Name: Dhia Rabiai
CEO: Kamsah – Global trade, retail & E-Commerce (Space is home decoration, home accents & kitchen serveware, cookware & bakeware)
CEO & Producer: Bee Entertainment, LLC – Production company specializing in documentary films.
Graduation Degree: MBA ’13 (Entrepreneurship) & MFA ’14 (Film & TV Producing)
Why did you choose this industry and field?
I’ve always enjoyed the creative aspect of filmmaking: translating an idea into an audiovisual material that will be seen by so many, from different walks of life, and possibly have an impact on the way they see things has always been stimulating to me. In the meantime, I always had a knack for the pragmatism of business. Starting up a business that carries the values I champion was equally as exciting for me and has always been a goal of mine and since my youngest years I was so passionate about creating a channel of business between my home country Tunisia and the United States. As life makes things interesting, about 10 years ago my country ignited what is now known as the Arab Spring. It was true back then and is still true now, Tunisia has become the only success story of that Arab Spring which turned into a rough winter everywhere else. I wanted to be part of my country’s transition into a democracy and a free country. To accomplish that I wanted to invest in cementing and stabilizing the newly acquired freedoms by providing job opportunities to the youth and especially women. This was also a business decision as I had remarked that trade between the US and Tunisia was marginal and there were significant opportunities for growth if someone was willing to take the risk and go through the trying process of trailblazing such an undertaking.
How did you strategize to get your career to where it is today?
I tried to have as much professional experience as possible before starting up my own businesses: I had numerous internships to detect where opportunities lie and how to set up a process to take advantage of them. I capitalized on what made my profile unique and appealing to business partners. Whether it is through filmmaking or my retail venture, bridging the gap between the different cultures and bringing people together through the enjoyment of what unites peoples has been highly motivating for me. It helps me to keep pushing through the hardships and setbacks of aligning completely different cultures and their different ways of doing business.
As a young businessman, reputation is extremely important and you build it up by not only delivering but also over-delivering. That’s how you will be taken seriously and will be trusted as a business partner. Focus on the bigger picture and don’t pay much attention to the noise of those who say it cannot be done because it has not been done before.
What career advice do you have for anyone looking for an internship or job in this market?
I would say not to put too much pressure on yourselves: it is important to understand that your school years are the time to try things out, which means you will make mistakes. That is normal and you should not only embrace them but try to learn from them as that is the process needed to steer yourself and your career in the direction that is right for you. How would you know what you like and what you’re passionate about if you don’t try a wide range of internships, classes, group projects and more? There are new opportunities even in this unusual year. That’s part of the game and we, as humans, have shown an incredible ability to adapt. If the focus is only on the jobs being lost across the board then your horizon may look bleak. However, if you zoom out and look beyond the setbacks, you will see that opportunities are symbiotic with the challenges you were focused on, and are there to be taken advantage of. So keep the faith and keep moving forward with your plan.
That being said, one has to be ready and hold oneself to high standards: being a student doesn’t exonerate you from being dependable and reliable. Behave as you would like to be treated and project seriousness and professionalism.
How did getting your degrees from Chapman set you up for success on your career path?
I’ve always felt at home at Chapman and I made significant connections that turned out to become real friendships with students, faculty and staff that still last to this day.
Academically, my degrees at Chapman were really hands-on: it was a simulation of real life situations that I actually did face once out on my own. That was invaluable in shortening the transition phase from school to professional life. I knew I wanted to start my own ventures and the entrepreneurship concentration in my MBA program was right on the money. Group projects in my entrepreneurship classes were as close to what I’m still facing today as it gets. For the film school; the students’ films and the way the degree and school are set as a mini-Hollywood was very helpful in getting the right mindset of what will be needed from you as a working filmmaker.