As an event so firmly embraced by our community, it is only fitting that we should join hands with the leading online community for our region. Launched two years before Facebook, ExpatWoman has grown to be one of the biggest online community platforms in the region, providing a lifeline for expats, both old and new. ExpatWoman gives like-minded people a chance to meet both on-line and in person, leading them to create communities of their own around babies, books, businesses and much more. We speak to Jane Drury, Founder of ExpatWoman about the birth and development of ExpatWoman.
Jane Drury, Founder of ExpatWoman.com and ME Digital Group shares her journey
Jane Drury, Founder and Group CEO of ME Digital Group, has been a leading digital entrepreneur in the MENA region for almost two decades.
She first started her career as a Management Accountant, and in 1997, moved to Dubai. Initially focused on raising a young family, Jane quickly realised that there were no expat information sources available in the country and region.
As a result, in 2002 she launched the now #1 English-language website for women in the region, ExpatWoman.com. Steady years of growth followed, and the site portfolio has extended to include EWMums.com, EWFood.com and our style icon, ewmoda.com. ME Digital Group was then formed in 2014 and the company went on to acquire the region’s leading daily deals website, Cobone.com, serving the UAE and Saudi Arabia. The company’s latest venture is a marketplace for online gifts, Croutique.com, working with community crafters in addition to developing an own label range under Giftbox Dubai.
ExpatWoman.com has been around since 2002, way before the rise of digital media in the region and globally for that matter, what made you decide on using the Internet as the medium to start your company?
During a career break to raise my young family I took on a freelance project to write and edit the Time Out Families Guide to Dubai. It took a few months to pin all the data and once submitted, a further 18 months to see it published, by which time the city had moved on and so much had changed.
I originally gathered information for a written guide but Dubai is too dynamic. The only way to stay relevant was to be on the web.
Becoming an entrepreneur started as all good businesses should, by identifying a need in the market – in my case, being the need for information specifically about Dubai, with global interest stoked by the incredible development of the region. When I first looked at expat sites, none of them were family oriented and that too was a gap I was looking to fill with a global perspective. Since launch the learning process has been continual; change is the only constant.
Many successful CEOs have a list of books they would recommend to wanna-be entrepreneurs… Is there one specifically that you would suggest everyone interested in running their own business should read?
The Art of War by Sun Tzu. It’s a battle out there!
What advice would you give to expatriate women moving to Dubai in search of their dream career opportunity?
The demographic profile has changed considerably since EW was launched. Over 60% readers are now 18 – 35, and also over 60% are full-time employed. There is no doubt it’s a fantastic place to come to experience but as a major international city, not surprisingly expensive.
To really make a go of living here, or any expat move, any woman needs to start with just one good friend and in that respect, I would warmly recommend getting out to try different social groups and clubs as soon as possible. It can feel awkward at first but soon gets easier, and you’ll find yourself helping the next new kid on the block.