Wasma Mansour is the founder of new East London pop-up Women In Mind. After experiencing personal health challenges that deepened her understanding of the true meaning behind ‘self-care’, she combined her experiences with her background as a visual artist to birth a unique space and community, for those who live life to the full.
As a photographer, her exhibition on ‘Single Saudi Women‘ explored cross-cultural gender identity and the expectations placed on women both at home and beyond borders. With the many competing roles that can fulfil us and deplete us in equal measure, Women In Mind provides a sacred space to pause, reflect, replenish and reconnect.
Could you tell us a little more about your background and how you came to found Women In Mind?
I studied interior design and arts at uni then did a practice based PhD at the London College of Communication. I worked as a photographer and a researcher and WIM was born when I reached a point where I was physically, mentally and emotionally exhausted and got ill. This forced me evaluate my life and my career decisions as I felt that I wasn’t really fulfilling my purpose.
How have changes in attitudes to self-care helped you and women you know personally?
Self-care wasn’t part of our vernacular until 5 years ago when we started to use that to describe whatever it is that we need to do to help maintain our wellbeing. The guilt that was associated with “taking time off” to do self-care is thankfully gone and more and more people are adopting the belief that actually, if I do take time off for self-care, I’ll perform better and show up more.
What others tools and lifestyle changes have you found that both have and have not worked for you in your holistic health journey?
There are few things that may sound simple for some people but for me, they made a huge difference and they’re all manifestations of placing boundaries. I don’t accept calls after 9 pm and before 8 am, I have to sleep at least 8 hours to ensure that I am functioning properly.
At present, I am working towards creating a 4 day work week rather than 5. This I feel will help me maintain a good work-life balance. I hope to be able to achieve this structure before 2022.
What are your favourite products from WIM right now?
I love both Harlem Rose and London Fields equally (candles and fragrances) – and use them depending on my needs and mood. I love creating aromatic blends between WIM fragrances and various incense.
The range we currently have by Made by Yoke work really well with both candles. I love the robes: Washable Silk by Lunya or the linen ones by both Laud the Label and A Mente. If I was travelling, I would say the eye mask by Lunya!
Tell us a little more about your interest in photography and culture
I got into photography as an assistant. The medium gave me an opportunity to explore topics of interest to me, mainly women and their private worlds. Photography was among a few other methods in my toolbox that I used to explore the topics I wanted to.
What is your opinion on plant medicines as tools for living in alignment?
I have tried CBD as a topical medicine for muscle aches- it did wonders for me!
What does spirituality mean to you?
For me, it is the knowing that there is a power that is bigger than me and that I am always supported. I often recite a verse from the Qur’an: “and He blesses you from whence you do not know” whenever things seem challenging- its one of my favourites.
Did you fundraise for your business?
I self-funded it.
What difficulties have you faced and how did you get around them?
As someone with hardly any business background, the only way for me to learn is to try and learn from my mistakes. I try to be a bit conservative with my experiments so that I don’t suffer big losses.
What social challenges have arisen, and what sacrifices have been made?
As a business owner, I have to put the business’s interest first. Sometimes you have to end certain relationships because you are no longer aligned or want different things.
I don’t know whether I would refer to this as a sacrifice, and I am not sure if I am fully accepting of that concept for the simple belief that “what’s meant for you won’t pass you by” (I don’t know who to credit for this quote).
What unforeseen opportunities have arisen?
I was in a unique and quite unnerving position where I didn’t have any employees to help me with the businesses. I had not realised that this offered me the space and clarity for growth and to fine tune things in the businesses that wouldn’t have been able to recognise had I had other people around.
What’s the smallest change that’s given the biggest return?
I worked with a great marketing professional who helped me during a very challenging time in my business. I had an employee whom I really relied on suddenly inform me that she is going to work for anther more established company. It was quite a shock to my system.
What motivates you?
The belief that I am fulfilling my purpose – it also helps to be surrounded by loved ones who lift you up when things are challenging.
What has been your biggest lesson, fear, or failure?
Biggest lesson (work related actually): its great to rely on people, however everyone is replaceable.
Do you have a mentor or people you ask for advice?
Yes, I have several people I seek for advice depending on their fields. I also rely on my sisters for their insight.
If you did not have your own company, what would you be doing?
I enrolled in a Kundalini Yoga Teaching program which I did not complete. I think perhaps I would be teaching Kundalini Yoga.
What are your strengths and weaknesses?
Hmm..my strength is having grit and perseverance. I am also compassionate, understanding and trusting. All these in some ways can become weaknesses, for example sometimes persevering our of stubbornness has lead me to exhaustion and feeling burnt out.
How has what you do changed you as a person?
It allowed me the opportunity to always think go the long term goal and the big picture. Thankfully there are little rewards along the way that also help push me to continue.
If time and money were no object – what would be on your to do and to see list?
I’d build my dream home in Stoke Newington. It will also have an annex that is my business headquarters and probably a little shop. It’ll happen I know it will 🙂