Iman Oubou has taken a circuitous route to the world of media.
A former Miss New York U.S., a runner up for the Miss Colorado U.S.A. pageant (then owned by Donald Trump) and a bioengineer, Oubou has always viewed her career as a journey or a learning experience of sorts. The Moroccan native, who was crowned Miss New York U.S. last spring, launched a podcast that would shed light on the careers of female businesswomen, the day after winning the pageant. The podcast, “Entrepreneurs en Vogue,” became a platform for Oubou to educate her listeners on how to achieve their goals, and in doing so, it helped her realize her next step, namely to launch a digital property.
“I never saw myself in media. I went to school thinking I was going to become a doctor,” Oubou said. “I’ve always been inspired by other people’s stories and with women with untraditional journeys. I’ve always fed off of those stories.”
Called Swaay Media, her company is gearing up to launch its web site (swaaymedia.com) on Monday, which, she said hopes to bridge the gap between women’s and business magazines.
Oubou likened Swaay’s content mission to something in between Forbes and Vogue, namely a business-oriented publication, which addresses global entrepreneurship and mentorship for young women, while nodding to fashion and women’s issues. She sees a white space, explaining that most women’s magazines focus on appearance rather than self improvement, while the majority of business publications are geared towards older, white men.
Before delving into that further, the chief executive officer also mentioned the need for empowering women’s coverage in light of the presidential election.
“Everything that is happening with Trump and the way he talks about women, about their appearance, that shouldn’t be the focus of our conversation at all,” Oubou said, before noting that she was a contestant in a Trump-owned pageant.
“Back in the day, I was so sad I didn’t get to meet him, but now I’m thinking thank god I didn’t meet him because I’m such a feminist,” she said, claiming that some of her former pageant friends were made to “rate” each others’ looks by Trump.
Returning to Swaay, which has raised an angel round from private investors of $500,000. Oubou noted that the company’s goal for the first round is to hit $1.4 million. Although she wouldn’t disclose investors, she did characterize main investors as global economic players from well-known foundations.
Part of that international backing comes from Oubou’s ties to North Africa, as well as her desire to tap into female entrepreneurship in the Middle East and Europe. One topic she’d like to address is how women can go about raising money as they start their businesses; another is to address cultural challenges they may face.
“Fashion and lifestyle magazine content isn’t what’s going to turn young women into the leaders that we need. How do we bridge that gap?” said Oubou, who while acknowledging that many “women’s media” brands produce stories on female leadership, they also sometimes focus too heavily on celebrities and reality stars.
The ceo said through featuring “real” trailblazing women, who may be more under the radar than others, she hopes to create a network of contacts for readers.
“We want to write about entrepreneurs but also relatable women who people can reach out to and meet with,” she said. “Women want to help each other.”
Swaay’s launch sponsor is Valentino. The fashion house will give away premium handbags to four randomly selected Swaay readers who sign up for the site’s newsletter over the course of this month.