(DUBAI – July 17, 2012) Award-winner Nayla Al Khaja, who runs her own production company in Dubai’s Media City, gave an impassioned presentation during Hult’s Executive Speaker Series, on how she struggled against traditional norms to kick start a fledgling movie industry and become one of the Middle East’s most highly acclaimed directors.

After persuading her conservative parents to let her study film abroad, Nayla had a business idea. “I really saw the potential for starting a film environment in Dubai,” she said. “There are so many rich stories in the Arab world, but we’ve never had a united studio that creates feature films for them.” She approached her father for capital, but he was not keen on the idea and offered her a salary to stay at home instead. Undeterred, yet with very little money, she started pitching for high-budget TV commercials. One client led to another, her big break came when she received a call asking if she could produce a Vogue photo shoot with the tennis player Roger Federer.

“This is where I discovered my secret to getting more film projects,” Nayla said. “I could produce very cheaply, because of where I am in the world, and I could use my local knowledge to my advantage.” Nayla is now working on her first feature film, Three, which will be released in 2013. Nayla’s aim is to create a mini studio that makes two to three feature films per year for the Middle East. The story of Nayla’s success resonates with Hult’s students, 35% of whom are female, reflecting Hult’s efforts to attract a diverse body of global students.

When asked to give one piece of advice to female MBA students looking to succeed in business, Nayla said: “One big lesson I’ve learnt is that gender does not matter. What does matter is that you become a professional – you have to acquire the right skill sets to deliver the right product to make your client super happy.” She added that it is important for all would-be entrepreneurs to remember who they really are, and to keep trying – even when the economic outlook is dim.

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