Breaking Barriers: My experience as a woman leading a digital startup

UNDP Syria
3 min readApr 30, 2023
Haya Al Nabulsi presenting at the Mobile World Congress 2023 in Barcelona | ©GSMA

By: Haya Al Nabulsi, Damazzle General Manager and Women Innovators Programe (WIP2) Participant

I am Haya Al Nabulsi, I am 25 years old, and I’m thrilled to share my journey with you as a woman leading a digital startup. In 2022, I participated in the Women Innovators Program (WIP) and attended the Mobile World Congress 2023 in Barcelona, representing Damazzle, a Syrian startup that I am proud to manage as its general manager.

Our vision at Damazzle is to connect buyers and sellers directly, while reducing the high cost of commissions spent on intermediaries. Our platform offers classified and featured ads, sliders, and photography services to facilitate the buying and selling process, and cut costs for our customers. As a Syrian startup, we faced challenges in introducing a new concept of an online classifieds platform and spreading the new culture of fulfilling needs through a mobile application. But we never gave up, and by constantly communicating with our customers, both online and on-site marketing activities, we simplified the process and showed people that our platform can solve some of their problems.

I have a strong background in marketing and branding, holding a Business Administration/Marketing Bachelor’s degree and a Marketing Research Master’s degree. When I first joined Damazzle in March 2020, it was in the launching phase, and I had my doubts, despite my practical experience as a marketer and Risk Education Facilitator at UNMAS. But with an array of courses, including Digital Marketing and Situational Leadership, and participation in several events as a volunteer and speaker, such as the fourth meetup of Youth Leadership Programme (YLP), where I talked about Marketing and Branding Tips and Tricks, and Entrepreneurship World Cup (EWP) Syria, where I pitched about Damazzle, I was able to lead our team to success.

Haya Al Nabulsi presenting at the Mobile World Congress 2023 in Barcelona | ©UNDP Syria — Hasan Fallaha

As a woman leading a startup, I believe that leadership is about skills, personalities, planning, connectedness, and transparency, not gender. Although I faced some technical challenges, being a woman has not hindered my ability to lead Damazzle. In fact, I believe that emotions are a powerful tool to reach a target audience nowadays and being emotional is not a weakness but rather a strength that women can use to lead an organization to success.

Attending the Mobile World Congress 2023 was a life-changing experience for me. I had the opportunity to meet other women leaders and get to know their mindsets and how they succeeded. I also had the chance to represent our beloved startup and country in a place full of technologies, innovation, evolution, and success. I met other startups, exposed myself to creative ideas from around the world, and discussed business development opportunities with people from different cultures, which was an added value and experience.

Meeting with mentors and supporters of the Women Innovators Programme | ©GSMA

Looking ahead, our next stage in Damazzle is to add new services and improve our current services to get closer to our customers and fulfill their basic needs. We believe that building a strong comprehensive database that fits all needs is critical to maintaining sustainability and scalability.

Participating in the Women Innovators Program is highly recommended as it offers valuable experiences and skills. I enjoyed every part of the program and gained many new insights.

To all fellow women innovators, I encourage you to believe in yourself, embrace your strengths, and use them to achieve your goals. The possibilities are limitless.