An escape to Deir El Qamar

Hello guys!

Yes it has been a while I am away… Unfortunately, it has been hectic in the career part but felt like I needed a break. Although a lot of things are evolving, both within my thought process, myself, my work and my life, I pray that it would be only heading in the positive direction.

Today wordpress.com wished me a Happy Birthday in this current platform! I have also purchased a domain to which I hope I can move this present blog to – I still haven’t figured out how to do it yet but will be seeking some friendly help and support 🙂

But enough about my updates. I took a two weeks vacation and happened to jump over to Deir El Qamar for a well deserved escapade. I stayed in Deir El Oumara which I totally recommend and spent the few days there exploring and re-exploring the city and its surrounding villages, cities, natural wonders and landmarks.


Here are a few links and places to start with for sightseeing from Deir el Qamar, Beiteddine, Baakline and more:
– http://www.deirelqamar.com/deqdata/deqdatahomepage.htm
– Shouf Biosphere – Al Shouf Cedar Natural Reserve: http://www.shoufcedar.org
– Kfarheem Grotto – discovered in 1974 and is over 4 million years old.
– Baakline waterfalls.
– Beiteddine and its wonderful palaces, Marie Baz wax museum, the Midene – Dany Chamoun Square. Deir El Qamar also has palaces to muse on, the history, culture, religious landmarks of these villages to name but a few points, along with the restaurants, people’s hospitality and beautiful mood all over. It has been listed as UNESCO World Heritage site since 1999.

Stay in:
– Deir el Oumara: http://deiraloumara.com
– Bouyouti: https://www.facebook.com/bouyoutiguesthouses/

Try to go to the kiosk and restaurants that are in the areas where locals are. You can find some yummy surprises there. Had dinner at the Kiosk where its host was quite welcoming and we enjoyed a lovely dinner with locals playing backgrammon with arguileh and in the middle a “sobia” that heated the place.

Also, make sure to check out the Beiteddine Art Festival for this year’s top events! It was launched today 🙂 here are the main concerts and performances happening: http://beiteddine.org/Up-coming-events.asp

My roadtrip to Zaarour!!

This is a relatively late blog as the vlog came out a while ago! I went up to Zaarour and enjoyed a little escape. But I thought it would still be nice to share to you my little escapade there along with some photos.

I woke up this morning, feeling full of energy and I didn’t want to miss out the day because I was worried that it will be snow and storm as the weather predictions were saying.

But it seemed that the storm will be fashionably late – YAY for me! So I took this opportunity and made myself a fresh juice and a Nescafe, grabbed some chocolate, jumped in my car and off I was to Zaarour to see the snow.

screen-shot-2017-01-21-at-4-51-53-pm

I have been nagging and saying to everyone that I had to see the snow. I miss the snow, bla bla bla! Just like I keep saying I miss the sea and I want to see the sea. If anybody who knows me reading this, they will definitely relate 😀 They know how much I love the sea. But I also missed the snow terribly as I used to ski since I was 5 years old and due to some injuries (my knee) and feet operation, I can’t ski until further notice.

Hoping that in 2017 I will get fit again and try to get back at skiing. Crossing fingers. But I just had to see the snow that day so ski or no ski I was going!! And off we go, woohoo!!

Needless to say, that I was as a kid 🙂 Jumping up and down in the car when I saw the snow. Litterally, all over! SO gorgeous, so white! So prettyyyyy! I don’t regret this mini solo roadtrip at all. I removed my glasses to enjoy the colours of the surroundings.

Talej, talej, talej.*


Thanks to my trusty google map I was able to enjoy the drive while getting my directions.

As I arrived to Zaarour, I went to Zaarour Club. I was just so happy with the organization. I admit I was lucky that the weather forecast was foreseeing a storm – very few people were up there (and they were right because the storm made its appearance a mere 2 hours after I arrived). So here we go, my little tour.

I started by being greeted with really nice parking attendants and staff, went to Le Grand Chalet, a luxury boutique hotel with 5 luxury rooms, 6 junior suites, 3 family suites and 2 roof suites (coolness!). It has a lounge area with a modern fireplace, which I guess is where I chillaxed.


As I sat cozily on the couch and relaxed in the lobby, I sipped a delicious hot chocolate with the lovely view of the snowy slope in front of me! And, to make things more wintery, the Christmas tree was there. Ah, le reve de quelques heures de repos dans le calme et la neige!

After that, I wanted to see the snow, more up close. I drove to La Cabane du Chef which is a French restaurant then off to the slopes. There, I enjoyed the view and was quite happy to see a modern ski resort – which brought some comfort even though I couldn’t ski. Then it got chillier than it already was. The storm was heading full speedio so I had to go back to Beirut (also be back for the family Sunday lunch).

Zaarour Club, I was quite happy to visit even if it was a short trip and surely would like to visit again, either to Le Grand Chalet for a stay or hopefully when I get fitter to come and ski! To all who are skiing and snowboarding I wish you a happy winter season full of snow in all the Lebanese mountains and slopes. Check out here when you have some free time my vlog about it 🙂 It’s basically the roadtrip and a little tour here and there at Zaarour Club.

If you ever visit, I truly hope you enjoy it! Write me your thoughts and let me know what you experienced or if you would be interested in checking it out.

Happy weekend to all!!

img_8262

img_8263

img_8265

screen-shot-2017-01-21-at-4-52-43-pmimg_4442

* snow, snow, snow.

How can we engage with each other in the work place?

Be it managerial or peer to peer and other employees, there are some things one can think of and approach regarding the work place. Especially if you have a few issues to overcome with some of your peers or employees.

How to all be aligned, be engaged and move forward to make things happen is crucial and there is no magical sauce to it but a clear mindset and an agenda ready to work with, meet with the people, work around it and keep the big picture or what might come out of it in mind towards the set goals.

Here are a few points that can help you:

  • What metrics have been set?
  • What would be the best outcome for you. An important note is that by breaking a goal, task, target, ANYTHING – into small step by steps and to dos is key to simplify, sharpen your vision and focus on the little steps, what needs to be done and later the big outcome will show up.
  • Where do you want to start? (The next steps will show up later on). What has been happening that you want to work on?
  • Write your thoughts down and think: “What else?”… See what might come up, if things are blurry.
    digital composite of hands using notebook with graphics
  • What is the clarity of these metrics? How were they shared with the employees or peers? Sometimes, metrics are not shared – so how do you expect things to get done if your peeps have no clue about it?
  • Separately, what is their clarity on their challenges and what do they need to do? It is important to note that when you get clear, you know where you are going, you will be able to get to the bottom line earlier.
  • What was their feedback on the metrics (both employees and management)? Surprising things, ideas might come out.
  • What is the logic system proposed?
  • What are the methods that management can work with the employees to engage with them?
  • How were they approached? Assess the communication (if it was done properly or not).
    Concept of teamwork: Close-Up of hands business team showing un
  • Where is the gap? How can it be closed?
  • How to understand the management style (of each), see if that opens anything up?
  • Understand the mind, the goal, either/or or both… It can be a strategy and goal setting issue and not just an engaging issue. Something to think about… Check if the presenting problem is actually the real problem.
  • What can be done? What is the direction you would think is now the time to opt for?
  • On another hand, what does it look like when all is going well?
  • What becomes possible when all is aligned towards a same target? What are you willing to give (and do more) and what are you willing to do less to make it happen?
  • What if you try a role-play? How would it look?
  • Set up expectations.

Get moving 🙂

entrepreneur-working-on-his-macbook-picjumbo-com

Credits Photos:
<a href=’http://www.freepik.com/free-photo/working-with-a-coffee_878794.htm’>Designed by Freepik</a>
<a href=’http://www.freepik.com/free-photo/working-at-the-office_908441.htm’>Designed by Freepik</a>
<a href=’http://www.freepik.com/free-photo/planning-and-writing-about-social-media_902867.htm’>Designed by Freepik</a>
<a href=’http://www.freepik.com/free-photo/hands-joined-by-the-team_907994.htm’>Designed by Freepik</a>
<a href=’http://www.freepik.com/free-photo/workers-talking_908042.htm’>Designed by Freepik</a>

My interview with Lyssa Miskawi – ICF Accredited Executive and Career Coach!

I am very pleased to release the interview done with my friend Lyssa Miskawi, Leadership & Executive Coach and Career Coach.

1) Hello Lyssa, how are you today? Can you tell our viewers a bit about you?
Hello, I am Lyssa Miskawi, Executive and Career Coach accredited from the ICF (International Coaching Federation). My aim is to help my clients move through any transition smoothly and effectively, in work or in life.
In addition, I am a Human Resources Manager for a group of restaurants in Lebanon.

2) What has prompted you to become a coach?
I wanted to become a coach because I love making a positive difference in people’s lives. I started helping people solve their problems professionally during my work in Human Resources. I found it made my job interesting and exciting.
Accordingly, I decided to develop my coaching skills to better support people and gain personal growth, and especially that, based on a research done by the International Coaching Federation, coaching leads to increased productivity, more self-satisfaction and improved relationships…

3) And how did you find the experience?
It was amazing and so enriching! I enjoyed every bit of the learning experience as I acquired the coaching skills to help clients develop a personalized way of thinking that suits their aspirations and needs.

4) In what ways did coaching impact your work and your life?
Coaching helped me a lot in my work as Human Resources Manager where I deal with employees every day. The way I communicate with team members, how I address any issue with them, how I support in the development of leaders and their teams, etc. improved a lot after acquiring coaching skills.
Now I ask more questions in a certain coaching way to really understand the person, and with my questioning he/she is finding his/her own solutions and answers in a very smooth and efficient way.
Leaders are referring back more to me on ways to develop better their teams and get the best out of them. Also in disciplinary cases, the errant employee really understands the negative impact of his action on the business, colleague, flow of work and most importantly himself.
And I am seeing positive changes and results, more promotions, reduced conflicts, better management of problems, increased communication, etc.
I truly recommend every HR Manager to develop his/her coaching skills to advance their role in the organization.

5) What are your thoughts on the coaching culture implementation at work?
In my role as HR Manager, I initiated a coaching culture in the organizations. The pain point was that, in the fast moving environment of our business, our leaders were always busy and preoccupied with their day to day operational job while not investing much time in properly leading and developing their teams. They mainly manage their employees by giving instructions and punishing them when the job required was not properly met. We wanted our leaders to understand the huge impact they had on their team’s performance and how investing time in leading their employees will provide them with a great return translating in a more productive and autonomous team. This can only be done through coaching.
Our leaders were very well trained on coaching skills so that coaching becomes the basis of managing their teams. I wanted leaders to start conducting one on ones with their team members and communicate with them by really actively listening to them. This required lots of practice to refine their coaching skills and so that leaders can observe the positive results in their coachees. Accordingly the coaching practice lasted 7 months and leaders are still coaching their employees till this date.

Now you can see that leaders communicate better and more frequently with their teams, they provide guidance and support and not just instructions and punishment, they believe more in the potential of their team members and they are working on developing their skills and promote from within, productivity and motivation increased.

6) Not only did you study Leadership and Executive Coaching but also you studied Career Coaching and now are practicing in both. Last time we sat together, we talked about Transition Coaching as your niche. From your HR and coaching experience, can you share a bit about this?
Every person will go through transitions in life, whether it is a new job, new company, new business, new relationships, new ways of work, new country, or any loss that requires a new beginning etc. especially that the pace of life is very fast nowadays and change is the only constant and nothing stands still.
We tend to resist change, even if it is beneficial for us, as we are used to some ways of doing things, habits, behaviors and beliefs that served us in the past, and a comfort zone that it is hard to step out of. I help my clients go through any transition period smoothly and efficiently to embrace change, keep on moving forward and be more fulfilled in life.

7) Thank you so much for your time! And if we would want to contact or reach you how can we find you?
You can like my page “Lyssa, your personal executive coach” (link: https://www.facebook.com/LyssaCoaching/?ref=br_rs) and contact me at lyssamiskawi@hotmail.com – Mobile +96171037887.

Things that make me happy.

Hello everybody!

How are you all? Hope you are doing well today.
From my part, I try to always look on the positive side of life, no matter what we might be going through. Ever since I took in the fact that I must embrace and enjoy the small things in life (at a very early age) – because truly and humbly, they really are the big things – I felt the urge to find happiness in all and nothing.

So I drafted my small list of things that make me happy. It’s always a work in process and I wish I could fit them all but I always add and add and add 🙂

My list so far:
– Road-trips with friends and family (including picnics and camping which I deeply miss).
268559_10156101470125548_2474540988087467899_n
– Touring and exploring my own country as well as others. Who said you can’t discover what’s around you?
12119045_10156101468760548_5116855235371608964_n
– Morning coffee with my parents – because I enjoy the peaceful morning time with them before we rush off to our separate works and duties.
screen-shot-2016-10-26-at-2-10-04-pm
– Sharing meals with friends – especially when discovering new spots.
– Sunday family lunches – because we know how to really nwalle3a 😀
– Days at the beach (ideally extending to sunsets and nights <3).
10171059_10155680892935548_490083635245763104_n
– Walks in the cities and villages (so many city to walk in and see its hidden treasures and so many hikes!! I try to follow them all but one can do as much as one can! Who knows? Maybe one day :))
11742861_10155769959575548_3085258178091487293_n
– Reading books and discussing about them! Everyone who knows me can attest since I was a child, I always had a book with me. With university and work, I drifted a bit from that but I am so glad that I am reading again! Perhaps not at the extent that I used to read when younger but I am happy I am reading for fun and not only for studies and self development.
I am enjoying as well sharing my love for books with others by checking out and participating when possible in the book events. There is Monot Street Book Market that happens usually once a month in Monot Street. Also there is BookYard founded by Eliane Abi Chedid who became a good friend. You can swap or sell your used and old books and it’s so refreshing to walk around in Byblos where the event usually takes place (one time it was at Colonel Beer). Meeting people, chatting, discoveries and the locations themselves take you to a different spot, for me it’s where I am happy.
13599861_10157053712990548_3843590341977805645_n
– De-cluttering… I came into that since a few years back. De-cluttering comes on different terms: digital, clothes, shoes, books, you name it. It doesn’t happen quickly and only over time will you be able to release material and digital clutter once you are aware of them and how much you need in your life (daily and on the bigger scale).
– Discovering and re-discovering local products (Souk El Mawesem, Soap making in Tripoli, Saida, etc…). I wait for events anxiously to go and discover the small owners and the big ones alike and enjoy knowing their stories behind their business. Many do these at home, all come from different backgrounds and chatting with them is always fun and enriching and you get to know the personalities behind the old couple doing their homemade soaps in the North, the young lady who has works her arts and crafts and displays them in Jbeil or the apple makers or the trekkers, or the tour guides that take you to discover your country in ways you have not dreamt it was possible.
12805932_10156510436020548_8350380790981914918_n
– Recycling, up-cycling, composting… I have discussed and made videos about this before. Ever since I was a child and heard about recycling and its process I wanted to get into it. And sadly with our current crisis, we must take this seriously more than ever. Some municipalities are taking action and responsibility and others unfortunately not so much. We can recycle from our homes, there are associations who handle recycling and many activists. I have friends who are also creating lamps and other arts and crafts from recycling material and the results are quite nice!
Here is the link for the recycling directories available in Lebanon: http://www.lebtivity.com/p/recycling-lebanon (I will share more in links section below). It starts from us and let’s help the ones already doing a great job in this, there is no need for waste to be thrown and sickness to be spreading, all the garbage can be treated.
Also you will here the link to the must watch documentary: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VC-k7aj2Ip0&feature=youtu.be (“A Zero Waste Lebanon” Documentary – produced by Leela, Love in Action, guided by Ziad Abi Chaker and directed by Nassif El Rayess).
screen-shot-2016-10-26-at-1-30-19-pm
– Planting baby trees – I love planting pine trees and oak trees in my small balcony at home. When they sprout, I try to care for them at home as much as possible until it’s time for planting. Usually, I see around with friends and family those who have plots of land to plant in – this makes me truly happy when I feel I was able to contribute in this specific topic as I have always been fond of trees and cared for them.

Ecology and climate change have always saddened me so it’s my little way of trying to make a difference.
I came about the page around a year or so ago of the Lebanese Reforestation Initiative ( https://www.facebook.com/LebanonReforestationInitiative/). Currently, on the 6th of November there is a planting trees event happening in the Chouf.
– Sunset views which we ravish with daily in Lebanon. And I mean it!!
11796207_10155813025415548_3782255211654703224_n
– Cook and bake when possible. I always loved playing in the kitchen and cooking/baking. I am not the best at it but I enjoy the process of it 🙂 It adds a bit of fun to my day.
– Make candles, pamper care packages, paint small paintings. I had this on pause for a while but would hope to be getting back to it soon. Maybe after the New Year.
13626534_10157036596115548_4430090251852652336_n
– Donate and help others. I won’t talk much about this topic as I feel each helps in his and her own way, be it from donating to charity organization, food, clothes to the churches or orphanages or associations you know, donating to families you know live close by and need your help from even if you are sending them tupperwares of food or even and I feel it falls in the most important, to donate your time to those who feel lonely.
This always pinches my heart as I see lonely people from all courses of life, from the youngest boy or girl to the teta (grandmother) or jeddo (grandfather) who wishes someone just sits a bit with them and start a conversation and ask them what they think.

Quite a big list I know 🙂
Would love to know your thoughts and if you would like to share about your lists of things that make you happy – do share your thoughts in the comments below or on my other social media outputs!

Links to:
– Monot Street Book Market: https://www.facebook.com/events/992109464231695/ – hosted by Recto Verso https://www.facebook.com/RectoVersoLibrary/
– BookYard: https://www.facebook.com/BookYard/?fref=ts
– Lebanon Reforestation Initiative: https://www.facebook.com/LebanonReforestationInitiative/
– Lebanon Recycling Directory:
http://www.lebtivity.com/p/recycling-lebanon/
https://hummusforthought.com/2015/08/01/list-of-recycling-centers-in-lebanon/

Where you can find me:
– WordPress: https://wordpress.com/post/whitepaperpackages.wordpress.com
– Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/whitepaperpackagesbymc/
– Instagram: White_paper_packages
– YouTube: White Paper Packages
– Twitter: @PackagesPaper
– Email: whitepaperpackages@gmail.com

Have a great day!

Marie-Christine Melhem.

 

1896843_10155680891740548_394713425515310063_n

What if Charles Helou Bus Station was a parking and we had ferries as modes of transportation?

What if: Charles Helou Bus Station’ empty space was a big parking spot and we had ferries for people and cars in Lebanon?

I am not an expert in the field but two topics have been toying in my head for a while.

Since my employment move in Gemmayze we have been struggling quite a lot with parking and traffic. And here lays right next to us the immense Charles Helou Bus Station (Gare Routiere Charles Helou). It is located on the northern side of Downtown Beirut, along the harbour – right under the major highway running to the North. Sadly, it is a deserted place, unused, closed with a few information booths open and ticket booth for the buses. There isn’t even a huge number of buses. Connexion has regular departures to Tripoli from here. It’s sadly desolate looking and forming a huge contrast with the modern highrises and even the traditional streets that bustle with life next to it and the Beirut Harbour itself.

A few years back, I freelanced for a while in Downtown and there was the availability of the parking next to Biel with at your disposal (you just pay your parking fee) with free shuttle buses that drive around Downtown and drop you to your office and back (depending at what time you finish your shift) to your car when you are done with your day.

It would be great if we can have that in Gemmayze / Achrafieh and in all the potential high traffic places. It would save people the stress of finding a parking spot or if their works provides then wonderful but if it’s not the case the parking facility and shuttle buses can do wonders. And let’s face it, with the daily stress we unfortunately fight with, this removed can be quite helpful and soothing to start the morning properly at work, don’t you think?

Whom can we talk to to propose this idea and implement it all over the country? I remember this was a topic placed on the table a few years back.
Beirut is not the only area that has a large traffic amount. The high traffic areas can be selected and this project implemented all over. We can lessen the traffic and be a bit happier, mech ghalat.

Separately, another idea popped in my mind as I went for a dive last Saturday. I remembered, during my trips to Canada, we took the ferry boats many times. Some of them were designed only to transport people and others that can transport people and cars. What if we could propose such a plan for the government? How and what are the steps? Let’s say we live in Tripoli, Jbeil or Saida and our work is in Beirut and (yaret) we had the option of bus, connexion and ferries (if we had cars or not). It can also go vice versa, with shifts and times. Of course if there are storms, this can be paused during these periods but we are a fairly sunny country so they can be used for a good time in the year…

Not only stress relieving but also we can enjoy seeing our beautiful coast from the side of the sea. It’s quite enchanting actually.

Whom can we address this? Mechanical engineers? Transport Specialists and Engineers? Honestly I am putting it out there and would love your input to see whom we can talk to, the specialists to prepare the plans and whom to go to for presenting the propositions in prayers and hopes for go-aheads. If we all want Lebanon to thrive, these few ideas can help tremendously.

An Interview with Andre Abi Awad – Entreprenergy | White Paper Packages

Hello everyone!

In this video, (click on video or this link: https://youtu.be/1Jyw67wslxQ), I have done my first interview ever with Entreprenergy founder: Andre Abi Awad who was gracious and generous in his time, help, advices and tips for this first interview. Walking the talk, he aims to inspire and help people achieve goals and connect together to create businesses, boost ideas, etc…
Entreprenergy is a podcast and annual summit that unites established entrepreneurs with aspiring ones to connect and share experiences, support and advice. I truly hope you enjoy it – let us know your thoughts, likes and comments in the blog or YouTube channel!

To benefit from the discount go to : http://www.taqasummit.com – Use the code: MC30
Note: At the time of filming this video and editing it, the date of the event moved from October to 18th and 19th of November, 2016.

Contacts and sites:

Andre Abi Awad:
https://www.linkedin.com/in/andreabiawad
https://www.facebook.com/andreabiawad
Entreprenergy:
http://taqasummit.com/
http://entreprenergy.com/
http://entreprenergy.com/podcast/andreabiawad/

White Paper Packages:
– Blog: https://whitepaperpackages.wordpress.com/
– YouTube – you can write White Paper Packages or click on the link: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC9xlEyOCUvjrZj4q9NKUFtA
– Instagram: white_paper_packages
– Twitter: @PackagesPaper
– Email: whitepaperpackages@gmail.com

Your feedback means a lot! Have a great weekend.

Coffee, rings, creativity and passion – let your ring choose you.

I had the pleasure to sit with Patricia Rahme, a friend and a wonderful artist who has her own brand – Patrizia – catching up over a cup of coffee and a long overdue chat.
After that was done, we sat to discuss about her, her path and atelier as I wanted to share her story to all as it was an inspiration to many and myself included.

Who is Patricia Rahme – The woman behind Patrizia?
A dreamer, a believer, and an artist ring-maker 🙂

What should someone – seeking you – look for?
The perfect ring, a unique piece of jewelry, be it in its originality – a ring that you can pass on from generation to generation as heirloom…

Can you tell us a bit about the spirit of your designs hence you started?
Patrizia pieces have strong characters – inspired by nature, animals and the sea world, with a hint of Renaissance and Medieval feel.

Can you tell us about your creative process?
It all starts with an idea… and a block of wax. I do not draw my designs – I, rather, experiment with wax.
You cannot begin to imagine how much fun my work can be. The wax is a mystic and lenient material. You can add or remove from the design and always get astonishing results.
What can I say! I am in love wax.
When the wax phase is done, I cast and bring it to life with the desired metals and stones, be it Gold, Silver or Bronze.
img_3050
 Who do you envision wearing your work? Does it affect your designs?
Patrizia is for everyone! Of different ages, of different tastes, every client will find a certain comfort and admiration for a specific piece that will match their personality.

What is your typical working day like?
I start the day with calls, then emails, then all my social media works. I sort out my new orders, marketing/PR. Meeting with clients is important to get to know them and understand them.
I move on to visiting suppliers, buying stones.
Creativity and sculpting start at night… That’s my relaxation time!

You also do customized wedding rings and attire, can you elaborate?
This year, I created several engagement, wedding and promise rings.
Everyone is requesting originality in the design.
A ring can be simple yet unique regardless of the metal and shape.
I have started a new collection of Arabic Calligraphy rings and so far, my client love them and I am glad they are choosing them as their wedding rings.
I am happy when my clients share their special moments with me.
Through my work and my art, they make me part of their lives.

What should a bride consider when choosing her customized jewelry?
My creations are quite organic, wild and detailed; thus her dress must be very simple for her to wear such expressive bold customized jewelry.
It’s important for me to see the dress before I start designing the jewelry.
Working on a single ring is simple. But when it’s a whole jewelry set or necklace I need to design, having the dress in mind is important, to better recommend and get inspired.

What is your favorite piece in your protfolio?
My logo.
I advise the readers to visit me and know the story behind my logo 🙂
img_5702

What are some new pieces you are working on?
I am elaborating more the ‘Arabic’ and ‘Heartless’ collections to be released, hopefully, in November.

What are your plans for the coming future?
To travel the world and take as many vacations as I want. Hehe! Really!!
I do not have plans, I have dreams… and quite a lot of them.
I like to surprise people! Just wait and see 🙂

What is your motto?
‘Let your ring choose you’.
At first, people were perplexed but now they believe – especially with customized rings. They have the power to attract their wearer with their character.

And finally, an inspirational note or word for our readers?
Create dreams and accomplish them.
Your goals and dreams need time and effort… Never stop believing in what you desire… Just be patient.

By Marie-Christine Melhem.

Ring Photos Credit to: Reine Chahine.
Bride Photos Credit to: A Fist Full of Bolts.

 

Books, books, books!!!

Hello book lovers!!!!

Do you have too many books, want to declutter, work on updating your library, stare or sell your books? There are different ways to connect and share your love for books 🙂

1) Donate:
You can donate to public libraries, schools or associations who can use your help in this.
FullSizeRender
2) Sell your used books:
There are Facebook groups in Lebanon where book lovers can swap or buy books. There is also the lovely BookYard event that happens in Jbeil (and sometimes other locations) and there is the Monot Street Book Market.
FullSizeRender_1FullSizeRender_3
3) The Free Libraries:
Three days ago, I saw on Facebook a video about the Little Free Library in Beirut Digital District and in Sin el Fil Public Garden (saw that one maybe 2 years ago there), I don’t know if there are other places but it would be sooooo nice to have other places like this pop up here and there.

What ideas do you have? Do you know any Little Free Libraries in other areas of Beirut and the country? Share your tips on book sharing/selling/swapping/giving and connecting! Long live culture 🙂

Here are a few links that might be interesting for you to browse for your search for books, public libraries and local events:
http://www.learningtocare.com/?q=publiclibraries (I also saw a public library in Bickfaya, but it was the weekend so I didn’t know it was open). – http://english.al-akhbar.com/node/20447
http://www.avs.org.lb/cvclpubliclibraries.html
http://www.llaweb.org/lib_directory/index.php?cid=20
http://www.assabil.com/en/
http://www.dailystar.com.lb/News/Lebanon-News/2004/Nov-20/3452-beiruts-second-public-library-opens-in-a-garden.ashx
https://www.facebook.com/BookYard/?fref=ts

Good night to all!!

True stories – Let’s connect! Kamal Sinno – a path full of purpose, multi-preneur to toy giant and philanthropist.

It would need many articles and even a book to talk about Kamal Sinno’s adventurous life. He is known for being the owner of Toy Market Trading (Joué Club and Toy Park), Premium Partners (Marketing and Procurement Solutions) with many offices abroad and managing the Lebanese Food Bank who is along with other charitable organizations leading the fight against hunger in Lebanon.

Taking after his father who was in the tobacco and cigarettes business (taken in the French mandate it became the Régie), he wanted to be an entrepreneur and his own boss and also cannot see someone in need or in trouble and not help him. Kamal Sinno truly lived up to both values when one looks at his life works. Wherever there is injustice and hardships, he would want to defend and help.

When I sat with m. Sinno, I was mesmerized by the parcours he had from his beginnings (early in his studies in London), to his return to Lebanon, his early work years, transitioning to the toys industry – all and all with smart strategic tactics, a lot of perseverance, patience, hard work and tenacity to make it within the intricacies of wars, ports closing, imports unloaded in different Mediterranean ports etc…

Creativity, wittiness and tenacity in Sinno’s life started very early on in his life.

Upon his father’s death, Sinno was in 8th grade (approximately 13-14 years old) and the family suffered materially. Back then he was in IC (International College) and had to find a way to continue his studies.

He opened a one-man-shop and created a product named “Chocottro” made from Perugina chocolate, Danish butter and sugar. It was a buttery sweet paste that can be conserved in fridges. But to store and maintain it in good conditions you needed a proper freezer. A one-man-shop not having industrial freezers, Sinno used his home freezer and his neighbours’ freezers to keep the packs in good temperature. He packed them in 2 suitcases every time and walked the train rail liaising Furn el Chebbak to AUB, every day at 5 pm after school. Chocottro needed to be sold quickly otherwise they melted and went to waste. The business launched after 3 months and was a good success especially in the Gemmayze area where the French residents loved Chocottro and other areas like Furn el Chebbak, el Nahr and Manara. After 5 years in this business path, Sinno stopped. He was exhausted and needed to focus on his university studies.

IMG_4059

Another story was when Sinno was in the UK. Having taken Business school in London, he was short on money facility to complete his semester and take his exam. This didn’t stop him and he presented the faculty with a proposal: he would teach Arabic to the students and people who wanted to learn the language to read the Quran. Not only that, he also would teach arithmetic. This permitted him to complete his exam and year, and the faculty wanted him to continue with them as a professor. However, this was not part of Sinno’s plans and he came back to Lebanon with the mindset of starting his own business.

Upon his return to Beirut, he noticed that there was quite a clash between the market, how it was in the real ground and his studies. Although he didn’t want to work for anyone and be his own boss, his uncle – who was a chemistry professor – convinced him to start training in a company, to take a feel of the real thing and grasp the market properly on what is happening on the ground and then assess what to do. It was the first step to enter the market.

IMG_4060

Taking his advice, Sinno went to work for a macaroni, biscuits and halawa (among other products) factory for 3 months. The owner looked at him and Sinno told him – from the beginning – he didn’t want to do any kind of factory work and is willing not to get paid (there weren’t spots for him in the administration). Since he lived next to the Beirut Hippodrome and the company was in Chiah, it was a 7 miles walking distance!

Three weeks passed and Sinno launched his first move, he went to the boss and told him that he was making a deficit and came to him with a proposal. Having big competitors on their back, the solution was to start selling the spaghettis in boxes. More appealing to the consumers – especially the foreigners living in the area – and less hassling than the 1kg roll. The owner accepted and they had the boxes prepared. Sinno went on to team with a salesman from the crew and sold 2,200 boxes in 1 day to different buyers! It was a marketing coup and success. The factory started packing spaghettis in 500g boxes, hundred of tons were sold.

Another feat that Sinno did was to propose to sell the ‘halawa’ in plastic boxes. It was sold back then in metal boxes. In our local summer heats, the ‘halawa’ used to melt and its syrup could get stuck in these tins and was returned by customers to the points of sale, a total loss.

The plastic boxes – also appealing in their look – did not have the ‘halawa’ melt and were a success with the ladies who used these boxes also to pack their sewing equipment (as it was not practical in the metal boxes either). 5,000 Lebanese Liras where invested in this venture and all were sold in 2 weeks – the factory started to pack halawa day and night; 3 shifts were set to be able to accommodate the need. The boss and the company were thrilled.

Three months afterwards, having had this experience under his belt, Sinno left to try things out on his own. Now what to do? As he was walking in the downtown of Beirut, he met his friend Jacques Sehnaoui and asked him for an office, for free. He was given a small room on the roof of a building where he can start his business.

“Ok, so now that the office was ready, how to generate capital when one doesn’t have a capital to start with?” Kamal Sinno wondered. “What did Lebanon miss?” The answer was industrial statistics. There were none at the time and this was Sinno’s next labor and goal to create and achieve. The Lebanese Industrial Directory “Made In Lebanon” was born – with the industries, factories, around 1500 of them, their details. This was also a success and was translated in different languages. The embassies in the country wanted this directory, the Ministry of Industry and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Emigrants as well. It was the only reference of the Lebanese Industry. Profits were more than expected.

Moving into a bigger office and a new path, Kamal Sinno went into commission work handling business deals from silver, clothes, retail etc…
He was the broker and contact point to many merchants and provided solutions to all problems on the ground and managerial work.

 

It was a successful venture (around 120 clients), and Sinno had a want to give back. A feeling that drives him just as much as his ambitions. He saw there were organizations that had no money and struggled in their mission and started to give them food as contribution. This made him glad as it’s not only work and success that can sustain happiness but sharing and giving back.

 

A few years afterwards, tired of commission work, Sinno wanted to buy an office located next to the Beirut Municipality. Next to it was Souk el Ezez where Jews mostly owned the toy stores. The office purchase was of 18,000LL and he needed a bank loan for it. He headed to Blom Bank (this was around 1969). He hadn’t decided yet what his new office would be and did not have a property or guarantor however he still went in and asked for a loan. Not having both, the bank manager was hesitant – without these guarantees and only having Sinno’s word. As he was leaving, the bank manager stopped him (impressed by his gusto) and signed the loan with him.

 

“As I went out of the bank, my (back then) fiancée was waiting for me in my Fiat”, Sinno recalls. “We saw a Cadillac park right next to us – he was a big toy trader (from the Hajjar family). The switch turned on and I decided to go into toy trading. It was meant to be”.

 

However this area of interest was mostly monopolized by the Jews (Hajjar specializing in the higher end toys). It was a big challenge and they didn’t accept him. Competition was fierce. What to do in this new scenario?

Striking back to this challenge, Sinno took a van and wrote ‘cash van’ and started to go to his clients: from Naqoura, to the Beqaa to the last person in Akkar. Not everyone could come to Beirut back then, so he went to them! The toys would be brought to them and storeowners responded positively.

 

Success came and from one van, they became 5 vans. They went to Aley, Bhamdoun, Sawfar, Broumana; you name it, the vans were traveling inbound and met with happy customers as their needs were met without having to drive to the capital…

 

One story that particularly touches Kamal Sinno’s hear was when one day, an organization came to buy toys for the children they are caring for Christmas (a nun and 2 teachers were representing this organization). As they chose the toys, they requested an invoice, he started writing the invoice working on original price. Sinno decided to go to wholesale price, then lowering even more and finally decided to donate the toys to the organization telling them “I cannot write the invoice”.

“But we have money for it, we collected it!” They said. To which Sinno replied, “Buy some chocolate for the kids instead”.

“We have already bought the chocolate”.

“Buy some more then!” and that was it. Kamal’s heart was big and joyful.

 

On the second day, he went to the post office in the morning to pick up his mail. He had received an envelope from someone to whom he worked for as a commission agent. This said person owed Kamal money to which he couldn’t pay back (due to bankruptcy). Walking towards the parliament, he opened the envelope and found a check and a letter, where the man wrote to him that ‘a company bought the factory and the requirement was to close off all his past debts (Sinno was one of them)’.

For Sinno, this was a link between his deed yesterday and today’s event – there was no question about it. Whatever you give out to the world, you receive back. And your return is multiplied by 10 or more.

 

 

In the early 70s, the political situation was starting to be more and more unsettling; the Jew merchants were starting to leave Lebanon.

And the years between 1975 to 2000 contain too many stories to tell. The Toy Traders Syndicate was created and with the Jews leaving the business behind, it went back to Kamal Sinno.

IMG_4063

 

With the war, Sinno struggled with the Port of Beirut being closed. The toys did not arrive and captains if they couldn’t dock in Beirut went to unload their shipments in different ports in the Mediterranean Sea depending on their route. In which case, Sinno had to go himself to fetch his shipment from the different countries and bring them back to Jounieh, Saida or Tyre (Sour) ports. And bringing them back, he did. All of them. Sometimes at great dangerous costs (some shipments were by land on the borders between Syria and Lebanon), and sometimes in damaged deliveries by sea. One time, his Christmas shipment was in Turkey, he drove from Beirut, to Baalback (as the direct road was closed) to Aleppo in Syria then Turkey – only to drive back to Beirut for an additional paper for his bills of release and back to Turkey again to release the shipment.

 

More than 40 trips on the Mediterranean Coast to retrieve the toys: from Lebanon to Syria, Italy, Egypt, Malta and even Spain, to name a few. In some cases when the ports could not accept the shipments, they were shipped by land (by trucks) and they would encounter another set of problems with safety challenges.

 

In all these adventures, Sinno went on and continued further in the toy trading. Presently general manager and owner of Toy Market Trading which has Toy Park and Joué Club, the company is covering the import and distribution of more than 50 international brands with 20,000 best selling items yearly from 178 suppliers not only to Lebanese retail stores but also to run the export to some neighbouring countries. 
Not only that, Sinno also has prepared a new set of services along side of products agreements with China.

 

When the Food Bank regional office arrived to Lebanon, he decided to take the helm of the Lebanese Food Bank (established around the end of 2011) to which his goal is to feed 150,000 people in 1 day. A new simple plan to feed them was prepared. The Ministry of Finance is on board, however the Ministry of Social Affairs is a matter to tackle, they need time and many Lebanese need food. The Lebanese Food Bank’s main goal is to have Lebanon free from hunger by 2020.

The fuel, chauffeurs, crew and volunteers are ready and available. And the sky is the limit for this caring and charitable endeavor.

 

Our story does not end here, at 80 springs; Kamal Sinno is still planning and working for the future, setting up the bars and targets higher and more creatively than ever. Age is not a stopping point for him; his plans go far beyond in the years to come – be it in the business or philanthropic level. 

We can only aim to be inspired and work towards this energy level, keeping at it when things are tough. All this while not forgetting to help one another, as in the end, this is what truly matters.

Thank you for this inspiration m. Sinno, wishing you the best in realizing your plans.