Founder of Sosaï Events, Sofia Sayah, talks to Emirates Woman on what it takes to build a brand from scratch and how to dare to be different when it comes to event planning.
What do the first 30 minutes of your day look like, your morning routine?
I typically wake up early to carve out a quiet space for morning reflection before the hustle and bustle of the day sets in. This time is invaluable to me as it sets a positive tone and allows me to gather my thoughts, plan tasks effectively, and tap into my creativity. It’s a moment of tranquility before my day unfolds into backto-back calls, follow- ups, and meetings.
Since you launched Sosaï Events, it’s scaled quickly. How many clients did you start with, and how has the company scaled?
When I first launched Sosaï Events in the midst of the pandemic, I started with just a handful of private clients who wanted to continue celebrating life milestones such as birthdays and proposals. Our goal was to brighten up our client’s day by bringing to them meaningful and beautiful experiences. Things rapidly changed once life got started to go back to normal, companies started to regain confidence in their marketing budgets, and many were open to giving new players like us an opportunity. Since then, we have expanded our client base significantly and this growth can be attributed to our dedication to delivering quality events and word-ofmouth recommendations from clients.
Can you define the DNA of this brand?
The DNA of Sosaï is rooted in creativity, innovation, and commitment to attention to detail. We take pride in crafting unique and unforgettable experiences for our clients, consistently pushing the boundaries of traditional event planning to deliver truly extraordinary results. What sets us apart is our expertise in both corporate and private events. This unique combination allows us to infuse corporate events with intimacy and meticulous detail while bringing professionalism and organization to private events. Our brand DNA is all about delivering exceptional, tailor-made experiences. How did you know it was the right time to launch on your own, and where did the fearlessness to do this come from? Launching my own event company during a pandemic was certainly an unconventional and unadvised move, but it felt like the right time because I saw an opportunity to adapt and innovate in a changing landscape. My fearlessness came from my passion for event planning and my belief in the value I could bring to clients, even during challenging times.
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You have a living/working villa – tell us about this concept and the benefits?
Due to the nature of our industry, we found ourselves constantly on the move, shuttling between clients and event setups. When we weren’t on-site, we were working from home. While this setup worked initially, we reached a point where we needed a dedicated space to meet a few times a week. I’ve never been a firm believer in the traditional 9-6 office routine, especially considering the physically demanding aspects of our work. Leasing a conventional office space didn’t seem like the right fit for us. That’s when the idea of a living and working villa in a residential/commercial neighbourhood emerged. We transformed the first floor into a modern office space, where we now hold our bi-weekly workdays and client meetings. Through this setup, we’ve successfully crafted a cozy yet structured work environment. It offers the comfort of ‘home’ combined with the essential elements of an office, enhancing our team’s productivity.
How does Sosaï think outside the box when it comes to events?
At Sosaï, we think outside the box by focusing on creative concepts, interactive experiences, cutting-edge technology, unconventional venues, personalised touches, and collaborations with experts from various fields. We’re committed to delivering unique and memorable events that go beyond traditional expectations.
You are detail focused – where does this make the most difference for an event that is vital to get right?
Attention to detail is paramount in all aspects of event planning, but it is absolutely critical during execution. Our goal is to deliver on every promise and exceed expectations, leaving no room for oversight, no matter how minuscule. It’s often the smallest, nuanced details that set our events apart and leave a lasting impression,even if only a select few notice them.
Which qualities do you look for most when hiring?
When it comes to hiring, my approach has evolved over time. Initially, I believed that hiring individuals with extensive event experience was crucial. However, I’ve come to realize that event planning isn’t just a skill; it’s a mindset. What matters bring to the table. I look for individuals with a positive, open attitude, natural drive to excel, a warm and welcoming demeanour, the ability to thrive under pressure, and exceptional organizational skills. I’ve found that with these qualities, everythingelse can be developed and refined.
What is your biggest strength?
My biggest strength has always been my ability to establish and maintain trust with my clients. In the event planning industry, trust is the cornerstone of successful partnerships. Clients need to feel confident that their vision and expectations will be met, and that their event will be executed flawlessly. What sets me apart is not only my commitment to building trust but also my innate ability to understand what clients want and need, often even before they fully articulate it themselves. I excel at tuning into their needs, preferences, and desires, helping to shape their vision into reality. This is what I call my sixth sense, and it’s a quality that I believe truly distinguishes me in this field.
How do you approach scaling without compromising on quality?
At the moment, scaling isn’t our top priority. We’re focused on organic and steady growth. While we currentlyhave a core team of six, and we’ve been working together for over a year, I continue to be involved in all events to oversee every aspect and ensure the delivery of top-quality service. While I do envision future growth for our company, it will never come at theexpense of the quality we pride ourselves on. Quality remains our foremost concern, and we are prioritising taking on interesting, creative events that align with our vision ratherthan pursuing a high volume of events.
What has been the biggest challenge to date, and how did you overcome it?
It’s quite a task to single out the biggest challenge among the many I’ve faced on this journey. In reality, it often feels like the entire journey has been a series of challenges and overcoming that has become a mindset – a commitment to always being in solution mode. Rather thansuccumbing to panic, I’ve trained myself to immediately shift into problem-solving mode when challenges arise. If I were to recall one particularly challenging moment, it would be when I produced my very first brand event entirely on my own. I made a promise I believed I could deliver, even though I had never undertaken such a task solo before. What made the difference was the immense pressure I placed on myself, which led me to become more organized than ever. As a result, everything ran smoothly, demonstrating the power of determination and adaptability in the face of challenges.
Have you had any mentors in life, and if so, what knowledge did they impart?
Expected as it may sound, my life mentor has always been my mum. Not just because she’s my mother, but because she’s an extraordinary businesswoman who has achieved all her dreams and lives her life with fearless determination. I’ve absorbed numerous invaluable lessons from her, but if I were to distill her wisdom into a few words, it would be this: ‘Hard work and discipline are the only pathways to success.’
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What is a kindness you’ve received or a lesson you’ve learned that you’d like to pay forward?
The events industry in Dubai is truly a tight-knit community filled with kindness and a strong sense of camaraderie among professionals. We all understand the unique challenges and pressures we face in this line of work. While it might seem like we’re competitors, there have been numerous occasions when I’ve witnessed remarkable acts of generosity and support from fellow industry peers, and I’ve been fortunate to receive such kindness myself. In times of need, I’ve had many people come to the rescue, offering valuable advice, resources, and assistance, and I’ve reciprocated by extending a helping hand to others facing similar challenges. This sense of unity and willingness to support one another has not only made me appreciate the strength of our industry community but has also instilled in me the importance of paying forward the kindness and knowledge I’ve received.
This is The Fearlessness Issue – what does being fearless mean to you?
To me, being fearless means embracing the unknown – the very thing that used to scare me the most. When I made the decision to embark on this entrepreneurial journey, I knew I was signing up for a world filled with uncertainties. Everything was uncharted territory, and to some extent, it still is and always will be. Living in this unknown realm is the ultimate act of fearlessness because it means believing in myself, having faith in my abilities to overcome any hurdles that may come my way, and trusting that, regardless of the obstacles, everything will ultimately have a positive outcome. Looking back at when I first started, I can’t help but feel proud of the fearlessness that has guided me throughout this entire journey. I’ve encountered numerous challenges along the way, and each time I felt the weight of doubt, I dug deep to find the inner strength required to push through. Fearlessness, to me, is not the absence of fear but the courage to confront it and keep moving forward.
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