Obai and Hill
BY ANAAM IKRAM
Setting up a company can prove to be an intimidating experience for many, for young Bahraini Entrepreneur, Wafa Obaidat, hard work, dedication and the decision to dive into the communications industry with her own company resulted in a huge success.
The Award-Winning Bahraini PR company, Obai and Hill, has already got major achievements under its belt since the time it was set-up. Working with major companies in Bahrain, Obai and Hill has cemented itself firmly at the top of the communications industry in the Kingdom. The Founder and Creative Director sat down with Perle Magazine to walk us through her journey.
An arts and literature enthusiast, Wafa enrolled as an Interior Design student in the Chelsea College of Arts and Design in London. Though Interior Design was not her passion, being in the biggest design capital allowed her to explore her artistic talents. “I started going to theatres, performances, galleries and exhibitions and it really just opened my eyes to this whole new world of the arts and appreciation of performance and dance” Wafa says. The strong work ethic that had been instilled in her from a very young age pushed her towards yearning to work in London at the mere age of 18. “I went for anything everything and I made some huge rookie mistakes”, she recalled of her experience initially trying to secure a job. Her trials and errors on how to approach a job vacancy successfully landed her a job with famous designers Liza Bruce. Her two-year work experience taught her every aspect of working in the fashion industry including styling, fashion, PR, working with buyers, and private clients.
Moving on from there, Wafa got the chance to work with Vogue Nippon and On/Off Agency. While working for other organisations in the fashion industry, her passion towards arts hadn’t diminished, and lead to her launching her own online magazine in 2009 called Sketchbook. The idea came from her being deeply interested in the design process. “I really was not into the final product as much as I was into the thought process”, she says, “I was more into how people thought, sketched and wrote notes.” She created an online publication where she could showcase young and emerging designers and artists. The first issue of Sketchbook was dedicated to fashion bloggers and became a success overnight; selling 7500 print copies and over 9000 online downloads. Running the online publication from her apartment, Sketchbook spanned six issues over two years and managed to garner over 400 contributors.
By 2011, Sketchbook was almost at the end of its run, but Wafa’s next business venture, her own PR company, had started to come to life. “There was so much more self-satisfaction because we were actually doing creative work for our clients and getting paid for it” she says of Obai and Hill’s early days. However, her road to success with Obai and Hill was not so smooth. As the company was set up when Wafa was only 22-years old, and was initially eponymous, she struggled to be taken seriously. After a frustrating meeting with an established Art Director, Wafa decided to add weight to her company by adding ‘Hill’. “Obai is the beginning of my last name, and Hill is really Notting Hill which is where my apartment was and where the business and Sketchbook started”, she explained. Adding a second name made her company sound more trustworthy and allowed people to seriously consider working with her.
After living and working in London for six years, Wafa decided to make the move back to Bahrain and set up her business here. The services that Obai and Hill offered were being heavily appreciated by countries like Kuwait and Qatar, who were really interested in working with the firm. Branching out from its PR core to services such as, branding, website design, web app design and event management. Obai and Hill has also embarked on the journey of product design and has successfully launched two accessories brands, Barrel&Drum and Sukkar, which are being sold across Bahrain.
Having worked with some of the most recognised brands in Bahrain, it was perhaps inevitable that Obai and Hill won the “Start Up of The Year” Award in 2015. “It was almost like the Oscars for the Entrepreneurship awards. It was a phenomenal night”, Wafa recalls. All those nominated with her, she says, are friends or colleagues of hers and the award could have easily gone to either one of them.
Wafas’ own mantra in life is to question everyday if she is happy, and if not, then she has to instantly change that. She credits her multitalented and supportive team heavily for being able to help her establish her business. “I am extremely lucky and blessed to have them”, she says of her team members. Much like her, Wafa advises those looking to start up their own company to never settle for anything less than what they want.
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