In our culture, we are encouraged to choose a career based on its potential to provide us with stability and financial security. Its alignment with our dreams and passion is often dismissed as unimportant.
However, studies show that finding meaning, purpose, and fulfillment in our work boosts our performance and productivity while it reduces health risks including anxiety and depression.
Meaningful work also helps us build a sense of community and supportive relationships.
During a recent interview conducted by our intern Talar, we asked Lebanese businesswoman Rima Koteich el-Husseini, CEO of Blessing and founder of The Blessing Foundation, to share her journey to finding purpose and meaning in her work.
Rima started her career off as a bank employee, moved on to co-found high-end chocolate gift business Blessing with her sister, and later established the Blessing Foundation which connects and empowers women entrepreneurs across the MENA region.
Talar: What were your initial career goals and how did you get started in business?
Rima: I pursued a bachelor’s degree in business administration, followed by a master’s in money and banking. While working on my master’s, I discovered my passion for finance. Once I had my master’s degree, I joined Citibank, where I worked for five years.
During this time, I realized that I not only wanted to be financially independent but that I also wanted to be my own boss and the master of my own decisions – something I wish for all young women. I then worked to establish my business Blessing, which I co-founded with my sister Rana Najjar.
Talar: Did your career progress as you hoped and planned?
Rima: Yes, it did. I had a broad idea of the direction I wanted to head in and followed my gut instinct, grasping the opportunities that came up along the way, with my focus kept on my long-term goals. This taught me that we can’t carve our career goals and path in stone but need to be flexible and go with the flow to achieve our goals.
Talar: Do you love the work you do?
Rima: Of course! It’s very important for me, and everyone, to love the work we do. I remind my kids and everyone around me that love and passion for the work we do in itself brings satisfaction. It may not necessarily bring financial wealth in the beginning or right away, but if we love our work, we will perfect it and give it all our effort and energy, and this will definitely translate into the financial outcome we desire.
Talar: Do you consider your career to be meaningful?
Rima: We are in the gifting business. Blessing deals with gifts, special occasions, and happiness. Our work connects people in a beautiful way, by sharing the right message during intimate occasions. It’s lovely to see the joy we spread. This gives my work meaning indeed.
Talar: Did you actively seek to bring meaning to your work?
Rima: Yes, I wanted to have a greater impact and give back to my community, which brought to life the Blessing Foundation.
Talar: At which point did you decide to launch the Blessing Foundation and why?
Rima: In 2012, I went to the US as part of a mentorship program that connected me to women business leaders ready to share their knowledge and support other women in business. This made me realize that we need more women helping each other in our part of the world.
When my sister and I started Blessing the business, we did not have access to support and advice that could have helped us more easily overcome the obstacles we faced. I wished to introduce the concept of mentorship to women in our region.
Talar: How did the Blessing Foundation bring further meaning to your work?
Rima: The foundation’s mission is to help women in business connect, grow, evolve and scale. We have a mentoring program that connects women leaders in business with emerging women entrepreneurs in one-on-one mentoring relationships. The other initiative “SHE Min Lebnen” economically and socially empowers women in rural Lebanon and host communities by offering them workshops with internationally renowned Lebanese designers to enhance their products and create new ones while marketing for them locally and internationally. Seeing the progress made by so many of these women and knowing the positive impact the foundation’s work has had on them, is incredibly meaningful for me.
Talar: Why is it important to you to empower women, especially in the MENA region?
Rima: I believe that women in this part of the world are still an untapped economic resource. Women have so much potential and empowered women, in turn, empower their family and community. This creates a multiplier effect in society, one that is much needed in the MENA region.
Talar: How do you balance your life as an entrepreneur with family, friends, hobbies and other interests?
Rima: Family comes first! I believe that we must have a strong foundation at home to be able to function properly outside the home. As families, we need to live by strong values and ethics which will resonate in our careers and places of work.
We should realize that we cannot do everything at once. It’s an ongoing strive to keep a balance in life.
Talar: What advice would you share with anyone about to start their professional journey?
Rima: Give it time, patience and persistence. Always strive to love what you do. Do it for the cause, the money will follow.
Talar: What were obstacles you faced as a business owner and as you launched the Blessing Foundation and how did you overcome them?
Rima: As a business we never faced failure, we are still growing and expanding. However, the economic and political situation in and around the region definitely kept us from advancing as fast as we could have. The segmented Arab market and its borders are troubling, particularly when it comes to online delivery.
As I planned to launch the Blessing Foundation, I ignored the negative noises around me that I wouldn’t find women willing to support other women. Convinced it would succeed, I went with my intentions and dealt with obstacles one at a time.
Talar: If you had the chance to start your career over again, is there anything you would do differently?
Rima: I would seek advice and mentorship from the start. I started my business and family at the same time, and both grew simultaneously. Although I wouldn’t change that, I would maybe move faster and explore one or more of my other business ideas.
Talar: To what or who do you most attribute your success?
Rima: I would attribute my success to a good support system, full of positive energy. My husband, in particular, was always supportive and encouraged me to work hard, never once holding me back.
Choosing a career that brings purpose and meaning is possibly one of the most important choices you can make to protect your health for the future. In our region and culture, it may be a challenge, but well worth the extra effort required.