Startup MGZN
Photography by Ali Almarzooq

Inside Story : Samar Almeer

Ever wonder why some people seem to soar to success at the speed of light? Read on to get all the details from one of Bahrain’s up-and-coming young stars.

Tell me a little bit about yourself. Who are you, and what do you do?

My name is Samar Al Meer. I started in business when I was very young. I began discovering what I liked to do even before graduating from university. I liked show hosting, so I did some show hosting. I liked working in TV, so I worked in TV.

When I was 18, I started my own events company. I wanted to attend a convention, and there weren’t any in the Gulf region. My parents wouldn’t let me travel alone, so I decided to throw my own. It was so successful that I was able to start my own company. The convention began as an annual event.

What did you do on TV—how did you start?

Workwise, I have been active since I was a kid. I didn’t like just studying and doing nothing. I had to see what I liked to do. It was gymnastics and sports all the time. Later, I realized that I needed to start something on my own. And when I graduate, I won’t just graduate and start all over again discovering myself. I start from now.

In 2010, I got an opportunity to host a kids’ show. I did a full show called Summer Kids Club. It was very fun dealing with kids.

Was it on TV?

Yes, it was on Bahrain TV channel 55. They started giving me other shows after that: Cafe Bahrain and special coverage of events and new things in Bahrain. Amwaj TV, which was mostly about more serious topics, decided to cast me. Then fun things started to happen. I was busy with university, and the same year, I started Animania. I started my own business and all of that. Then I started show hosting, which is so much fun:

It was pretty fun. It was one of the biggest events that has happened in Bahrain, with the biggest current Hollywood star. Things just started from there.

How did you turn your hobby into a company? When did it become official?

When I first went to my dad, and I said I wanted to start my own thing. He He gave me his full support, encouraged me to start it and wanted to see if I was serious or not Basically, this event was the first of its kind in Bahrain or the GCC: an anime and gaming convention. People were hungry for it. They wanted to attend, just like me, and I didn’t even know until it happened. All I wanted to do was put on an event, wear a costume, and go.

We did some marketing, just as a Facebook event. It wasn’t anything big at all. I started making arrangements, began to learn about Bahrain’s markets, and saw over 2,000 people at the event. It was amazing. There were a lot of people like me: gamers,  Cosplayers, and anim fans. Not only Bahrainis attended; I was surprised also to see people from Dubai, Qatar,  Kuwait..etc. Everybody came. It was nice; we had different nationalities, and Bahrain TV and others covered it.

Animania, from the beginning, became a brand with loyal people who always attended, because it was the first. It had sentimental value. Every year, I try to outdo the year before. The first year, we gave out prizes considered big at the time: Playstation 3, Xbox, and all of that. After the success of the event, I felt like I needed to make it happen again next year,

The name itself meant so much to me. I wanted to have it and brand it. I didn’t want to need anyone when it comes to the CR, license that revolves throwing events . I wanted to have it in my hand.

So your company started after the event?

Yes; after the event.

I’m introducing S.A events soon. Samar Al Meer events.

Are you rebranding? Is it a separate company?

It’s different

I will never rebrand Animania that’s how much it means to me but i was 18 years old when I named my company. I Don’t think an events company should be called Animania now, I will keep the name for the main event which is Animania convention and have S.A events for all the other events I want to do. I tried bringing Artists before I still had a full show but some people were doubtful because they thought its an anime event just because of the name so I just want to clear it out for the people.

Were you interested in gaming when you started Animania?

Yes, of course.

You were actually a gamer?

I’m not going to call myself a professional gamer.

But you’re at least interested.

Yes, I’m very interested.

I was confused. I noticed you were more into show business, but at the same time you started something called Animania. I wasn’t sure if you were a gamer or not. I think a few people told me the same thing. It was interesting. It’s not a bad thing.

Some people think it’s nerdy.

Yes, it is.

The thing is, we can make nerdy cool.

Right.

You come, you chill with your friends, and meet people just like you. Some people, gamers especially, are anime freaks. They consider themselves freaks; there is nowhere else to go. Some of the people attending my event got married. I’m very proud of that.

Because of the event?

They met at the event, and they’re happily married now. It’s really cute to see that you made a difference in someone’s life. It’s benefitting you, it’s something you love, and it’s growing. Every year, it has been getting better and better, and we’re giving out even more to the people. I truly believe that  Animania is the only event that actually gives people more than it gets. I try my best.

How many events are there?

Animania is an annual event. Every year since 2010, we’ve been doing it once a year. In 2015, it will be the fifth anniversary.

When is it going to take place?

It will probably be in May.

I was going to attend last time, but I couldn’t assemble a team for League of Legends, so I kind of got discouraged and didn’t want to come. Next time, PERHAPS. What are the challenges you faced when you started this company? If not this company, what about the new company? Samar Al Meer?

With Samar Al-Meer, I don’t have many problems. At the beginning of Animania, I was 18. People didn’t take me seriously as a teenager going into a business meeting with CEOs and big names. When they looked at me, they said, how old is she? They saw my age, and just didn’t believe in it, in the beginning.

There wasn’t Instagram at the time. It’s a big thing now, but before, it was just Facebook for simple things. At the beginning, it was hard just to convince  companies that there was a market for gamers and anime, though some companies did give us support in sponsorships. After they’d seen how many people actually attended, and how many people started posting all over YouTube about it, they had faith. Every year, the number of people grows. People are coming to us. They’re asking us to cover the event. It’s pretty cool.

Are you dedicating more of your time to show business and TV, or hosting and organizing events?

My time is crazy. It all depends on my mood and opportunities. If I see a good opportunity, I try to catch it, grab it, and just go for it. Give it everything. If I see an event that interests me, and people want my help, we provide organizers. If they want my help, of course I’m going to be there whether the cost is high or low, as long as the event is good. If it turns out great  because of the work of my team, then it’s a really joyful moment for me.

So you’re organizing the event from A to Z? Promoting, marketing, everything?

Yes. Everything. Mostly, it’s just the organizing itself, from the inside: how the event looks on the day of the event, and all of that.

How do you differentiate yourself from the competition? Is there something you do that you think others can’t or don’t do?

I don’t think anyone can do what you can do because whats your idea is your idea period others can have the same idea but they cant implement it in the way you see it in your head. What makes us different is that we are a team of local Bahrainis who started from scratch and built their way up. We still have a long way to go but with our dedication and loyalty to the business I can easily say the sky is the limit, plus we try to leave this question to the people who attend our events.

I think you’ve pioneered how to find a niche audience, target them, and organize something they would enjoy. I don’t think others can do that, because if they could, they would have. I think that’s your edge.

Thank you for acknowledging that.

Did you promote yourself as an emcee or TV host, or was it just something that happened coincidentally, through word of mouth?

I didn’t promote myself. On my Instagram, I write that I’m an emcee, because it’s something I enjoy doing. Most of it is through word of mouth. When you go to an event, there are a lot of people, and a lot of companies. As long as I’m doing a good job, people will like me, and they will choose me again. I don’t try to publicize myself for these things but some how I always get chosen ilhamdolilah

Is there something you know now, but wish you had known when you started all of this?

Honestly, it’s trust. Even with big companies, if you don’t have a contract, you’ll get tricked. That’s just how it is. When I was 18, I was a bit naive. I trusted people blindly, and trusted their word. Then I came to realize that if you don’t have it in writing, it’s never going to happen. They might actually let you do the work, everything from A to Z, even planning the event. They will let you do the job, and be nice to you. Once it comes to payment, which is your right, they will disappear. This is something I’ve learned now. I still try to have everything documented. Even when it’s someone close or someone you know, they may try to escape the formalities. I try my best, to be as professional as possible just so no one loses their rights.

When you didn’t get paid for a job, what worked? As a freelancer, this happened to me once or twice when I first started. There was pretty much nothing I could do. I was young, and I couldn’t fight a big client or a big company. It was a dead end for me. What do you think would be a good solution, without a contract?

There is no solution. I don’t think there is. You can trust people as much as you want, especially if they are people you know. Maybe you can let it slide a couple of times. If it was just my own money, that would be different. I’d get bothered but. I wouldn’t do anything. When you’re in a company, however, you have people who work with you: organizers, staff, etc. You’re responsible for them. If you decide to do a job with a company and they don’t pay, it’s not just you who is affected; it’s the others who worked hard to make this happen.

This is what bothers me. Of course, if I didn’t get paid, I’d have to pay them from my own pocket, which is bad. It’s unbalanced, and balance is good. I can’t share names, of course; I’m not going to do that.

Have you received any financial help from Tamkeen or other organizations? Are you thinking of it?

No.

Why not?

I don’t need it.

Is getting sponsors difficult for big events?

Sometimes. It depends on the event itself, and how you present it to them.

Are there organizations that fund events in Bahrain and Dubai?

As sponsors? Yes there are.

Were you interested in show business and TV when you were younger?

I always dreamed of it as a kid. You see everyone on TV and think, I can do that. I used to give speeches in school—that’s how I knew I was good at this. I used to win awards. It was just fun for me. When I perform or read something out loud, I enjoy it. I’m not just faking it. It’s something I love doing

Who was most supportive of your decision to take this seriously?

My family, of course. And friends. My family always supported me in everything I did.

Was there anything you didn’t like?

I don’t know; I’m trying to think of something I didn’t like.

Modeling, maybe?

I stopped modeling  recently. It’s been a year now. It was just because everybody is doing it now. Before, when I was 18, it was just selected people. I try my best to differentiate myself. I don’t just go for fame and money. I  go for quality for example the photographers I dealt with are known. You’re not going to see my pictures from a lot of photographers. It’s always the same ones, over and over again. These are the people I’m comfortable with dealing with. They are professionals and the best in Bahrain. I would never take money and look horrible for a picture.

I try to choose my clients if they are not up to the standards then I don’t deal with them: in the business itself, sponsors, or whatever I do it’s a rule that I go by

Would you encourage people on a similar path to start young, like you—to take risks, and try different things? Or should they research and pursue one direction?

I believe everyone should try out everything they are good at, especially before they graduate from university—just so they can know which path they want to go with. There are many opportunities—even part-time jobs. You get to choose what you like, and you go for it. Even in college right now, I’m doing social media and PR, which is my thing. It’s really cool. I’m getting to work in a field that I like. I still can do other stuff. It’s flexible.

How do you balance that? Having a full-time job and running other things?

My full-time job is flexible. It’s fun. It’s social media and PR, basically: communicating with people and getting them clients. That’s what I usually do.

Being able to sit with a celebrity, like Maz Jabrani: is that something you got out of college, or something you got out of your company?

Its something that I get asked to do and enjoy so I do it. Who doesn’t want to meet their idols and interview them?

Who was the most interesting celebrity you’ve met, and why?

Recently, it was Maz Jabrani. He was hilarious. I’ve been watching his videos sinceforever. He’s very funny. That was something I loved. I was a bit nervous about it. There are some people you don’t get nervous about, but with him, I was nervous. Then I met the creator of techno music. We started talking, and he was a really nice guy. Kim Kardashian was important to me, I love her. She’s a fashion icon. Meeting her was a big deal, straight out of Hollywood to Bahrain. She’s someone I used to watch on TV. I really loved that. I also met tamer hosny which was a major hit on youtube since he has a big fan base in the arab world I met actors as well like the mountain from game of thrones, people from the gaming industry I try to support Bahraini talents as well like the first female dj in Bahrain which was DJ leil and the funniest guy in Bahrain Imran al Aradi and many more they are all interesting and deserve the best.

Were you able to sit and talk with her?

Yes, we had a little chat.

Did you have any mentors or role models who helped you out?

My role models were always my parents. My dad, especially. He always encourages me to do business. He’s a businessman himself. Whenever I have trouble or I’m going through something, the first person I call is my dad. He always finds a solution for me He’s someone I trust completely, who wants everything that’s good for me. I just go and talk to him. Gossip with friends and family, that’s other stuff. But my dad is my idol.

Your mentor.

Yes, my mentor and everything.

What is the biggest step or risk that you had to take in order to advance your career?

The biggest step was coming out of my shell. With events, there’s always risk. You never know who is going to come. Is it going to be successful, or not? Even if you have the most perfect set-up ever, maybe people didn’t like you before; or let’s say you pissed off someone who worked with you before. Word of mouth is really fast. As long as you’re doing your job in a very good way, people will like you, and I think there is nothing that can stop that. You can only grow from there.

What is your biggest challenge right now?

Right now, it’s choosing what I want to do. Do I want to have a stable job, or should I just go ahead and develop my business and focus on that full time?

Do you think there is enough business in the industry to support you completely?

I think there is enough business. I just need to make up my mind completely. I need three to five months just to decide what I really want to do. I love both.

samar4

Would you consider yourself to be in a phase of self-discovery?

I think people can never stop discovering themselves. You can be 40, and discover a new talent or something new you can do. Go for it. Even when I interviewed Maz Jabrani, he told me he studied law. He graduated with a law degree. Then he decided that he was funny. It’s amazing how long it can take you just to discover something within you.

I’m pretty sure that organizing events is extremely stressful. How do you handle that stress?

If you come to one of my events, you will hardly ever see me chill and have a good time. I’m always running around. At every event, I keep an hour or two for fun for myself. At Animania, I go crazy throughout the whole day. I’m running, Im organizing fixing problems as they come up,. But When it comes to anime competitions, which is something I love, I sit and judge them and have a good time.

At other events, when there is singing, I chill and have a good time for a minute. The best part after doing an event is the end, when it’s over. You get to read people’s feedback. That’s when I really feel like I’ve done a good job. Now I need to go get a massage and relax for a week.

That makes it all worth it?

Yes. That’s when I deserve a massage. That’s how it is. I treat myself a lot. That’s how I keep myself going.

Is there something that could have helped with organizing Animania? Something you could have done differently?

If I had a chance to do it all over again I will do it exactly the same. You shouldn’t regret anything in the past you should always learn and go forward specially if it turned out to be successful.

I’m very proud of Animania. It was the first event of its kind in the GCC, and was handled by Bahrainis themselves. I’m just so proud of it. It’s like my little baby. It’s something small, and it has opened a lot of doors for me.

That’s how Startup Bahrain started. It was started by a Bahraini, and now has a team of 12 Bahrainis. It makes you feel a lot more attached to the project.

Exactly.

I have a lot of questions I could ask. Did social media help you with your career? Did it help you as an individual?

I used to be really into it before; but then I saw a million fake accounts about me. That’s when I decided to step back a little bit.

And just be careful.

Yes, a little bit. I just had a feeling. I care about everything. When I see fake accounts about me, and people try to impersonate me, and go ahead and talk to people as if they are me, I just don’t feel right. I decided to take a step back from the spotlight for a bit, and relax and be in my own bubble. Now I’m back, and I’m fine. It doesn’t bother me as much as before. It will always happen. People are going to keep talking about you. They are going to recognize you everywhere you go, sometimes. It’s fine.

Now, social media is everything. It’s stronger; you can see people on Instagram going crazy, and they are getting a lot of business out of it—even normal people.

Did you get business out of it?

I’m not that into it yet. I’m planning to hire a team just for social media , to expand and reach more people. You know how Bahrain goes through phases. This phase is Instagram. I think anyone who has a business should improve it, and I need to take my own advice and improve my Instagram account.

Do you feel like what you studied helped with what you are doing now?

Yes, definitely. I studied marketing.

So it was relevant?

Yes, absolutely. I’m not the type who will pay 100% attention in class when it comes to other subjects. Marketing is something I love. Studying actually helped me learn more about the market, and how to deal with certain situations in Bahrain. I think it was helpful, even though our books didn’t mention anything about Instagram or Facebook. Marketing is a great tool, and I’m happy I studied that.

How did Startup Bahrain fall under your radar?

You have a lot of people I worked with, and I saw their accounts. When I saw Startup Bahrain, I was really happy. It’s just something new, something Bahraini, and I love it and will always support it.

Is there anything else you want to cover? A big part of your career or your life that you haven’t spoken about?

I would like to tell everyone, especially young people, to always focus on themselves, and let go of all the extra things. They need to focus on their lives, businesses, and careers from the beginning—right now, so they can rest later. That’s a message I try to give to all youngsters.

That’s great.

Where do you see your self in the future?

I see my self being a successful independent woman who makes her family, friends and country proud.

Thank you Samar for talking to us, it’s been a great pleasure getting to know you.

Startup MGZN