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Conversations with the Inspiring Latifah and Tami Al-Hazza

Today we’d like to introduce you to Latifah and Tami Al-Hazza.

Latifah and Tami, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
Today, I am a freelance travel journalist, as well as the Co-Founder of Femscape Sojourns.
I have made travel my career and my life because traveling has always been a significant part of my life. My parents started taking me on international journeys at the age of three months. By the time I graduated from college, I had already visited over 20 countries. I majored in Journalism (B.S. and M.S.) and decided to explore travel journalism after interning at CNN Travel in Hong Kong following graduate school.

After traveling extensively with friends as well as my mother, I realized that many people would like to have the same type of opportunities to travel, to experience adventure and to bond with their mother through travel as I have had. After discussing this with my mom, she expressed her concerns that women her age might be afraid or uncomfortable with the idea of traveling alone. Many older women want to see the world but have no one to travel with because they are divorced, widowed, or don’t have an adventurous circle of friends who want to travel. After much discussion and research, we decided to create a boutique women’s travel company that offers separate, culturally rich trips for women. Femscape Sojourns is unique in that we offer three different types of sojourns for: women age 40+, women in their 20s and 30s and, our most unique category, for mothers and daughters. We offer three distinct categories because from traveling together, we have come to understand that younger women and older women often have different interests and energy levels.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
No, it hasn’t all been smooth. Like most creatives and entrepreneurs, there are ups and downs to building (or creating) your brand, your career or your company. There have been highs and lows and definitely bumps throughout the process. First of all, being a freelancer takes a lot of confidence, effort and persistence. Getting your work accepted and getting paid the amount you deserve can be quite a difficult task.

In addition, growing a business on your own, without any investors is time-consuming, it’s expensive and it requires a lot of dedication and motivation. We kept reading that you need to hire people to do different parts of the business; however, it can be difficult to hire everyone you need so, in the beginning, you must learn many aspects of the business.

A business doesn’t usually grow overnight, and that’s what we had to learn with Femscape Sojourns. We expected to become so popular within the first year and we took it a bit hard when that didn’t happen. Depending on your line of work, it is important to first build a following before you offer goods or a service to the public. For women just creating their business, they must go into it with confidence and strength and realize the time, monetary commitment and skills that it will require. They must plan for growth to take time, and to celebrate every tiny success along the way as if it’s a huge accomplishment instead of a small victory.

We also learned that we shouldn’t tell our extended family and friends about our new business until it is successful. As much as they may be behind you and want you to succeed, sometimes their remarks can be discouraging. Select a few people (2-4) that you REALLY trust and only share milestones with them. It’s a lot easier to tell a few close people that you haven’t made it as far as you’d hoped, instead of having hundreds of people continuously ask you if you’ve reached your goal.

What should we know about Femscape Sojourns? What do you guys do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
I am a travel enthusiast and a storyteller. I have two goals; One is to allow others the opportunity to explore and experience the world. The second is to give a voice to those who have enriching stories to tell, but no voice to share them. I specialize in all aspects of travel– cultures, societies, traditions, people, languages, activities.

I am very proud to be able to share a meaningful business with my mother. I am extremely grateful to be able to strengthen our bond daily by working together on a company that encourages other mothers and daughters to do the same. Our trips take travelers beyond the tourist destinations and immerse them in culturally authentic experiences that most travelers do not have the opportunity to try. We take women to countries where we are familiar with the culture and oftentimes speak the language so that we are able to offer them unique opportunities. Our trips revolve around empowering women of all ages and forming relationships with women from around the world. We make it a point to work with as many female-owned businesses as possible on all of our trips. Each trip is unique and purposeful in that we offer at least one surprise activity where we get together with the local women of the community we’re visiting. This activity is included in order to show support for the local women as well as to increase cultural awareness.

What do you feel are the biggest barriers today to female leadership, in your industry or generally?
I think lack of confidence, not speaking up, downplaying success and trying to be perfect are a few of the biggest barriers to female leadership. Time and time again, female leaders are disliked or criticized and viewed as too bossy when they are just being assertive. Going into a leadership position knowing this and developing a clear understanding of your goals will lead to success no matter what obstacles you encounter. Female leaders should never be satisfied with just sitting at the table, they should always be the person to bring the table. Fearing being rejected will not get you very far, but speaking up and giving a voice to your thoughts will provide you a respected seat at the table. Female leaders also tend to undersell themselves from fear of appearing as conceited. They rather seem non-intimidating. If men can are allowed to be assertive, women should feel that they can do the same without any repercussions. Lastly, in my opinion, female leaders don’t feel that they’re ready until everything is perfect. Just go for it!

So much of the media coverage is focused on the challenges facing women today, but what about the opportunities? Do you feel there are any opportunities that women are particularly well-positioned for?
Women are well positioned for all opportunities. No matter what area women are passionate about, they are sure to bring diversity, different ideas and an expanded mindset to any setting. I don’t believe that women are more qualified for specific fields over others. I believe that women are well suited for any opportunity that they are passionate about.

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