Iman Oubou : A Moroccan American who wants to empower women entrepreneurs

Iman Oubou is the woman that everybody wants to be today. She is a smart entrepreneur living in New York, a researcher with tons of achievements and a role model that holds the objective of empowering other women. The Moroccan young businesswoman wants to change the world with her newly launched media platform SWAAY.

Iman Oubou, CEO and editoring chief of Swaay./Ph. Iman Oubou
Estimated read time: 3'

For Iman Oubou, the Moroccan young woman who immigrated to the land of opportunities twelve years ago, being beautiful and smart is the new black. After graduating high school in Colorado, Iman chased her big dreams by moving to New York. Once in the Big Apple, Iman went on to win Miss New York US, subsequently using her public platform to launch Entrepreneurs En Vogue, a podcast dedicated to elevating the voices of female entrepreneurs. After being named one of the best podcasts for women in business by Inc Magazine she then created SWAAY, a robust media company meant to empower and inspire young businesswomen who seek to become their own bosses. On SWAAY you can read about women on the cutting edge of entrepreneurship; those who are changing the world through businesses as directional as they are varied.

Tell us more about yourself

My parents moved from Morocco to Colorado in 2005. Growing up I wanted to be a medical doctor, so I graduated in 2011 from Colorado State University with a Bachelor's Degree in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. After that, I went on to live and work in Munich, Germany where I was picked to do an internship for five months. I came back to Colorado and then went for Masters in Biomedical engineering (…) I was offered a job afterwards in cancer research for two years.

What made you compete for beauty pageant ?

My mother encouraged me to enter Miss Colorado USA in 2012 as my first pageant experience and I loved it. Being in this role offered a unique perspective, in that I was both a beauty queen and a research scientist at the same time. Many people could not wrap their heads around this dichotomy. There is that perception that if you are attractive and style-conscious then you must not be smart and vice versa. But it is nothing but a stereotype and I was determined to break it.

How did you manage to switch from medical research to business and entrepreneurship ?

I moved to New York in 2013 and then I started working as a science communication specialist. I had a great career in health care but deep down I knew that I was meant to create something bigger than myself. Because I am proactive and creative, I wanted to launch and run a business, which is when I realized I should find role models to guide me through the path of entrepreneurship. After looking into some amazing entrepreneurial women to model my own career after, a lightbulb went off. I would create a platform that shared their stories with the world to help inspire young women to reach higher than ever before.

After winning Miss New York US, I launched my new podcast as a platform for women to share their entrepreneurial journeys and provide advice to other women who are passionate about entrepreneurship. Following the success of the podcast, I decided to expand into a media platform called SWAAY that would become the one-stop shop destination for women in business, with actual interviews, resources and articles that would help women navigate the business world. We will expand to video interviews and video content in the next few months.

SWAAY. Ph.Iman OubouSWAAY. Ph.Iman Oubou

How did winning Miss New York help you to reach these women ?

I think winning Miss New York has given me the confidence to feel that I was relevant in this dynamic city, which is full of high-profile businesswomen and businessmen. I started doing many red carpet appearances and was invited to an exciting array galas where I met so many people who inspired me.

As a Moroccan American, did you meet immigrant women in the USA who wanted to launch their businesses ?

All the time, most of the women that I have interviewed and met have an immigrant background. I have found that women, and their businesses, are deeply enriched by their cultures, and these formative experiences are extremely beneficial to being a stronger leader.

When interviewing businesswomen what are the common obstacles that they come across trying to build a business ?

A big one is access to capital. You cannot get very far as a businesswoman if you cannot get loans from banks and investments from investors. The other common obstacle is access to resources and mentors. It has been widely reported that men have so many role models in business, while women on the other hand, don't have much access to bigger representation in the media. We want to have those immediately accessible role models that we can email and ask them for help. The third obstacle is, of course, fighting against society roles that put women into tight corners.

What are your future plans for SWAAY ?

Now we only have been around for seven months but I have a trip to Dubai planned for later this month, to discuss our expansion in the city and the Middle East. I am also discussing with a few women that have connections in the world of women entrepreneurs in Morocco to see how we can work together on some shared goals. We will eventually hire an editor-in-chief there to manage the content, interview women entrepreneurs, and investors that are interested in investing in women entrepreneurs in the country.

What is your advice to young girls ?

The biggest advice that I could give a young girl thinking about her future as an independent woman is self-awareness. People ask me why I am so successful, and I think time helped me discover who I really was. So, really take the time and  get to know who you are, and believe in that person. When you do, no one in the world will convince you otherwise.