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Evelyne (also known as Eva) found her interest in sport when she was a student studying for her master’s degree in Political Science and Business Administration. As a student, Eva was quick to enrich her interest in sport by becoming a reporter and ultimately editor for sports.com. This passion for sport is what eventually urged Eva to found her company, Sport Evasion, in 1998. Currently, Eva runs Sport Evasion with her husband Bassam, while also juggling the responsibilities of being a mother to her two young children.
Eva’s company, Sport Evasion, primarily focuses on the management of sporting events in Lebanon, ranging from fun school sports days to corporate competitions and team building activities. Sport Evasion has also been responsible for the largest ever corporate games in Lebanon.
While Eva’s passion for sport led her to establish Sport Evasion, Eva has always been impassioned to help other women achieve their potential in the world of business. In 2008, she was appointed the Programme Manager of the non-governmental organization, the Lebanese League for Women in Business (LLWB), a position she took up due to the effects of the 2006 Lebanese war, which forced Sport Evasion to become operationally dormant. Within this role, Eva focused on the empowerment of women in business and participated in the Presidential Summit on Entrepreneurship, which took place in Washington D.C., US in 2010.
Indeed, Eva feels that women in Lebanon are underrepresented in the world of business and frequently receive inflexible working arrangements: “Despite more than half of university students in Lebanon being female, the proportion of females entering the workforce is around 30 per cent. By the age of 30, this figure is even lower. Companies often don’t offer flexible working hours, fair maternity leave, the option to work from home and other policies that would make a good work-life balance more achievable. This results in women feeling guilty about the responsibilities of raising their children. We need a culture of promoting female entrepreneurship as a solution to the deficiency of the support system for working women in Lebanon so that they can remain financially productive and in the work place. But, sadly, this isn’t emphasised enough by the government or society.”
In 2010, Eva returned to operating Sport Evasion, managing to bolster the company’s strategic growth plan and facilitate regional and service expansion. However, Eva saw that she still needed further guidance to execute her plans for Sport Evasion’s growth; something, which she had feared and felt that she needed objective input to achieve.
After applying and successfully being accepted as a Mowgli entrepreneur candidate, Eva participated in the Mowgli Mentoring Experience (MME) programme, held in Lebanon in November 2011. Her drive to join the programme was to find that extra support that she realised she needed: “I didn’t know what to expect from the Mowgli programme but I knew I needed someone outside the business to provide me with support. A consultant can be a bit impersonal because they don’t have that emotional connection with you. Mowgli provided the perfect opportunity.”
During the MME event, Eva was matched with her mentor, Ali Borhani, the founder and Managing Director of Incubeemea (incubeemea.com) , a Dubai-based boutique multi-disciplinary management consulting firm. Eva and Ali subsequently maintained the program’s year-long mentoring relationship, and with the help and support of Ali, her mentor, Eva has implemented a number of palpable changes to date: the brand identity of Sport Evasion has been changed; the website re-launched; the company’s sales strategy has been changed and different clients have been targeted; an honorary board of trustees has been established; the business plan has been rewritten enabling Eva to expand regionally and work on new services. And most recently, a consort of secondary schools has approached Sport Evasion for guidance and consultation on the renovation of the schools’ sports education curriculum.
As well as making such changes to her business, with Ali’s help and guidance, Eva has also achieved a better balance between her working and personal life: “Ali has helped me personally, as well as professionally. He’s helped me to achieve a more acceptable work-life balance. We create targets on a personal level as well as professionally, and I’m now able to spend more time with my children and engage in sport and leisure activities more frequently. This has been invaluable help to me as a mother as I know that many mothers in Lebanon don’t receive that support framework.” In fact, the mentoring relationship between Eva and Ali was so successful that they have agreed to take it beyond the normal, yearlong term Mowgli endeavours that all its entrepreneurs and mentors achieve.
Through the programme Eva has learned a lot about herself as a business woman and has found it so beneficial that she wants to share the benefits of Mowgli with others by becoming a Mowgli mentor: “I lacked confidence before in my own decision-making capabilities and I didn’t think my ideas were good enough to strengthen Sport Evasion. However, Ali has helped me to realise that I do have a lot of knowledge about business to share with other people and that I am a natural leader. This is what I would like to share with people who are in a similar situation to mine. I believe that having a mentor has helped me achieve the things that I wouldn’t have been capable of achieving otherwise.”