- Believing in yourself! – Be daring, don’t care, do you, push the boundaries! BE ready to fail and be ok with it so you learn and be ready to succeed to keep growing and have humility and be grateful! But it has to all come from the believe you can do it. No anyone else’s!
- Can I just add a 6th ahahah? PEOPLE PEOPLE PEOPLE! It’s a people’s business! You have to know how to emotionally deal with people
How do you believe evolving technology will impact the way we do business over the next 10 years?
Hopefully will bring us closer, smarter and moving faster! Can I ask Facebook via audio “Hey Facebook can you tell me what posts are performing better that you advise me to promote?” Wouldn’t that be so cool? I think it can happen! We still a long way but going by the last F8 with Mark we don’t seem to be that far away……!
If you had one piece of advice to someone just starting out, what would it be?
I would ask: “Do you believe in yourself” and yes! Then just go and do and live the journey because only then you will know!! Boom!
Where do you see House of Social in the next 5 years?
Bigger! With more people! With more stories! Going beyond Dubai for sure! Just watch this space that is all I have to say! Haha!
If the Internet had not existed – what do you think you would be doing?
Communicating with people in some way or another! I love people! Acting was my first carer! And I love psychology! Who know knows…?!?
What do you like best about the Internet?
The easy access to info and people! In one day, I can do business with Brazil or Australia
What do you like least about the Internet?
Nothing… my problem is how people are using it! The fake news or all the terrorism that goes on online that exists is because of how people are making use of it. And people are lazy in general…. It can take you an extra ten minutes to go do your homework to figure out if something is fake or not. But most people are just lazy…..
The Arabian Gazette team would like to wish Alexandra Maia the very best in all her pursuits.
For social media training and consultancy inquiries get in touch with Alexandra on [email protected]