From Tech to Fashion: How Fulbright is Helping Me Achieve My Dreams

Shaymaa and her mother

Growing up I felt so lucky because my mom would create gorgeous handmade uniforms for me to wear to school that I designed myself. As I went through life, I realized that the kind of modest attire that my mom used to make for me was something that a lot of girls didn’t have. In college, I started drawing unique dresses with bold cuts and glowing fabrics, and I found a tailor in my neighborhood who was very talented in cutting and sewing, but not interested in promoting his work. I showed him my designs and he loved them because they were still within our culture, but still different. I remembered the feeling I had when I realized that I wanted other girls to feel that way too. I began working with the tailor, gave him my designs and guess what happened? He went from a startup tailor to having considerable number of recurring customers who felt happy, beautiful and satisfied with the culturally appropriate yet fashion forward designs.

After graduating from Ain Shams University in Egypt, where I studied computer science, I split my time between building my tech career and designing glamourous attire for women in my circles. The indescribable feeling of seeing these women beautiful, happy, and empowered because of my dresses was the thing that kept me motivated.

Shaymaa showcasing a project at Babson

13 years passed and I became a tech executive in a multinational firm, yet my passion for building a fashion brand and enhancing women’s lives did not go away. Day after day, this dream became clearer and bigger in my mind. In January 2016, I was reflecting on my previous year and setting up my goals for the New Year. As I did this, it all became crystal clear, and I knew what I should achieve next in my life and career. However, this meant making a courageous decision of quitting my job, going back to school to study entrepreneurship, and building my fashion startup. I have to confess, the idea of leaving behind all that I built and start over again was terrifying for me and my family, yet I had a strong feeling that this was the right thing to do.

Shaymaa working with other Babson students

I embarked on the process of looking for graduate schools and sponsorship programs. It was a lengthy process that needed lots of persistence, hard work, and dedication, but I was so excited to be accepted to the prestigious Fulbright Program to study in the United States. It was a huge moment for me and only then did I realize that I would receive the kind of empowerment and support that I was aiming for. I was granted a scholarship to study Entrepreneurship at Babson College, and I received tremendous support from the Fulbright team to make it happen. Supporting women entrepreneurs is one of the top priorities of the Fulbright Program, and this gave me great confidence that the Fulbright team will understand and support my bold steps.

Now, here I am, enjoying my learning experience at Babson College and getting closer to achieving my dream of building my fashion startup. The school has its unique style of teaching entrepreneurship through the Entrepreneurship Thought and Action (ET&A) program. I learned that taking actions is what it takes to build my startup even if those actions are small steps. Action is the only way to get my idea proven and tested by the target customers instead of just doing extensive theoretical studies like I’ve done in the past.

Thank you Fulbright!

I believe that the world is a better place when there is a strong support system for women where they can make decisions of their own for their personal benefits as well as for society. Thank you Fulbright for helping me work towards mine.

Shaymaa is currently studying Entrepreneurship at Babson College and is from Egypt.

Read more Fulbright stories here.

Fulbright Foreign Student Program in MENA blog. Sponsored by U.S. Dept of State.