Dare to Be More with Mouna Aouri
There is Absolutely No Work-Life Balance, Says Ambitious Entrepreneur Mouna Aouri
“As an entrepreneur, you never stop working; it’s literally impossible!” These are the musings of Mouna Aouri, the Tunisian-born founder of female-focused crowdfunding platform Woomentum, which expanded into Vietnam in April this year. Woomentum started in 2014 as a community knowledge-sharing platform that Mouna built to seek and give support during trying times. Her story is an empowering one for women all over the world.
Mouna moved to Singapore during the Tunisian Revolution — a major incident in 2010-2011 that marked the start of the Arab Spring — with her husband and newborn. It was a tumultuous time for her home country but also her identity. “For the first time in my life, I was without work, in a foreign country, and I felt challenged. That’s when I really realized even more the limitations that women face,” she says.
“Before that, a large part of my identity had been tied to my work. Being a mother and a non-working person for the first time in my life challenged that.” Mouna had been working as a civil engineer in Japan prior to the revolution. In a field dominated by men, she had gotten used to being the only woman in the room, the team, and even the company. “It has always been a bit lonely, being surrounded by men, and playing by the rules of men,” she confesses.
Now based in Singapore, Mouna credits her past for humbling her and helping to direct her towards the mission she’s now on: to bring more women into the entrepreneurship and innovation ecosystem. Mouna envisions Woomentum to be the go-to place where anyone can see how women are innovating in Vietnam, Malaysia, or Indonesia.
“I want to give exposure to women initiatives and products. Woomentum is not a women-only platform, though. More than 60% of the funders on our platform are men, and it sends a good message because we are working closely with men who believe in women,” she explains, noting the points that differentiate Woomentum from female-only networks. “Second, while we do have women entrepreneurs, we welcome any gender-blind entrepreneur that has a product or service that benefits women and girls.”
On top of working towards the launch of the platform in other ASEAN countries, Mouna is the mother of two young girls. She teaches them to believe that they can do “anything and everything” by fostering their self-confidence.
With a successful career and blissful family life, Mouna seems to have it all. But she emphasizes that it all comes with a struggle. When asked what her secret is to maintaining the right balance between profession and parenthood, she offers a completely new perspective to the question, saying, “There is absolutely no balance – that’s the very honest, transparent truth that every woman needs to hear and say to herself. Why show that we have it all under control and in balance? We’re sending the message to women who are struggling that they’re not doing their job well.
“Instead of talking about balance, we can ask how we can marry, or create that yin and yang relationship between work and family, embracing ourselves as working mothers. Both jobs are so demanding that there is not a single human being with normal human abilities that is able to deliver the perfect mom and the perfect working person.”
Mouna’s message of empowerment also resonates in how she takes care of her physical and mental health. Exercising is her answer to maintaining her natural beauty after a long day at work. Her workout of choice is boxing, which requires plenty of stamina and concentration. “I find it meditative. It’s a duty towards myself and a way to release stress before I come home to put my children to bed. Being fit helps me manage whatever is waiting for me at work and at home.”
She admits that she has also learned to take time off to unwind and disconnect from everything else that she does during the day. She adds, “This year, I have stopped working in the evenings. In fact, my 2017 resolution is not to work after I put the kids to bed because that got me into a massive burnout that took a while to recover from. Now, I’m very disciplined about how much I work. In the evenings I try to consciously spend time reading, listening to podcasts, or even getting together with friends.”
The quadrilingual, who spends less than 10 minutes a day in front of the mirror, swears by coconut oil, natural products, and healthy eating habits to bring out the youthful glow in her skin. “As an entrepreneur, I can’t afford cosmetic products anymore as I’d rather inject the capital in hiring people,” she jokes. “I’ve learned to prioritize my spending habits.”
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