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How To Fund Your Dream

Alternative adventures need alternative approaches. Omar Samra offers some advice on how to get support.

If you choose to play professional football, and get far enough in that career, there is an established, well-oiled and financed behemoth of an institution that takes care of you. You get the right food, access to trainers, international training camps, and if you’re really good, you might even bag a TV ad campaign and endorsement to boot. Basically you’re at the top of the sporting food chain and you should be. After all, you’re good at what you do and people love to watch you do it.

Unfortunately though, there are no second or third places in this sports food-chain in the Middle East. Team sports as well as track and field events get a flurry of interest every four years during the Olympics, then nothing. Non-Olympic individual sports come waddling after including squash which – despite boasting some of the most amazing displays of world-class talent- garners barely any funding. Amr Shabana and Rami Ashour are two of history’s most amazing squash players yet hardly any Egyptians even know who they are. I once overheard the head of a big company proudly mention that they were sponsoring a famous squash player as part of their CSR (corporate social responsibility) program!

So, what about us adventurers? What hope do we have to fund our dreams in such an arid sponsorship landscape?

I get emails every day from people who tell me they want to climb Everest, swim the English Channel or motorbike across the Sahara. Many don’t truly have the stamina to go the distance. They have not done their research. They have been struck by an inevitably fleeting bolt of inspiration, usually powered by a Youtube video and encouraged by an easily accessible e-mail address.

Luckily, there are many more out there who have the passion and determination to push boundaries. These people are usually quieter, they do their research and understand that the road is long and challenging. They work hard and get little recognition. But they are proud of what they do. They live for the journey, not getting to the finish line. They are the happiest. They are the ones who will make it

So what’s the message here?

Don’t wait around until someone stumbles across what you do, possibly gets impressed and potentially decides to support you.

Learn to face rejection. Don’t take it personal. Just get up and try again.

Most people will never understand what you do. They may never understand how you feel. Don’t expect them to. Instead work harder on your own communication.

Understand that real success only comes after you fail… often. And don’t even try to predict it. Success will often come where and when you least expect it. Just have faith and open yourself up to the possibilities.

Here’s a personal story: How I funded my dream…

In 1996 I decided to climb Everest. Until 2005 I kept it to myself, relatives and close friends, few of whom took me seriously. I hung a photo of Everest on my wall and prepared myself physically and mentally for it. Along the way, I failed getting to the top of many mountains because of weather, my own weakness, ill-preparation and illness. With each experience I learned something new. In 2005 I announced to the world, on TV, that I was aiming to climb Everest in 2007. I thought that sponsorship would come flying at me from every angle, but nothing happened. I met with the government thinking they would have to help. But they didn’t care. Some companies I met thought my dream was pointless, others were afraid about their reputation if something happened to me and most of them didn’t reply. I must have approached more than 50 companies over a 1.5 year period and all of them said no. I came close to giving up countless times. But my team kept me going. That picture on the wall kept me going.

I realized I needed a change of strategy. I realized that sometimes hard work alone just isn’t enough. So instead of attacking companies with emails and letters like a machine gun I thought about the one person in Egypt who might understand what I’m trying to do and support me. The name Naguib Sawiris (then CEO of Orascom Telecom) came up and I had a strong feeling he may relate. But how on earth would I reach him?

Then I had a light bulb moment… I went home and sent a passionate email to 10 email addresses: nsawiris@ot.com, nsawiris@orascomtelecom.com, naguib@ot.com etc. Nine emails returned undelivered and only one went through.

Three weeks later a woman by the name of Sabrine Al Hossamy (who has since left the company to follow her own passion of being a percussionist! – www.sabrinedarbuka.com) gave me a call. I remember the call vividly till this day. Without taking a breath, I began regurgitating the pitch I had told the 50 other companies but then she stopped me mid-sentence.

“That’s not good!” I thought.

She said, “Forget what kind of exposure you can generate for us. We want to know if you’re well prepared and if you think you can really make it?”

I was stunned and impressed. I explained to her my preparation, vision and plan for the expedition and she liked it. Three weeks later the money was in my account and my dream to climb to the top of the world was finally about to released.

So if you’re about to give up, have you tried everything? I mean really really tried everything?

 

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