Hey, I’m Chaymae (pronounced Shay-ma).
I’m an entrepreneur,
speaker and writer.
(scroll down so you can read more about me👇🏽)
The gist of it...
Back in 2019, I moved to the UK with £900 and started madeby, a no BS skincare brand that *actually* works. A few years later, we’d grown a profitable, bootstrapped brand, with a full-time team, online customers putting us out of stock more than we’d like, and 800 retail partners across the world, from Sephora to Urban Outfitters. NatWest said we were “one of the fastest growing brands in the country” and TikTok ranked us in the “Top 3 best-selling brands” on the platform. We also racked up some pretty impressive titles if you’re into that sort of thing, like when I made the “Forbes 30 Under 30 “ list for Europe or when Forbes named me one of the “50 Women Behind Brands” in the Middle East.
I then leveraged my e-commerce knowledge with my personal global reach of more than 300,000 followers and obsession with creating viral content that reaches 100M people monthly to launch ThirdWorld, a company at the intersection of media and D2C, reclaiming the narrative of countries, cultures and communities that are often under and mis-represented.
My work has now become laser focused on inspiring a new generation of entrepreneurs and creators from diverse backgrounds to achieve their goals and settle for nothing short of extraordinary, whilst building a manifesto for a revolution in the way 'we' are perceived.
If you want the full story from the cradle to how I came to be, feel free to read the below. My background doesn’t follow your typical linear trajectory but hey life is anything but linear!
How it all *really* started...
My mum used to say I would sell tires if I could…
An unexpected turn of events...
I became obsessed with earning and learning from as many people and places I could...
New York taught me that Success = Talent
+ Vision + Sustained Effort
Geneva: a coming of age
I return to Paris for my Masters and start building my first
I move to São Paulo as part of my double degree but again I feel a strong pull to learn and earn outside the classroom…
I leave to pursue my entrepreneurial bug...
I invest in building
I move to London with £900 in a French bank account...
I continue to make moves and zero in my focus...
Ready for what's next?
I was born and raised in Morocco. At 9, I employed my summer play dates to make and sell jewellery outside my neighbourhood whilst my parents were at work. When my friends’ parents called mine horrified, my first business failed. At 10, I bought the "Barbie: Make a Mag" CD and decided I was going to launch my very own tabloid. Again, my parents weren’t pleased when our neighbours got gossip about them, printed in all Barbie branding, in their letterbox. At 15, a teacher told us we had the whole year to make a presentation about any topic we wanted. I chose to do it on Iranian women. Not your typical depiction in the media, positive stories that would challenge stereotypes. After reaching out to local women in Iran on Couchsurfing, I decided to learn and build my first website as a medium to tell these stories and an alternative to your usual PowerPoint.
I’d say something was definitely brewing…
After finishing school, I got a full-ride merit undergrad and grad scholarship to study at SciencesPo, Paris. A Bachelor’s in Economics and Middle Eastern Studies and a Double Master’s Degree in Finance with Fundação Getulio Vargas in São Paulo, Brazil.
My first year, an unexpected family situation shifted my focus from being your regular student at an elitist university to someone who was faced with an awful burden: taking care of myself, my mother and two siblings. I thought about quitting university then but I went on to add four more merit scholarships to my roster which got me earning more than a graduate salary, year two of university.
At this point, my focus became creating and sustaining income whilst learning as much as I could about entrepreneurship and "emerging countries".
I first got a fellowship to travel all over India, from North to South, to research and meet with entrepreneurs, businesses and leaders, to understand how it evolved from being a colony to one of the world's great economic powers.
I then used an unpaid internship at The Institute of Economic Affairs in London, where my thesis was inspired by the book “The White Man's Burden: Why the West's Efforts to Aid the Rest Have Done So Much Ill and So Little Good”, to get a job as a liaison between the Ministry of Finance in Malaysia and an organisation funding social startups in the country. Being involved with organising The Social Entrepreneurship Summit with Muhammad Yunus and Obama's 4th Global Entrepreneurship Summit gave me the inspiration I needed to one day start a business, earlier than I had planned.
After coming home from work, my other job would start. And so in the evening, I’d work remotely for an advisory group based in Stanford and London where I was involved with consulting businesses, nonprofits and organisations like the US Department of Education, Walmart, GSK and others, on all matters related to governance and reputational risk.
None of these people knew I had two jobs at the same time. 5pm in Kuala Lumpur is 9am in London. At the time, I knew very little about burnout. I thought if my mind could do it, I could push my body to do anything. It was all about survival. But I got to travel all over South East Asia and continue to build an understanding of cultures and entrepreneurship in this region.
I couldn’t sustain two jobs at the same time and thought this was the time to live my then Wall Street dreams. Little did I know I’d end up working even harder.
I cold-emailed my way into a boutique hedge fund and at 20, I packed my bags to New York to source PIPE (Private Investment in Public Equity) deals in emerging markets. Being multilingual (Arabic, French, Spanish, Portuguese and English) meant I could reach out to anyone, anywhere, from Asia, the Middle East, Africa and Latin America. I was exhausted, but the thrill of the job was worth it. I learnt so much from the people I worked with and got inspired to do even more. Most of my moves in terms of sales, sourcing and closing deals, come from my time there.
If you’ve made it this far, I know what you’re thinking. Why would anyone leave New York for an unpaid internship at the UN?
Well, I was still able to work remotely. And if I was aware of one thing at that time, it was that my 20s were meant for as many experiences as I could possibly fit in because I knew I’d have to spend my next decades focused on one big overarching mission. Also, the fact I pulled an internship at the UN before I even finished undergrad was unheard of (only graduate students are allowed to be interns at the United Nations but that’s another story for another time).
And so here I am at the UN, at the Non-Governmental Liaison Service, at the very start of the Sustainable Development Goals. I quickly realise public service isn’t for me and that there must be better ways to make an impact in “developing countries”. Don’t get me wrong, it was great meeting people like Kofi Annan and I later returned to the UN, in New York this time, to give a speech, but the bureaucracy of the system and the complacency of many had me thinking.
I began formulating the idea that you can make a difference by throwing money at aid but what changes landscapes, narratives and representation at large can only be achieved through ownership, teaching people how they can own and bringing that power within our own communities.
I’m contractually bound to finish these degrees due to the scholarship I’m under but my mind is elsewhere. I’m learning everything I can about dropshipping and start making a considerable amount of money from dropshipping everything from printed leggings, to Arabic numbered watches and kitchen gadgets.
Bear in mind this was during the golden years of dropshipping and you couldn’t replicate it today without branding it. I obsess over Facebook advertising, increasing conversions on my websites and everything related to performance and social marketing. A far cry from the finance centric degree I was pursuing…
In São Paulo, I become an MBA student. I realise I have way too much time on my hands and continue to build dropshipping stores using Facebook ads. I even manage to sell some for a nice chunk of money. Again, I feel very removed from uni life and from my fellow students. I only really made it to class at 5pm three days a week. But one day, a former FGV alumni comes to give us a talk. She now worked at the Dubai office of one of the largest food companies in the world, BRF, headquartered in São Paulo.
I take her email and send her a cold-email explaining my previous experiences and why I’d be the perfect fit for the company. She forwards my email to the Head of HR and I get a meeting the same week. Three interviews later, they create a full-time position for me as a liaison between their Business Innovation Unit out of São Paulo and the Middle Eastern branches in Saudi and the UAE.
As part of my training, I spend time learning from different teams, part of their 100,000 employees across 117 countries. I’m also sent to shadow our teams at warehouses and supermarkets and learn so much about what goes on behind the scenes and what it takes to get a product picked up from shelves.
At the job, I oversaw the sales teams in their then new Middle Eastern branches. I’m meant to move to Dubai as part of my job but when have I ever stuck to what’s planned for me?
We parted ways on the best of terms and I still have a huge smile on my face everytime I see BRF brands all over the world. What I kept from my time there is how important a company culture is. How that many people can all come together, be champions of a company and be proud of it, because of a strong culture that fosters teamwork, community and inclusivity, which in turn increases engagement exponentially.
I start a different kind of consulting company, one that gets you results. I led various business development projects across Asia and the Middle East for Western companies. I work remotely, spending time with my family whilst travelling and living in Asia.
I worked on some fun projects from brokering real estate deals for an American interior design company with hotel chains in Singapore and the Middle East to moving a Canadian ecommerce company’s operations to the Philippines and even getting a children’s book picked up by Barnes & Nobles.
Always mindful of multiplying my income, I start a tutoring centre and a juice bar in Morocco, which I then franchise. I even start writing about my experience of hiring and managing employees older than me on Forbes Middle East and realise a childhood dream of being included in the business magazines I used to pick up for inspiration. We partner with Government Organisations and Ministries to reach more people and at this point, I feel I’m ready for a new challenge and to build what would become my legacy.
I also see a gap in the global media coverage: Western millennials are what every marketer is talking about, yet MENA millennials, who make up the majority of millennials worldwide, are mostly ignored, both as consumers and as employees. So I start researching and writing about this. My articles are picked up by companies and organisations who I advise on marketing to a multicultural audience.
I sell my brick-and-mortar businesses and use the money to set my family up for a very long time. For the first time, I’ll build without the imminent pressure to pay my family’s bills at the end of the month.
It takes me six months to open a bank account in the UK. It was both exciting and nerve-racking to essentially start over. As soon as I get to London, I secure writing gigs at the height of content marketing. This takes care of my living expenses and more. I also pick up a gig writing for Reuters. The goal? Advise their corporate clients, some of the biggest publishers in the world, on how to monetise their content.
On the side, I notice how people are obsessed with makeup and sit for hours at the beauty section at Primark looking at what people are picking up.
I look for a product that wouldn’t cost me that much to make or ship but that I could sell with a high-margin. I start selling microfibre makeup blenders without having ordered any stock. If my Facebook ads pick up, I’ll order the stock and ask my customers to wait. If it didn't pick up, I’d refund the few sales I made and pivot until I found my winning product.
I hire a videographer in Russia, send her a few samples and make a Facebook ad showing how the sponges save over 70% of your foundation, one of the most expensive beauty products. The ad goes viral and catches the attention of our first retailer. The rest is history (you can read the full story, pictures and all, here).
5 years later, Sunday Ivy becomes madeby, and we start making our own no BS skincare that *actually* works, whilst hitting millions in revenue and accumulating various accolades.
This year, I also personally hit 300K on social media and started building other secret brands out of Dubai. I also launch ThirdWorld, a media company reclaiming the narrative of countries, cultures and communities that are often under and mis-represented.