Oct 31, 2023

Nermine El Nemr: The Entrepreneur Creating New Paths for Egypt's Remote Workforce

Crafting a freelance revolution in Egypt's gig economy

Nermine El Nemr: The Entrepreneur Creating New Paths for Egypt's Remote Workforce

Interview multiple candidates

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Search for the right experience

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Ask for past work examples & results

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Vet candidates & ask for past references before hiring

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Once you hire them, give them access for all tools & resources for success

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In Cairo's labyrinthine alleyways, where merchants once traded papyrus scrolls — the ancient medium bearing the communications of old — Nermine El Nemr weaves a different kind of narrative. In her hands, the digital canvas of is a modern-day papyrus, but in the bold, pixelated strokes of modern freelance work. And just as the papyrus scroll revolutionized communication in its time, Nermine's platform is reshaping how today's stories of commerce, creativity, and career are told and experienced. As the Founder and CEO of, Egypt's platform for freelancers, Nermine is crafting the future from a screen of endless possibilities.

Starting her career deep in the trenches of corporate marketing and public relations, with stints at FedEx and EiTESAL, Nermine's leap into entrepreneurship in 2018 wasn't just a career pivot; it was a cultural shift. "After 8 years of experience... I always sought jobs and opportunities that allowed me to add value," she recalls. But it was a freelancing gig, laden with isolation and challenges, that turned the tides for her. She confronted a stark reality: Egypt's freelancers, brimming with talent, were navigating a fragmented, unsupported market.

Nermine's response? But don't mistake this for your average start-up story. This platform, rooted in Nermine's frustrations, has flourished into a thriving hub for over 50,000 freelancers, embodying a deeper mission. "I felt isolated... I knew there had to be a better way for freelancers like myself to connect, learn, and thrive," she explains. It wasn't about building just a platform, but a community, a support system that she wished she had.

Ask her about "Elharefa," and her definition goes beyond the literal. In Arabic, it means "skilled" — a nod to the talent she fosters. But for Nermine, that’s just the surface. "It's more than just a word – it's a promise... an invitation for skilled, talented people to discover amazing opportunities," she states. For Nermine, Elharefa isn't just facilitating jobs; it's nurturing a culture of skilled, self-sufficient freelancers who can craft their destinies.

Awarded a spot among the Top 50 Women in Entrepreneurship, Nermine's blend of savvy marketing strategies and empathetic leadership has pushed Elharefa beyond a marketplace into a movement. Elharefa’s success, amplified by word-of-mouth, speaks to its resonance with the freelance community. In the words of Nermine, " is not just a platform; it's a dream realized, a vision brought to life."

Navigating a path less traveled, Nermine isn't just riding the wave of the freelance boom — she's the one creating it.

"Our philosophy is beautifully simple yet profoundly transformative," she asserts. By focusing on individual skills rather than traditional job titles, Nermine's vision is to dismantle the conventional barriers of the job market. She's not just finding gaps in the ecosystem; she's building bridges over them. "We believe in breaking down those barriers and empowering individuals to showcase their true potential," she shares.

But her journey hasn't been a walk in the park. Pioneering a path for over 50,000 freelancers and entrepreneurs in a landscape that was, at best, in the early stages in its support for the gig economy, Nermine's voyage with Elharefa has been a testament to tenacity and foresight. "The challenge lay in pioneering a path in uncharted territory," she recalls, reminiscing about the initial struggles that ranged from bootstrap beginnings to disheartening rejections. Yet, her resolve never faltered.

The turning point came with a "yes" from the tech accelerator, Plug and Play. This moment, a rite of passage, didn't just spell success; it validated the dreams and aspirations of an entire community Nermine had vowed to support.

Looking beyond the borders of Egypt, Nermine's aspirations for are global. "It’s not just a vision anymore; it's an exhilarating reality," she declares. When found its mention in the World Bank's "Working Without Borders" 2023 report, it was a validating recognition—but it was also a moment testifying to the global footprint of Egyptian freelancers.

What sets Nermine apart is her ability to see beyond business metrics. Elharefa’s alignment with Sustainable Development Goals, particularly those targeting women’s empowerment, economic growth, and well-being, positions it as a platform with a conscience. Nermine's approach reminds us all of a crucial lesson: genuinely caring about more than just the bottom line is a contributor to tangible success, as evidenced by Elharefa's thriving community of over 50,000 freelancers.

Nermine's story is punctuated with incredible moments, such as when Juan Fuentes Fernández of LaLiga turned to Elharefa for freelance talent. This wasn't just a business transaction; it was an affirmation of the platform's burgeoning reputation and its ability to connect talents with global giants. Says Nermine, “He initiated his search for ‘freelancers in Egypt’ and was immediately drawn to our website. The fact that such a respected figure from the sports industry chose Elharefa for his project speaks volumes about our growing reputation.”

But it isn’t just about the celebrity moments. "Standout moments involve multiple entrepreneurs who had brilliant ideas but limited resources," Nermine shares, recounting the journeys of those who turned to Elharefa for more than just professional aid. They found a treasure trove of advice, a network brimming with empathy, and a support system that transcended the usual client-provider dynamics. This holistic support structure is where Elharefa's magic truly unfolds, transforming fledgling ideas into flourishing businesses.

As for the recipe for success in today's cut-throat market? Nermine can't emphasize enough the importance of communication skills. "It's absolutely essential," she insists, “You can be the most technically  proficient expert in your field, but if you can't effectively communicate, pitch your ideas, or  convey your expectations for a project, you're in for a rough ride.” This is what Nermine deems the toolkit for modern independent professionals: communication skills, robust decision-making abilities, and an insatiable thirst for learning. "The world is your oyster, and with the right mindset, you can not only survive but thrive."

But what's cooking in Elharefa's kitchen for the future? Staying abreast of emerging trends and technological advancements, especially AI, is at the forefront. "This commitment to staying up-to-date is what will enable us to provide our community with informed insights."

The roadmap ahead is ambitious, with expansion plans across the MENA region that read like an entrepreneur's dream diary. UAE, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Kuwait, Qatar, and Tunisia – Elharefa is setting their sights on breaking barriers and connecting talents and clients across these vibrant markets. But it's not just about geographic expansion. Elharefa is reimagining the whole gig ecosystem, pushing the envelope for SMEs and freelancers alike.

Nermine envisages as a nexus for the MENA region, a hub that goes beyond connecting professionals — a catalyst for a profound cultural shift in work dynamics. It's a vision where the traditional 9-to-5 is not the only narrative, where freelancers and businesses co-create a new story of work, liberation, and success: “we see ourselves as the catalyst for a profound cultural shift in the way work is approached and carried out across the MENA region.” For Nermine, this is a saga of empowering a region, one freelancer, one entrepreneur at a time.

"The future of remote work and freelancing is incredibly promising and transformative," says Nermine, painting a picture of a world where freedom and flexibility reign supreme. She's crystal clear that Elharefa is a key player in this change. In a digital age where Gen Z is redrawing the boundaries, craving autonomy, flexibility, and purpose, Elharefa is right there, resonating with their heartbeat. "The traditional 9-to-5 office structure no longer resonates with their values and aspirations," Nermine explains. Her vision for Elharefa aligns flawlessly with this new wave of workers, offering a platform that's not just relevant but an ideal match for their dynamic work ethic.

Nermine recalls how Elharefa stood resilient during the pandemic, supporting countless individuals. The platform was already pioneering remote work long before COVID-19 made it a norm. “We were there when job security seemed elusive,” she reminisces. Rising inflation and a dual-employment model, where freelancing supplements full-time jobs, are now part of the landscape Elharefa helps navigate.

AI, often viewed skeptically regarding job displacement, is seen by Nermine as possible empowerment, not a threat. "In our world, nothing is seen as a threat because we believe in the power of adaptation and innovation.” Elharefa’s role in breaking barriers extends to creating an inclusive space for people with disabilities and supporting working mothers — all part of a deeply personal journey towards empowerment and resilience.

“Never give up” isn’t just a saying; it's the light guiding her path, laden with its fair share of daunting challenges. She reflects on the recognition by She Wins and her inclusion in their Top 50 entrepreneur list as a testament to her perseverance. “There were plenty of heart-wrenching moments,” she admits, but her resolve never wavered.

Persistence and problem-solving, the “dynamic duo of progress,” are her cornerstones. Every challenge becomes a stepping stone to higher peaks. The journey also unveiled an inner sanctum of patience and spiritual strength, an “emotional fortitude” that continuously fuels her and her venture. “Now, people recognize me not just as an entrepreneur, but as a fellow human being, a female entrepreneur who dared to dream and had the audacity to persevere.”

As Nermine looks towards the future, she remains anchored to her mission of empowering independent professionals. For her, it’s about carving a niche where work is not only flexible and inclusive but also deeply fulfilling. Her leadership, steeped in relentless hard work, emotional resilience, and an unwavering faith in the transformative power of remote work, positions Elharefa as a space to watch.

"It's never too late" is Nermine’s mantra, the heartbeat of her journey. Jack Ma, the legendary entrepreneur, looms large as her inspiration, but Nermine's story is uniquely her own. She reflects on the rejections, not with bitterness, but with the wisdom of hindsight, transforming each 'no' into an opportunity for growth. "Each rejection only served to make me stronger," she reflects.

Every setback she encountered wasn't a full stop but a comma, a pause to reassess and charge forth with renewed vigor. "I'd take a step back, examine my approach, and then, with renewed determination, I'd try again," she shares.

Her tale diverges from the oft-told stories of entrepreneurs racing against time. Nermine's journey unfolds at its own pace, defying the typical montage of rapid-fire success to embrace a more organic, evolving path. "Other entrepreneurs may have achieved milestones a year or two ahead of me," she acknowledges, but there's no trace of envy—only a profound sense of self-assuredness in her timing, her choices.

In a digital world that often rushes to celebrate the fastest and the flashiest, Nermine's narrative is a refreshing reminder of the beauty in building something at one's own pace, fueled by passion and resilience.

And in the end, a thought lingers: In the intricate dance of entrepreneurship, where timing is often a relentless lead, Nermine's story twirls to a different tune—a melody that reminds us it's not about when you cross the finish line, but how you transform the race into a journey worth remembering. Her story isn't just about reaching a destination; it's about cherishing each step, each stumble, and each stride towards creating a legacy that echoes, "It's never too late."

Images courtesy of: Nermine El Nemr

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