Portrait of a Nation: The woman who turned her grief into a 'smashing' success

After the loss of two family members and a diagnosis with a chronic disease, Hiba Balfaqih decided to change her life and follow her passions

DUBAI , UNITED ARAB EMIRATES , JUNE 05 – 2018 :- Hiba Belfaqih at her villa in the Springs in Dubai.  ( Pawan Singh / The National )  For News. Story by  Salam Al Amir
The biog

Born: Kuwait in 1986
Family: She is the youngest of seven siblings
Time in the UAE: 10 years
Hobbies: audiobooks and fitness: she works out every day, enjoying kickboxing and basketball

After feeling like she was stuck in rut for years, it took Hiba Balfaqih a chronic disease and the loss of two of her closest family members before she decided to change her life and live it the way she wants to.
In 2016, Ms Balfaqih lost her father and then, last year, her grandmother. A diabetes diagnosis followed, and the entrepreneur, psychologist and self-proclaimed storyteller became determined to make the most of life and channel her energies into something she was passionate about.

The 31-year-old holds a masters degree in psychology from the University of Arizona and has studied Neuro-Linguistic Programming, which is the use of inner dialogue to influence positive thinking and behavior. She used her knowledge to launch The Startup Factory – a "one stop shop for all your business needs". It focused on helping the average person get all the knowledge and support they need to start a business.
"For every client we take on, we create a tailored plan suited for their specific and special situation and personality. I'm not interested in creating a one-size-fits-all guidebook to business, because that doesn't get real results," she said.

Dubai, United Arab Emirates - March 16th, 2018: Owners Ibriham Abudyak and Hiba Balfaqih. The Smash Room opens in Dubai. Friday, March 16th, 2018. Al Quoz, Dubai. Chris Whiteoak / The National

"Our philosophy is to add value and help, before we think about profit. If we can help one person avoid making a business mistake, we've done our job well. If we work together, we're doing it for the long run. There are no quick fixes for sustainable, long-term change."
The Yemeni-Canadian also has a much more unusual way to help others: earlier this year, she co-founded The Smash Room in Dubai, offering people the chance to vent their pent up rage and anger by demolishing things using their weapon of choice, such as a baseball bat, in a safe and controlled environment.
The 31-year-old does not consider herself a vandal or an anarchist, but life has taught her that sometimes we all need to lash out to help ourselves heal emotionally.
In January, Ms Balfaqih launched another project – her own YouTube channel offering "therapy in 45 seconds" in video form. She offers viewers a dose of encouragement and self-confidence to help them overcome their personal obstacles and struggles.


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“The feedback from people has been heartwarming. I slowly began to build followers on YouTube and got into motivational speaking and coaching,” she said.

Her family were skeptical in the beginning but now they are all proud fans. They come to all her talks and speeches and always ask her to help their friends. 
It's not all been plane sailing, though. Ms Balfaqih has had some serious setbacks and failures in life and business, but she has been able to bounce back and leverage this experience to help guide others.
"I want to arm people with a roadmap for life and the successful habits they need to navigate it," she said.

Her life philosophy is "self improvement is a journey with no set end".

“It’s my intention to help as many people make it the best, most rewarding journey possible.”

The biog

Born: Kuwait in 1986
Family: She is the youngest of seven siblings
Time in the UAE: 10 years
Hobbies: audiobooks and fitness: she works out every day, enjoying kickboxing and basketball