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Fatima Al Shirawi, Founder of The Gracious F



It is very rare that you find an individual who has a positive air and grace to them. Fatima Al Shirawi is one of those rare gems who leaves a room full of people feeling happy and enlightened.

Fatima is one of those rare insightful people who has helped individuals, organisations, local and International designers achieve their ambitions, dreams and goals, through reduction of stress, anxiety, increase in confidence and an enhanced feeling of emotional and physical well-being.

The Gracious F holds a strong portfolio of prominent international clients including members of the royal family in the UAE and has connections directly with the likes of world international designers who fly her to Europe to consult and speak about their collections and their Colour affects.

“Colour has a profound effect on human behaviour. Different hues influence different psychological modes and ailments. Exposure to a particular colour or set of colours can lead to a measurable improvement in mood and behavior. These hues are arranged into one of four harmonious colour groups. Individuals too can be categorised via these groups, with each type having a natural affinity for a particular set of colours. My knowledge of colour psychology ensures that I can use the appropriate shades and techniques to craft a personalised coloured programme that soothes specific physical or mental ailments.”

Fatima works with clients on stress management and anxiety treatment. Combining colour psychology and feng shui she teaches clients on how to cope with stress and relieve the symptoms of emotional workplace anxiety, giving them more freedom, more confidence and ultimately more balance in their daily lives.

As well as successfully combining colour psychology, contemporary interior design and the principles of feng shui, Fatima designs unique methods for those looking for a harmonious lifestyle and in particularly effective for those who are in a transitional or difficult phase in their life such as a home or career move, divorce or illness. In short: perfect for the individuals living the Dubai life.

“One of the oldest philosophies of our time is feng shui and is practiced worldwide. It is a system of laws used to govern spatial arrangement and orientation in relation to the flow of energy.” As a feng shui expert, Fatima uses an in-depth knowledge of this to redesign contemporary luxury interiors, releasing the flow of energy and creating an optimum, balanced environment.

The principles of feng shui and colour psychology has a profound effect on human behavior. Colour psychology uses light in the form of colour to balance an individual’s spiritual energy. This energy travels through the body via these energy centers, each one associated with a colour. When an energy center becomes blocked, it results in specific physical or mental ailments, such as stress.

“The colour principle can also be applied to corporate companies; colour affects the bottom line when it comes to branding, packaging, web design, interiors, product design and fashion. The end result is a business which has purpose and a brand image that reflects the values of the organization.”

The Gracious F works closely with clients on interior design for private homes and corporate spaces. Using feng shui in the workspace helps to balance overall productivity, profitability and positive interaction. By introducing a combination of colour psychology and the principles of feng shui into the workplace, a company can help to balance overall productivity, profitability, success, positive interaction, enhance the creative working environment and improve the wellbeing of the workers.

“Without balance and harmony a corporate space or workforce can never achieve its true potential. Stagnant energy creates obstacles and setbacks, stops a flow of wealth and creates bad feeling. By introducing feng shui into the workplace, a company can help to balance overall productivity, profitability and positive interaction, enhance the creative working environment and improve the wellbeing of the workers.”

The Gracious F assists with every aspect of a brand’s design and communication. As advertising is one of the most essential forms of communication for any brand, Fatima works closely with corporate clients to apply theories of colour psychology to their client communications. This ensures that advertising is effective, enticing and representative of the brand personality and values.

“In a marketplace in which consumers are bombarded with information, The Gracious F ensures that a brand stands out and attracts consumers with a balanced and enticing advertising campaign and design. I use my experience in styling and colour to create attractive store displays, exhibition stands and photoshoots that communicate the brand’s products and ideals to the greatest effect.”

Fatima’s professional styling experience is used to create store displays, that embody the spirit of a brand while promoting it to new and established customers. Using both the principles of colour and feng shui, she works with corporate clients to create a display that is balanced, informative and enticing.

Styling techniques can also be used for exhibition stands and photo shoots, allowing the brand personality to shine through in enticing advertising imagery and brochure materials, and attracting more customers.

The inspiration for the establishment of lifestyle brand The Gracious F, is founder and entrepreneur Fatima Al Shirawi. With a passion for travel and education, Fatima started her journey as a graduate of George Washington University with a BA in Sociology and Marketing. Continuing her quest for knowledge, exploration of the fashion capitals of Europe led to qualifications from Polimoda Fashion School in Florence and London College of Fashion. To complement her achievements, Fatima also qualified as a certified colour consultant from the Colour Affects Institute in London.

Having returned to her native country, it was this experience of discovery and knowledge that has made Fatima realise the need for balance and a true understanding of the self to live a harmonious life. Fatima now uses her experience in sociology to understand how culture and religion play a role in our environment and what people are seeking in the multi-cultural destination that is Dubai.

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Women on Top in Tech – Tara Velis, Growth Hacker and Digital Innovation Strategist



(Women on Top in Tech is a series about Women Founders, CEOs, and Leaders in technology. It aims to amplify and bring to the fore diversity in leadership in technology.)

I am talking to Tara Velis, Growth Hacker and freelance Digital Innovation Strategist. Tara was selected and recognized by as one of the 500 most talented young people in the Dutch digital scene during the 2017 TNW edition. Tara is known for her creative, entrepreneurial spirit, which she is using to her advantage in leading the change in SMEs and corporates around the globe.

What makes you do what you do?

I tend to see life as a big, complex puzzle. Because of my curious nature, I am in constant development, looking for new angles and new approaches to business problems. Innovation through technology is exploring ideas and pushing boundaries. The most radical technological advances have not come from linear improvements within one area of expertise. Instead, they arise from the combination of seemingly disparate inventions. This is, in fact, the core of innovation. I love going beyond conventional thinking practices. Mashing up different thoughts and components, connecting the dots, and transforming that into something useful to businesses.

How did you rise in the industry you are in?

I consistently chose to follow my curiosity, which has led me to where I am today. If you want to succeed in the digital industry, you need to have a growth mindset. Seen the fact that the industry is evolving in an astoundingly quick rate, it’s crucial to stay current with the trends and forces in order to spot business opportunities. I believe taking responsibility for your own learning and development is key to success.

Why did you take on the role of Digital Innovation Strategist?

The reason for this is twofold. On the one hand, I got frustrated with businesses operating in the exact same way they did a couple of decades ago. Right now we are in the midst of a technology revolution, and the latest possibilities and limitations of cutting-edge technologies are evolving every single day. This means that companies need to stay current and act lean if they want to survive. On a more personal level, I noticed that I felt the need to use my creativity and problem-solving skills to their maximum capacity. In transforming businesses at scale, I change the rules of the game. I love breaking out of traditional, old-fashioned patterns by nurturing innovative ideas. This involves design thinking, extensive collaboration and feedback, the implementation of various strategies and tactics, validated learning, and so on. I get a lot of energy from my work because it is aligned with my personal interests.

Do you have a mentor that you look up to in your industries?

Yes, I look up to Drew Boyd. He is a global leader in creativity and innovation. He taught me how to evaluate ideas in order to select the best ones to proceed with. This is crucial because otherwise,you run the risk of ideas creating the criteria for you because of various biases and unrelated factors. He also taught me a great deal on facilitation of creativity workshops.

How would you describe your leadership style?

I tend to have the characteristics of a transformational leader. People have told me that my enthusiasm and positive energy is motivating and even inspiring to them. Even though I take these comments as a huge compliment, I am not sure how I feel about referring to myself as a leader. To me, it still has a somewhat negative connotation. I guess I associate the concept with being a boss who’s throwing around commands. But if a leader means listening to others and igniting intrinsic motivation in people, then yes, I guess I’m a charismatic leader.

Do you consciously or unconsciously support diversity and why?

Yes, one hundred percent. I believe that creativity and innovation flourish when a highly diverse group of people bounces ideas off each other. Diversity in terms of function, gender,and culture is extremely valuable, especially in the ideation phase of a project, as it can help to see more possibilities and come up with better ideas.

Do you have any advice for others?

Yes, I have some pieces of advice I’d like to share.
First of all: Develop self-awareness. You can do so by actively seeking feedback from the people around you. This will help you understand how others see you, align your intentions with your actions, and eventually enhance your communication- and leadership skills.

Surround yourself with knowledgeable and inspiring people. They might be able to support you in reaching your goals, and help you grow both personally and professionally.

Ask “why?” a couple of times. This simple and powerful method is useful for getting to the core of a problem or challenge. Make sure to often remind yourself and your team of the outcome of this exercise to have a clear sense of direction and focus.

Data is your friend. Whether it’s extensive quantitative market research or a sufficient amount of in-depth consumer interviews (or both!), your data levels all arguments. However, always be aware of biases and limitations of research.

Say “Yes, and…” instead of “No”. Don’t be an idea killer. Forget about the feasibility and budget, at least in the ideation phase. Instead, encourage your team to generate ideas without restrictions. You can compromise certain aspects later.

Prioritization is key. There is just no way you can execute all your ideas, and, quite frankly, there is no point in trying to do so. Identify the high potential ideas and start executing those first.

Encourage rapid prototyping. Don’t wait too long to experiment, launch, and iterate your product or service. Fail fast and fail often. Adopt an Agile mindset.

If you’d like to get in touch with Tara Velis, please feel free to reach out to her on LinkedIn:

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Callum Connects

Marek Danyluk, CEO of Space Ventures



Marek Danyluk has a talent for assessing the competencies of management teams for other businesses and pulling together exceptional teams for his own businesses!

What’s your story?
I am the CEO of a venture capital business, Space Ventures, which invests in seed and pre-series A businesses. I also own and run Space Executive, a recruitment business focused on senior to executive hires across sales, marketing, finance, legal and change.

My career started as a trainee underwriter in the Lloyds market but quickly moved into recruitment where I set-up my first business in 2002. The business grew to around 100 people. I moved to Asia in 2009 as a board member of a multinational recruitment business with the mandate to help them scale their Asian entities, which helped contribute to their sale this year, in 2017.

My main talent is assessing the competencies of management teams as well as building high performing recruitment boutiques and putting together exceptional management teams for my own businesses.

What excites you most about your industry?
Building the business is very much about attracting the best talent and being able to build a culture which people find invigorating and unique. It’s an exciting proposition to be able to define a culture in that regard and salespeople are a fun bunch, so when you get it right it’s tremendous.

From a VC point of view there is just so much happening. South East Asia is a melting pot of innovation so the ideas and quality of people you have exposure to, is truly phenomenal. The exposure in the VC has taken me away from a career in recruitment. Doing something completely different has given me a new level of focus.

What’s your connection to Asia?
Whilst I came here with work, both my boys were born in Singapore and to them this very much is home. That said, my father in law spent many years in the East so coming and settling here was met with a good degree of support and familiarity.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Possibly Hong Kong. It’s the closest I’ve been to working in London. Whilst there are massive Asian influences people will work with you on the basis you are good at what you do and work hard. I find that approach very honest and straightforward.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
“Always treat people well on the way up!”

Who inspires you?
I like reading about people who have excelled in business such as Jack Ma, James Kahn, Phil Knight, Sir Richard Branson, Elon Musk, all have great stories to tell and they are all inspirational. No-one has inspired me more than my parents and they are well aware as to why…

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
Pretty much any technology innovation blows me away.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
Whilst it is important not to have regrets I do continually wake up thinking I’m still doing my A’ Levels. So, I’d have probably tried a little harder in 6th form.

How do you unwind?
I like the odd glass of red wine and watching sport

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Japan skiing. I love skiing and Japanese food and it’s a time when I can really enjoy time with the wife and kids. I recently tried the Margaret River which was divine, although not technically Asia.

Everyone in business should read this book:
Barbarians at the Gate

Shameless plug for your business:
Space Executive is the fastest growing recruitment business in Singapore focused on the mid to senior market across legal, compliance, finance, sales and marketing and change and transformation. Multi-award winning with exceptional growth plans into Hong Kong and London this year, and the US, Japan and Europe by the end of 2022. We are building a truly global brand.

Space Ventures is interested in any businesses that require capital or management and financial guidance or any or all of the above. We have, to date, invested in on-line training, food and beverages, peer to peer lending platforms, credit scoring as well as other tech and fintech start-ups. We are always interested in hearing about potential deals.

How can people connect with you?
[email protected]

Twitter handle?

This interview is part of the ‘Callum Connect’ series of more than 500 interviews

Callum Laing is an entrepreneur and investor based in Singapore. He has previously started, built and sold half a dozen businesses and is now a Partner at Unity-Group Private Equity and Co-Founder of The Marketing Group PLC. He is the author two best selling books ‘Progressive Partnerships’ and ‘Agglomerate’.

Connect with Callum here:
Download free copies of his books here:

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