Inspired By You: Sandra El-Ayoubi

Forever inspired by the incredible women who wear our pieces, we want them to feel unique, powerful and use their clothing as an outlet to express their truest selves.

As International Women's Day is here, we spoke to business owner, photographer and mother Sandra El-Ayoubi to find out more about her career and what this years International Women's Day theme means to her.

Tell us a bit about yourself and what you do for work? 

I'm Sandra, a mum of 3 incredible boys, a wife to a supportive man, and a business owner to my 4th baby Photography by Sandra. I'm a woman who doesn't know what complacency means and is always looking for the next thing to do.

I am an Australian-born second-generation Lebanese Muslim girl. I grew up in Roselands and went to Danebank Girls for my primary school years. That school helped shape the person I am today. It also helped me push through so many challenges such as being one of only 5 Muslim girls in the entire school. Being ethnic and Muslim was definitely something that made me want to showcase that difference is a great thing. I was part of all the extracurriculars growing up which helped make me the confident person I am today. At the age of 12 my father went through bankruptcy and we lost everything we had, from our home, to our car and I was taken out of my school only 3 months before I finished year 6. Since then I have had to work extra hard to be that responsible person for my parents and work hard to get the things I want and need without anyone's help. This is the attitude I took into my business.

I finished school and went to Sydney University to study for a bachelor of secondary education in humanities and social science. I was appointed a full-time position straight out of uni at Chester Hill High School for almost 10 years. The last few years when I was working as a part-timer, I began feeling anxious and found that it wasn't the job I was meant to be in. At this point, I began to take photos of my own children with a small digital camera and any family events that were happening. A spark got ignited and I started doing this as a weekend side hustle as I was teaching until I had to make a choice between teaching and living out my passion. The choice was easy, the rest is history.

What does the 2024 International Women's day slogan 'Invest in Women: Accelerate Progress', mean to you?

I believe this slogan is working towards all females to have the courage to own their own voice and strive to be the best version of themselves. This is done by providing women with the resources and opportunities to promote their personal and economic growth, fulfilment, and empowerment. Women are a great asset to society, be it in all areas of life. Having that investment will mean more and more women in roles that have never been considered as 'important', therefore the necessary investment will boost the positions in society and amplify their voices.

What do you think are the challenges faced by women in business?

There are so many challenges but if I were to narrow some down I would say, fear of failure, work-life balance, lack of funding, lack of confidence, inadequate support system, societal expectations, lack of entrepreneurial management, and the list can go on and on. It is overcoming these barriers and seeing the potential in what you believe, whether it be a product, brand, and especially in your ability to exceed your expectations. We all start somewhere, so no dream is too small. You will never know if you don't try.

What are some of your personal experiences (or reasons) that motivated you to think/care about women’s empowerment?

While teaching, I had a few horrible women who were on my team in the late stages of my teaching career which made me realise that I NEVER want to be like them. I was patronised and almost bullied. These women were on a power trip. This made me realise that I needed to get out and do something for myself and be my own BOSS! I am a firm believer that being there for your colleagues is crucial in building women's empowerment. My job can be very solitary and building a network is crucial. There were definite challenges when leaping into this newfound career, however, I found my people and they are now the ones who have been on the journey with me for the whole 12 years of business. 

How do you empower yourself and the women around you?

I am a true believer that you need to LOVE yourself before you want anyone to love you. I empower myself by trusting my ability to do what I do the the fullest potential. I set my expectations and aim to achieve them to the best of my ability. I'm assertive and don't let anyone override my beliefs in the way I do things. I'm always searching for knowledge in and out of my field to keep enriching my heart and mind. I have developed a great sense of community in and out of the photography industry. This has helped in creating great respect with the people in my community and has helped me work as a role model for those around me. I would like to say I aim to inspire many young women in my community to reach for the stars and do what they love. Self-care is also on my list of priorities especially being a mum, time for yourself is a huge one. 

How can we expand women’s links to each other e.g. mentorship, coaching, and networking?

Definitely by spreading the word about these amazing women through social media, between friends and women groups. I offer mentoring for those starting out or anyone wanting to resharpen their skills and be inspired during their shoots. Reach out for some fun!