Emirati entrepreneur Budreya Faisal on breaking stereotypes: 'I believe in being more than one thing'

From starting an abaya label to learning how to design cars in Italy, Faisal has learnt to comfortably balance worlds

Budreya Faisal is one of the first female Emirati athlete managers in the region 
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“Today, most people are able to look past my gender entirely. I’ve challenged men in my field and although it was initially difficult, I’ve established my name in the industry,” says Budreya Faisal. She says she is the first athlete brand management entrepreneur in the GCC, and she advises professional athletes about how to best present themselves.

It’s a niche field for women in the region, but Faisal has years of experience when it comes to casually dismantling gender stereotypes simply by following her varied passions – and working hard. Despite a demanding career, in 2018 she took a step further and launched her own agency, Ghost Concept, which provides reputation management, and personal and digital brand development services for athletes in the region.

I don't want to be seen as a woman who is doing something, but also as one of the first Emiratis who is accomplishing these things

“I don’t want to be seen as a woman who is doing something, but also as one of the first Emiratis who is accomplishing these things,” she says.

Crazy about cars  

Faisal’s career started with a love for all things on wheels; in high school she was “obsessed” with Harley-Davidson and go-karting, and enjoyed racing around in her manual Mini Cooper.

Given her interest in cars, it was natural for her to gravitate towards a Lamborghini design course in Italy. "As soon as I found out such a course existed, I had to take it. I wanted to live abroad and do something for myself, but that's also when I realised that I loved driving cars more than designing them," she says with a chuckle.

After working a couple of jobs in marketing, Faisal was headhunted by Formula One, and she has also worked at Dubai Sports Council, the UAE Pro League Committee and Al Ahli Club, before she decided that the way to really make a difference was to start her own business.

Giving UAE football players their due 

Ghost Concept was born from her desire to help UAE football players. "There's this perception that players are spoilt and pampered, and it was only after meeting with so many of them that I realised otherwise. A lot of the organisations treat football players as if they're only as good as their right or left foot. They want them to focus on football and don't train them to be more than that. I want to teach them about their real value."

Faisal’s job involves “discovery sessions” wherein players are asked to describe themselves and their values. Athlete brand management then involves looking into everything from how players look in public to how they celebrate after a goal. “It’s the overall perception of how they are received that we work on,” says Faisal.

It’s all part of her end game: to help the representation of GCC football as a whole. “The quality of football in the UAE Arabian Gulf League is quite good; we have so much talent over here. We have some gorgeous stadiums – like the Hazza Bin Zayed Stadium; management for the clubs is younger and forward-thinking; and the league as a whole is becoming bilingual to engage more local fans. It’s quite the 180-degree change,” she says.

On top of the fashion game

As though changing the perception of football in the country were not a lofty enough goal, Faisal is also a self-taught fashion designer and the founder of Bleach, an abaya label she launched in 2009, about the same time that she got into the sport world.

As she puts it, she started Bleach because she wanted clothes that represented her. Today, she comfortably balances between the worlds of fashion and sports management, saying that her passion and interest in one field only fuels the other.

“I believe in being more than one thing. At the end of the day, I’m not an athlete brand expert or a fashion designer. I’m so much more than what I do for a living, and I think it’s important for everyone to have that. My title isn’t what makes me ‘me’.”