Recently, we are seeing more and more entrepreneurs who start their business and begin their entrepreneurial journey while still in the process of receiving an education. One example of this is AUC student, entrepreneur, and founder of Art of Nushu, Hanaa El Sammak. For El Sammak, what started as a random attempt at finding a moment of serenity in the chaotic life of a university student developed into what we see today in Art of Nushu where she creates and sells art for social impact.
El Sammak started by telling us a bit about how she started her business. She explained how when she started university, she was feeling stressed as a result of her hectic schedule and at the same time her aunt had just started to paint and El Sammak could see that painting was really bringing her a lot of serenity and peace, so she decided to give it a go. She told us how looking back at the first painting that she did, she can see how "sloppy" it was and even though that first time she did not know what she was really doing, she ended up immensely enjoying herself. Over time she found herself naturally gravitating more towards portraits and she explained how "once [she] started painting portraits, [she] didn't want to go back. "
El Sammak also reflected on how more recently she realized that the type of art that she creates has a lot to do with her upbringing. She described being raised by a strong, independent woman, in addition to her experience in an all-girls school where the majority of the authority figures were women and where she was taught to believe that “women are strong, intelligent, capable and independent.” However, as she grew up and got more exposed to the world, she felt a “disconnect between how [she] was raised and how the world really is.” El Sammak explained that it is this disconnect that fuels her art and inspires her to paint women in unconventional ways and depict them with “bold features” and “loud colors.”
She, then, recounted how soon after she started painting, her friends at AUC kept pushing her and encouraging her to create a page where she could share her art with people. And while her initial plan for this page had been to just use it as a platform for sharing her art, things developed when an old friend contacted her wanting to purchase a painting that she had posted on her page. She described how she felt exhilarated and shocked that “someone was interested enough in [her] art to actually buy it.”
El Sammak also shared with us how important charity had always been to her and how she has always believed in the importance of realizing that you are part of something bigger, a community “and that if one person in the community is suffering, then everyone should help.” Therefore, the development into doing art for social impact was an extremely natural and inevitable thing to occur. She went over how in the beginning, she had focused on supporting and giving back to front liners of covid 19 by supplying them with the necessary protective gear. However, as sales increased, Art of Nushu have been able to also give back to many others in need including senior citizens and underprivileged children. “It was just amazing to see a community come together through art and create lasting social impact that helps people improve their quality of life.”
El Sammak admitted to overworking and overexerting herself, especially in the beginning when she was still building and growing her platform. She told us how she would spend more than 8 hours a day painting because she was so happy with how her platform was growing and how much she was selling and so, she wanted to keep it going. But understandably, when anyone overexerts themselves to that extent they are bound to get to a point of feeling completely burnt out. She also admitted that at that point she had almost forgotten that the creation of art does not just require physical effort but also artistic energy and feelings of inspiration. Accordingly, she advised anyone who is interested in creating an art-related business or in building a platform to give themselves breaks and to not fall into the trap of overexerting themselves.
Finally, when it comes to how she measures success, El Sammak stated that for her it's very much about how much social impact they (Art of Nushu) were able to do and the number of lives that they were able to change through art. And she explained that this social impact is really what fuels her and gives her the purpose to keep going.