Enas Rashwan of Cairo Ad School, on a journey every creative dreams of
Posted on 2022 Sep,12  | By Ghada Azzi

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Enas Rashwan, the founder and president of Cairo Ad School and president of One Club for Creativity Cairo, discusses her creative journey and the importance of education

How did you come up with the idea to start an advertising school and quit working in agencies? And was it hard to switch your profession to managing an ad school on your own? What prompted you to do that?

Actually I didnt quit, it just happened. Back to 2008 I was working as a creative director, was a partner in an agency and freelancing with others. I had a good list of clients who were very happy working with me, which meant I had to always exceed their expectations. I was pushing boundaries and educating myself as much as I could, but I reached a point where there was nothing in the region that could educate me and my staff about real advertising. So I decided to look for the best institute in the world and enrol myself, no matter what it takes. I thought if I dont do what I love with passion, success will slip away.

I found the Miami Ad School in the US, which was the best at the time. I was newly married and discussed it with my husband. It was now or never. He supported me and we both agreed to go for it. I closed all my accounts, sold my agency and off I went. And ever since I stepped into the Miami Ad School and began my academic journey I wondered what if every creative in my region could have such an opportunity. Many of them would not be able to afford to leave their jobs, their monthly salary, friends, families and just go.

My business journey in America was amazingly successful. I finished my study in a year, was recruited as a creative in a top agency in Miami, then in New York, and won some decent awards. But deep inside I had this calling. I wanted to establish an ad school in my country. It was 2012. I did my business plan, got a diploma in occupational school management from Cambridge in the UK, then came back to Egypt and opened Cairo Ad School in 2013.


What would you say is the favorite part of your job?

Making a change in other people’s lives. My dream was to help creatives excel in their creative career – the same way I wanted someone to help me in my early years.


How has the school changed since you opened it?

The vision, mission and motto are the same – to uplift the region’s creative industry, to close any gaps, and to meet the needs of the real world. But the programs have changed and improved to meet the requirements of the market. We began with two diplomas and 10 experts who provided real world education in the core sectors of creative and strategy. Today, we provide more than 20 programs, diplomas, courses, workshops and talks and help with every aspect of the ad-making process, be it for individuals, agencies, brands or universities. We became the main incubator of creative talent in our region. Our students and grads are not only from Egypt but from all over the Middle East and North Africa.


What are some of the unique challenges associated with leading a school like the Cairo Ad School?

All our challenges are unique. Firstly, the use of the term ‘school’ for professional education was not common in our region. People used to say academy, centre or institute etc.; so it took time for our target audience to grasp the concept, because it is really a school. We used to receive CVs from teachers of Arabic and chemistry who were looking for a job. We also opened at a very critical time in Egypts recent history – during the revolution. Riots and curfews became our new norm, but we embraced a single strategy. The market had no job offerings. It was time to invest in skills, learn and be ready for when the market returned.

Also, when you’re the leading source of education in the advertising industry you always face resistance when making a change. It took time and effort to kill certain stereotypes and to get people to see advertising from new perspectives. Its not about classic stuff anymore. Everything – techniques, media, strategies, targets, platforms – changed and evolved. The definition of advertising itself changed. So in many ways it was about re-education in order to be able to grasp all of these changes. And on a personal level, my challenge is that I wear multiple hats: business owner, creative, innovator, director, instructor and sometimes big sister. But this is how I enjoy it and my hashtag is #ilovemyjob.


How would you sum up Cairo Ad School in a sentence?

A journey every creative is dreaming of.


What differentiates Cairo Ad School from other advertising faculties across Egypt and the wider region?

A unique fact about Cairo Ad School is that its by ad people for ad people. We know what it takes, we know what young talent needs, the skills they miss and the jobs they look for. It’s about preparing creatives for the real world. Our methods solve and unlock the daily dilemmas of the industry. Years of trial and error have enabled us to provide shortcuts to what you can achieve.


What can you tell us about the school’s methods?

Our education methods are 30 per cent principles, 30 per cent knowledge sharing, and 40 per cent teamwork. All program participants and their mentors team up to work on carefully designed assignments to ensure program objectives are delivered successfully. The interaction does all the magic.


What are the school entry criteria?

The entry criteria is passion. It’s as simple and as important as that. We dont accept collectors of certificates or education addicts. The school is for those creatives looking to do something in the industry. They need to be laser focused and work hard during their journey at Cairo Ad School. It pays back big time.


“A unique fact about Cairo Ad School is that its by ad people for ad people.”


Is Egypt’s ad industry helping out? Are creative directors and marketers offering their know-how and allocating time for specific courses? Is it enough, or do you expect more involvement from the industry?

All players in this industry understand the urge and need to do it together.

Agencies, brands, creative directors and marketers are extremely willing to offer their knowledge and experiences through our programs. The school understands the fast pace of this industry and the expertsfeelings about giving back. So we designed the format of our programs in a way that experts can share their expertise and knowledge in the most convenient and effective way. 


In an increasingly competitive market, what does it take for a young advertising graduate to get their foot in the door?

Its a very competitive career to stay in for a long period of time, but for young talent, entry is not competitive at all, believe me. The market is striving to attract good creative talent. All that young grads need to do is build a good portfolio so they can showcase their creativity and skills. We can help them do that and make sure that they are seen by the big players, so the doors are wide open.



“We know what it takes, we know what young talent needs, the skills they miss and the jobs they look for.”


If you could give students one piece of advice, what would that be?

Be themselves and know why they want to work in advertising. If they work for money they will lose it. If they work with passion, money will come, and they need to know its business not self-expression. Be a doer, be proactive. The industry is open for you. I personally don’t believe in luck. I believe in always being ready to grab any opportunity that comes your way.


Whats next for you and Cairo Ad School?

For me, spreading the ad school concept across the region. For Cairo Ad School, more programs, connecting larger communities for the betterment of this industry, closing more gaps, collecting more awards and expanding our footprint with new branches inside and outside of Egypt.