An ironman athlete, a mom and the co-founder of Matter, Dina Aly is the proof limits are there to be challenged and made a thing of the past.
Creativity was always part of Dina’s life. As a teenager, she loved dancing and organizing talent shows for all students. While teaching dancing at a professional studio at only 15, she found joy in putting together costumes, choreography, and music to prepare for the end of the year recital. To her, entrepreneurship is very much like choreography, as both involve bringing an idea to life.
Graduating top of her class in her business administration university, familiar with the German rigor thanks to her background education, Dina emerged as an exceptional professional, fluent in creative fields, talented in negotiation, alert in spotting the opportunity and self-trained for the extra-mile.
By having Matter winning international pitches and awards, Matter is proving Egyptians are aware of what’s happening in the world and able to have a distinct voice, while joining the elite.
WHAT WOULD MAKE YOUR SOUL SING? WHAT MAKES YOU HAPPY?
I love doing things for the very first time and challenging myself. It is amazing how much we are capable of when we put ourselves new goals. I learned that from endurance sports. In the past couple of years, I completed several triathlons, marathons and Ironman races. The process had all the ingredients I love: there is a mental and a physical game, then there is traveling, discovering new countries, and being outdoors, in nature. You really have everything – biking, swimming, running, and a change in scenery, while you are pushing your body beyond its known limits. I am doing it with my husband – we do sports together and while we are completing ironman, the kids are going in the youth race. By being an athlete you are learning about yourself so much. Everything from sport can be applied in business, from breaking down to pulling yourself up. When you break the mindset related to what you can and can’t do, you learn to respect your body in a different way and it opens a different kind of experience. By going deeper into the practice, I’ve realized that being an athlete it’s so much more than doing sport: it is a mental, spiritual and physical activity and it gives you sanity in the middle of craziness. When you are running long distances, spending time with yourself is a very personal and intimate experience.
A CHILDHOOD STORY THAT ANNOUNCED THE CREATIVE PERSON YOU ARE TODAY
Putting on the very first talent show in my school, when I was 15. I was the head of the student council so I convinced the teachers of the importance of having a performance where the students can express their creativity. I promised that the council will organize the entire rehearsals and organize all the details of the show. I can still remember the moment when I was watching the amazing performances of the students, the energy was fantastic and I felt so proud that we were able to put together such a great show. The talent show is still running till today.
BEST CONTEXT EVER FOR INSPIRATION WAS
People. I am involved in many networks – and it’s quite consuming at times – but it’s also extremely inspiring. It is not always about reaching big success, on the contrary, authentic journeys of people doing what they are really passionate about is what inspires me most. I love mentoring and always had mentors that I consult on a regular basis.
THE PROJECT YOU LOVED MOST
Matter itself. It is my personal favorite brand and I love everything it stands for. Creating a brand is like raising a baby – you give it a name, values, and help it become authentic and successful. So like my children I also love all our brands. But there are a couple of very challenging projects. Like EG Bank where it was our mission to transform it to become one of the top banks in Egypt. Also Flo, the water brand. “We are going to launch a local water that would be double the price of local brands. It’s balanced alkaline water. How do we position it?”, said the client. We’ve come up with the strategy translated by an intricate drawing inspired by the water’s importance in the cycle of life. When Flo was launched, every other water-brand decided to go through rebranding.
THE PROJECT OTHERS LOVED MOST
Probably Flo. Not only every other water-brand had to go through rebranding as well after we’ve launch it, but people were in love with it, taking pictures with the bottle and posting in social media, which is quite interesting, as water was quite a dull category in Egypt. The internet was in bloom and that was the biggest compliment. It’s not client feedback, it’s consumer feedback.
THE BEST THING ABOUT EGYPTIAN CREATIVITY IS
Egyptian creativity is what always gets us out of the dark. We are brilliant creative problem-solvers and have the funniest most ingenious hacks. Egyptian humor knows how to make the darkest moments bearable. We use our creativity to get out of difficult situations and we put some humor in it. If we had one super-power, that would be creativity.
BEST STATEMENT OF EGYPTIAN HUMOR
Like powerful brands. Germany promises efficiency, Paris promises romance and Egypt consistently promises humor that never fails.
ADVICE FOR INTERNATIONAL HEADHUNTERS, RELATED TO EGYPTIAN CREATIVES
In Egypt you should look everywhere, even in unexpected places, where the normal rules don’t apply. My partner is great in spotting talent. He always looks in the least expected places across all fields. So come with an open mind, don’t look in the official places, not even in the usual cities. Look beyond Cairo and the industry and you will still be able to find talents.
BEST PLACE IN CAIRO
I love nature. Egypt has a lot of amazing places. But even in busy Cairo you can find glimpses of nature. There is this island on the Nile, really raw and untouched – so go to Maadi and take a felucca trip on the Nile. While you are on the water, it’s a different story. It’s totally unexpected to be in the crowded and crazy Cairo and to find this strip of peace in the middle of it. It’s so quiet and peaceful.
BEST PLACE IN EGYPT
I love nature so there are so many places. There is Sinai with the diversity of the desert, mountains and the Red Sea. Also, Aswan is a special place. It has a deep blue water, so you can swim in the Nile and drink from it, that’s the cleanest Nile water one can find in Egypt. Fayoum and Siwa are other must visits in Egypt.
MOST DISTURBING CLICHÉ ABOUT EGYPT, IN THE MEDIA OUTLETS OF THE WORLD IS
I don’t like media, in general. It’s misleading and superficial. I usually don’t watch it too much. A couple of years ago I completed an executive course in Harvard. We were around 50 people, with only 6 women. I was quite shocked. At home, in my day to day life, I never felt the need to think, justify or struggle for being a woman in a professional context, but abroad I kept on having to defend and explain my story. What strikes me is that people think we are not empowered at all in Egypt. The reality is – Egypt is a place where women are really powerful. I never felt that I am not able to live my dream or be limited, as a woman and as an entrepreneur. Our women are smart and empowered and when people talk to me like I am someone that has no freedom, I feel completely offended, because that’s so not true. It such a false stereotype that women are powerless in Egypt. It’s quite the contrary.
EGYPT SHOULD BE KNOWN FOR
Culture and arts. It’s mind boggling: there is so much diverse history. There is so much creativity and diversity.
YOUR VIEWS ON SPIRITUALITY
It’s what makes us human. It’s like a constant journey, very personal, but so important.
YOUR VIEWS ON MONEY
I think money it’s what you do with it. It doesn’t matter if you have a lot or just a little. If you have a bad attitude, you will be miserable. It is more important to have a healthy attitude towards it and understand how to use it to truly enrich your life. There is beauty to it, as there is danger.
AN INSPIRATION SOURCE YOU RECOMMEND FOR A YOUNG CREATIVE
For me the ultimate inspiration was travel, travel to unexpected places. Never go to the same place. Get to know people and cultures, just get out.
AN EGYPT BASED FEMALE TALENT THAT DESERVES TO BE PROMOTED AT INTERNATIONAL LEVEL, AS EXPONENT OF LOCAL CREATIVE SPIRIT
Talata founder. We have to admit – originality takes guts. Inspired by the local traditions, symbols and crafts, she is reviving neglected Egyptian visual statements, by converting them to modernity, with a design twist. I definitely like her work: it’s so authentic and inspiring.
If you want to see more of Matter’s cool projects, click here.