Meet May Al-Karooni, Founder of Globechain. A simple company move resulted in her greatest achievement. Six years ago, despite sustainability, circular economy, and reuse being relatively unheard-of terms, she founded Globechain, an ESG reuse marketplace.
Her passion is to prove that a business with its foundation structured on the principle of being commercial with a conscience can grow to become a global company, generating revenue, doing good, AND offering infinite possibilities to those who use it.
When May is not behind her laptop or leading her talented team as they scale, you can find her out in nature, absorbing the amazing and very few untouched places she has been privileged to experience.
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Table of Contents
Let’s learn a little about you and really get to experience what makes us tick – starting at our beginnings. Where did your story begin?
May Al-Karooni: I was working for an investment bank, and we moved offices across the road. I found out we were disposing of perfectly usable furniture and office equipment, costing £50 000 per person for the move! I was shocked and wondered why no one had digitized waste and connected enterprises to non-profits and businesses to reuse and redistribute unneeded items measuring the ESG data impact. From there, I set up Globechain with £800.
Globechain is now leading a new market in reuse and supply chain for enterprises in retail, construction, and hospitality to reduce global waste and generate social, economic, and environmental data on the impact.
Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey? Did you ever consider giving up?
May Al-Karooni: I naively set out to fundraise, and one question I got asked was what was the market cap – well, there wasn’t one at the time. Hence I started collecting ESG data on the impact of the items given to prove there was an emerging market. I ended up bootstrapping the business for 4 years generating revenue until finally Ellen McArthur / McKinsey (and Accenture) reported there, in fact, was a new economy forming, it was called the Circular Economy and was estimated that it could generate more than $4.5tr (£3.1tr) a year for the global economy by 2030.
Those four years were intense, I had no personal life, and sleep deprivation was the norm. Honestly, there were moments when you doubted yourself, but I had such belief in my vision that I kept persevering.
What are the most common mistakes you see entrepreneurs make and what would you suggest they do?
May Al-Karooni: Don’t outsource your hiring, especially in the beginning, as the CEO, be in all the interviews if you have a small team. Keep 80% ownership of the decisions; this is your company and your vision. The people you hire become your brand, and they are the driving force that helps your business move forward. Also, avoid the trap of thinking you have to hire now. It is worth taking your time to find the best and most passionate people that you can afford. Hire people who want to be part of your business, your journey, and don’t just see it as another job. I am always unofficially on the lookout for good talent and people with values not out just to make a quick buck.
Resilience is critical in critical times like the ones we are going through now. How would you define resilience?
May Al-Karooni: Be confident in your vision and your abilities. Along the way, you will be given advice, guidance, criticism, and skepticism. Some will be amazing, and others might cause you to doubt yourself or think you are on the wrong path. Don’t allow that to happen; always come back to your core vision and what you wanted to achieve. Trust that gut instinct – it is your business and your vision, so own it and don’t be afraid to go against the tide. You need to believe in yourself first. Master yourself before you master the universe.
What is most important to your organization—mission, vision, or values?
May Al-Karooni: The most important to my business are values and integrity. When I started hiring a team, I knew from the start that they needed to be aligned with the values of Globechain and have integrity. As a start-up, it is important to be aligned; this allows everyone to work towards achieving the vision.
You are a successful business leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success?
May Al-Karooni: Have a vision and understand that it will require a constant balance between being resilient, risk-taking, patience, and believing in yourself.
How important do you think it is for a leader to be mindful of his own brand?
May Al-Karooni: When you are a founder, CEO, and leader of your business, you immediately understand that you are not separate from the business. How you present yourself and the way you interact with people always reflects on the business. People (future clients) make decisions based on people. This is why you need to embody the principle that you are the brand always. When you do this, you set the example for your team to have the same awareness.
What’s your favorite leadership style and why?
May Al-Karooni: My leadership style is taking a people-centered approach.
I have a tight-knit team that is dedicated to the company mission and the route to achieving success. I believe everyone on my team should be recognized as individuals who are open to being pushed and challenged but also given the flexibility to be innovative in their approach to growing the business alongside me. As a leader, it is important to hire people you can lead and who can contribute different skills and perspectives to the business; this is why I have hired a diverse, multi-national team of individuals.
What would you say is the main difference between starting a business at the time you started yours and starting the business in today’s age?
May Al-Karooni: When I started, sustainability was a fluffy “nice-to-have” that marketing and PR teams used, and the circular economy model was unheard of. This made launching the business and growing it a lot more challenging than today, where solutions are readily accepted and adopted.
For all the attention and press around the topic of empowering women, this area of supporting and funding is still challenging, especially for ethnic minority female founders. We really need to be now taking action and creating change instead of just talking about it.
What’s your favorite “life lesson” quote and how has it affected your life?
May Al-Karooni: I have my own personal quote/mantra, which is, follow the 80:10:10 ratio.
You can have the best laid out plan and strategy, but to succeed, you will need to embrace that 80% is mental, 10% is business, and 10% will be craziness. Every day will give you a new challenge; some of these will be exciting, some nerve-wracking, but at the end of it, you need to have the mental capacity to deal with all of them. Don’t view them as something to be fearful of, instead embrace being open to the experience. This is where you will grow both professionally and personally.
Larry Yatch, VIP Contributor to ValiantCEO and the host of this interview would like to thank May Al-Karooni for taking the time to do this interview and share her knowledge and experience with our readers.
If you would like to get in touch with May Al-Karooni or her company, you can do it through her – Linkedin Page
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