Welcome to the Emirates Woman weekly series ‘How I got my job as…’ where we speak to some incredible entrepreneurs and businesswomen both based in the UAE and globally to find out about their career paths that led them to where they are now; what their daily routines look like; the advice they’d give to those starting out; and the hurdles they’ve had to overcome.
This week we chat with Martha Waslen, founder of DayAway, a leading online destination platform for guests to discover and book curated luxury daytime experiences in the UAE. Designed for both travellers and residents, the unique platform offers a variety of restorative daytime escapes including wellness and dining experiences.
As a leading technology and lifestyle leader, Waslen has collaborated with luxurious hotels in the region to give users the ultimate rejuvenating package.
Emirates Woman sat down with the brand’s founder to find out more about her career and how she found inspiration to create this enticing luxury destination platform in the region.
What was your favourite subject at school?
Any class that involved debate. I think my mind must be physiologically wired to play Devil’s Advocate because I always love to consider different perspectives of the same debate, which is why I should have maybe been a lawyer.
What was your first job?
My very first job was working as a lifeguard at a country club in high school. Hardly anyone ever went in the pool, and I spent most days just lounging poolside. It was the best job ever.
What brought you to Dubai?
Dubai is such a beautiful and vibrant city, and we are very excited about the opportunity for our business to grow throughout the UAE and to meet with our incredible hotel and lifestyle partners who have helped make the hospitality scene in Dubai what it is today.
What inspired you to launch DayAway? Talk us through the concept.
We launched DayAway as a platform to connect luxury 5-star hotels to the growing experience economy through revolutionary software that allows hotels to maximise revenue from their underutilized facility spaces. Since our launch in May 2021, we’ve expanded to five countries and will soon offer a wide range of experiences curated by private yacht companies, helicopter operators, luxury retail boutiques, and award-winning cocktail bars and restaurants as well. We’re on our way to being the leading online destination for booking luxury experiences worldwide. We will be announcing a range of B2B software solutions to a global network of hospitality & travel brands in the coming months, and an innovative Web3 framework for our partners to expand their brand presence using blockchain, NFTs and metaverse technology.
What are the key elements of your role?
As the CEO of a tech startup, I wear many hats. My role includes everything from strategizing about how we will scale our tech globally across multiple travel and hospitality verticals, to spell-checking copy on our website and responding to customer service emails. Fortunately, I have an incredible team of rockstar developers, marketers and business development managers that allow me to focus most of my time on planning for the future of our business.
Talk us through your daily routine.
I have two young toddlers, so my mornings start very early and are usually filled with a mix of getting the kids ready for school while simultaneously preparing for early morning calls with partners and investors based in the US (which is the evening their time). The rest of my days are filled with exciting meetings, calls, coffees, and lunches with decision-makers from a wide range of industries – from travel and hospitality to Web3 and venture capital. As much as I’m able, I still love to pick up my kids from school in the late afternoons and be home to tuck them into bed before starting calls again with partners in the Middle East, Europe, and North America.
What advice do you have for anyone looking to follow in the same footsteps?
The path for entrepreneurs is a rocky one, filled with all kinds of challenges, but I always keep the Tony Robbins quote in mind that “success is 80 percent psychological and 20 percent skill.” If you stay positive, and mentally tough, incredible things are possible.
What is the best piece of advice you ever received?
I’ve received so many great pieces of advice and have been fortunate to have incredible role models and mentors. Some of the best advice I’ve received was to read a book called The Slight Edge by Jeff Olson. Lessons from that book are a daily reminder not to be intimidated by big goals, but to break them down into smaller, more achievable goals. Everything is possible if you work towards your dreams, bit by bit, day by day. Don’t let your highs get too high or your lows get too low – just stay on course, don’t get discouraged and keep accumulating small wins along the way. One day you’ll wake up, look back, and be amazed by everything you’ve achieved.
And what is the worst?
In the early days of DayAway, I was advised by a few prospective investors to just focus on the Web2 side of our business, and not distract myself with Web3 integrations. They thought our Web2 business was “good and profitable enough” and that we didn’t need to complicate the platform by integrating blockchain technology. What I don’t think they realise is that any tech company they’re investing in that isn’t considering how blockchain can help their business grow community, and ease unnecessary operational frictions, is already out of date.
What has been the biggest challenge you had to overcome?
The biggest challenge has been overcoming my own self-doubt, and my own illusions about what I was – and more importantly, what I was not capable of achieving. You really don’t know what you’re capable of until you try, and when you push yourself to what you believe is your absolute limit, I think many people realise that those limits they thought they had don’t really exist. There are no limits.
What are the future plans for your brand?
We are so excited about the future of DayAway and the innovative tech solutions we’ll be announcing in the coming months, including white label solutions that allow our partners to sell experiences directly to their customers on a global level, software that for the first time ever will allow travel agents to make commissions on booking experiences for their clients, and of course building a bridge to bring millions of people into the world of Web3. DayAway has recently announced the launch of our Founder’s Key NFT. Commemorating our transition into Web3, the Founder’s Key is the first blockchain-enabled membership and loyalty program of its kind that unlocks exclusive access and benefits to luxury experiences worldwide. The Founder’s Key, along with future DayAway NFT collections and metaverse experiences, will build the foundation for what we hope will be the wider tokenisation of memberships and loyalty programs in hospitality and travel.
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