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Hala Al-Shawaf

Co-Founder & CEO, VoIP Doctors

What inspired you to join/start your business?

I’ve always been a helper. We saw a need--especially among smaller businesses--for modern, easy-to-use, and robust VoIP telecom services. We knew that we could leverage our technical expertise and business experience to bring world-class functionality in a transparent, fair, and ethical way by building telecom systems that are customized to clients' needs throughout their business lifecycle. We're passionate about helping other businesses to thrive and set out to build a proprietary system to help them do just that-- telecom is one of those things that just needs to work well for the end users, and we help to ensure that they have a system that works well for them and a support team that is responsive to their needs.

What challenges have you faced as a woman entrepreneur and how did you overcome them?

I knew from an early age that I wanted to help people, to be creative, and to be The Boss (ha!). I always expected to be one of very few women in the room, and had been adequately prepared for most of the standard challenges that women entrepreneurs are likely to face. What I didn’t anticipate was the internal battle with myself over what I thought that I “should do” in my career versus what I felt called to do. I learned that a combination of dogged determination, subject matter expertise, and attention to detail-- all while being very human-- were necessary ingredients to inclusion, success, and growth. So I learned to do those things well while working in the “should do” phase of my career, and I was able to transition into a truer calling (co-founding VoIP Doctors).

What was your most satisfying moment in your career?

The moments when a fellow woman in business tells me that some small thing that I did or said in the past (when they were in transition, just starting out, or facing a major challenge) really made a difference for them. Also, this goes to show that no act of grace or kindness is too small to make a difference, and that people will always remember how you made them feel.

How do you define success?

Having a network of clients, colleagues, and referral partners who champion us, and welcome us doing the same for them. Having a home life that enhances our work life, and vice versa. Growing our company to a place where we can add to our team by recruiting professionals who are truly passionate about their portion of the business so that we can focus on the things that we’re most passionate about.

What’s the best piece of career advice you’ve ever received?

Excel at the little things. Never be so busy or so important that you don’t have time to connect with someone else in a genuine way. It’s ok to be afraid; take the (smart) risk anyway. Know when “No” is a complete sentence.

What women inspire you and why?

So many brilliant, kind, and talented women, starting with my immediate family- they are resilient, capable, creative, funny, and on occasion formidable women, and I’m so lucky to have spent a lifetime learning from their example. Any woman who has sidestepped whatever expectation the outside world had of her in order to build her own life of value and reward is an inspiration, too.

What advice would you give to other women entrepreneurs?

Talk with everyone. Ask questions. Ask if there are questions that you should be asking. Get advice about resources available to women entrepreneurs early and often. Get involved with your local Chamber of Commerce, and ask more questions. Unfortunately, there’s no central repository of information for all of the things that entrepreneurs need to know, but you can build a strong network who will help you to find those answers.

Describe yourself in three words.

Creative, Compassionate, and Resilient

Fill in the Blank:

  • When I face a challenge, I... love to brainstorm possible solutions-- solving complex problems is actually one of my favorite things in life and business-- I’ve gotten pretty good at navigating in the grey area.


  • If I could go back in time, I would tell myself… to take the leap; be braver sooner.


  • The one thing I couldn’t live without is… coffee. No, wait... Chocolate. Also… Art and music. Dance parties in the kitchen with our dog. In all seriousness, I wouldn’t want to live without the true sense of partnership that we enjoy every day, whether we’re working on the business, spending time with family, or going on our own adventure.


  • By this time next year, I will be… (besides another year wiser?) WBENC certified, and growing our technical and business development teams. I'll put adding more stamps to my passport on my longer-term wishlist.


  • The best thing that happened to me last week was… joining a conversation with women entrepreneurs in the art field-- I always learn so much from them and come away with new energy and passion.


  • To get my creative juices flowing, I… it depends on the situation, but I will typically look at source material first, whether it’s in a book or online, then I’ll begin drawing up a plan or design. 
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