Mariana Wehbe, Queen of PR
I was immediately fascinated by this beautiful woman’s intoxicating energy and refreshing straightforwardness. She walked into Le Gray Hotel, downtown Beirut, elegantly dressed, and I knew right away from her approachable demeanor why she was so successful in her field. In case you haven’t heard of her, Mariana Wehbe is an international ambassador for Lebanese luxury brands. Born in Abu Dhabi, she moved to Florida as a child but settled in Beirut two decades later. After 16 years at DHL, she left the corporate world to launch Mariana Wehbe Public Relations.
Some of the country’s most high-profile luxury brands rely on MWPR for effective event planning, business development, strategic partnerships and media outreach in the Middle East, US, Europe and Asia.
Tell me about how it all started for you.
Mariana: I grew up with my grandmother until the age of 18 in Florida. I came back to Beirut in 1996 and started working for DHL Express. One day, I was jogging when I spotted the DHL sign which reminded me of home. I went in to inquire whether they had any openings, filled out an application form, but was told they didn’t have anything available at that moment. As I was leaving, one of the managers heard my American accent and came up to me for an interview on the spot. Believe it or not, I was hired, and stayed with DHL for 16 years! I started as a customer service rep and worked my way up. Yes, it took 16 years but I have to say these years were the best university degree ever.
Five years ago, I found myself unhappy with where I was in my career. So after 16 years, everything in my intuition was telling me it was time to leave. I wanted to give myself some time to figure out what I really wanted to do. Somehow people kept telling me I should be in Public Relations. The great thing was that I had actually never studied PR, so I was able to just use my corporate background, people skills and sales skills which truly helped guide me. I’ve always highly respected and admired artists and wished I had the skill to create things. In my job, I have the chance to go into their world and tell the whole universe about it; and this is a real privilege.
When did you launch MWPR ?
Mariana: I launched Mariana Wehbe Public Relations 4 years ago.
Was it hard to start your own business ?
Mariana: I really believe in the Universe. Hard times make you who you are, and connections with people come in so many ways and places. I’ve personally made strong bonds with some individuals throughout my life, some that have helped me and even mentored me, and even told me the truth when I thought I was getting out of control. I learned to listen more throughout the years, and maybe this comes with age. But nothing comes to you in life without hard work, lots and lots of hard, dedicated work. Nothing ever comes easy but it’s all definitely worth it.
What’s the most difficult thing about doing PR?
Mariana: On a personal level, I have to constantly put myself out there. This comes with the job (that I love!) but in the end, I always want to stay as genuine and real as possible because this isn’t about me, it’s about my clients and those that I believe in and represent with all my heart.
In your opinion, what’s the main quality an entrepreneur needs to succeed? Is it passion?
Mariana: Yes, passion is one of the elements, but I truly believe that you need resilience as much as passion. You’ll be knocked down many times, but you have to be resilient and get right back up. Things also take time. It may take a business 3 years, 5 years to pick up, yet you have to remain patient and consistent.
How difficult is it to achieve a good work life balance as a single mother ?
Mariana: Honestly it’s not easy, but luckily I work from home. Some busy months may pass and I’ll go for two or three days without seeing my daughter for more then an hour. On easier months, I’m home most days when my daughter comes home from school and I try to keep my outings on weekdays to the absolute minimum if I can. We travel a couple of times a year just the two of us which always helps us create amazing memories.
On the other hand, I also believe it’s important for her to see me work. I don’t want to make her feel pressured to be my sole source of happiness. She gets to see that I have something of my own that makes me incredibly happy as well because I am a human being as much as I am her mother. I want her to be around a happy and content human being. I want that to inspire and remind her that she is the first and most important person in her life before anyone else.
I have no doubt that Mariana inspires her daughter every single day with her ambitious spirit, and tenacious vivacity. I left our coffee date refreshed, energized, even more convinced than ever to relentlessly work hard to accomplish all my desires. Don’t ever stop your hustle, ladies.
Photo credit: Marco Pinarelli