Omar Nour started accelerating at sports at the age of 31 – when most athletes are retiring.
His determination has taken him on a dynamic journey from being an overworked entrepreneur, to becoming the first professional Egyptian triathlete and, in 2017, rowing across the Atlantic in a harrowingly life-threatening trip.
When his friend and Egyptian adventurer Omar Samra approached him with the idea of rowing across the Atlantic to raise awareness about the plight of refugees, he was quick to turn all his years of diligent training and perseverance into pushing the limits a bit further.
After braving the unpredictable seas and barely making it out alive, they turned their survival story into a documentary called “Beyond The Raging Sea.” The film featured as a work in progress at the Cannes Film Festival, officially debuted at the Gouna Film Festival this past October and was also featured at the Cairo International Film Festival a month later.
Rewind 20 years, Omar was living in Washington DC after having just graduated as a pre-med student from the University of Johns Hopkins. Instead of pursuing a career in medicine, he decided to travel and discover himself, which eventually pulled him toward entrepreneurship.
He learned to code and became a website developer during the tech boom, when demand for this skill was surging. He focused on offering his services to a niche market of Arab businesses in NYC, but after the devastating events of 9/11, many businesses were deeply impacted and Omar’s was no exception.
“Failing is crucial, you must fail. and fail quickly and fail often,” he notes. “Starting a business is utter brutality. It requires perseverance, it requires dedication, and it requires 100 percent focus. There is no such thing as having a safety net.”
In 2006, he again ventured into the world of business and launched a new startup with his brother in Washington DC. Tot Solutions was an inbound, outbound call center and voice over IP telecommunications company.
“I was CEO, and my brother was COO. We gave ourselves nice titles,” he says jokingly.
Their first client was a healthy pizza place that had no call center, so Tot Solutions took over their ordering process. “My brother, who graduated from William & Mary with honors, and I from Hopkins – were on the phone like, yeah, do you want pepperoni with that?”
As an entrepreneur, Omar stresses the importance of rolling up your sleeves to get any job done. “For me, as a startup, my time is worth nothing. That means that there is no job that I’m too good for,” he says.
Still, he recognizes the thin line between micromanaging on the one hand, and being well-informed of what goes on in your business on the other.
While running the business with his brother, a friend dared Omar to enter a triathlon race. He ended up falling in love with the sport and it quickly changed his life as he became more focused on health and fitness.
Perseverance, he says, is the key to achieving any goal you set your mind to.
Over a period of three years, he trained and earned his pro card at the Ironman triathlon races and went on to race at the International Triathlon Union.
Triathlon was fairly new at the time, and he was the first Egyptian triathlete, even before the federation was formed in Egypt. He became the fastest Arab triathlete and went around the Egyptian Olympic circuit, putting him on track to head to the Rio Olympics in 2016.
Unfortunately, his plans changed when a leg injury and two herniated disks meant he lost the opportunity to qualify. “I was saying perseverance, never ever quit, I’m not done. I’m still going to the Olympics. So keep on pushing. But what actually stopped me was my herniated disks.”
“Focus on the things you can control. There’s a lot of things you won’t be able to control,” advises Omar, talking about how he overcame those difficult situations and continued to build the company that he has today.
“I was racing professionally and people would say to me, ‘I love your shoes. Oh, I love your jersey. Where can I get it?’ I thought it was silly. Why were people sponsoring me to represent a brand when there are no sales?” he recalls.
This inspired him to start his next entrepreneurial journey, and he launched his eponymous merchandise brand o.n and his distribution company, Enduro Supply. “I turned all my sponsors into my vendors, and we basically distributed the products in the Middle East,” he says.
While building a brand that is commercially viable in a market with major competitors, he made the strategic decision to not offer discounts, selling all products at full price and tracking stocks diligently.
Omar quickly understood the importance of organic growth and shared that the key role as a founder is to understand your competition, the metrics, and prevent issues at the grassroots by creating procedures at the start that can help a company run much more efficiently as it grows.
“The only reason I’m in front of you today is perseverance. And eventually, you get lucky. That’s it!”
Catch the video of Omar’s session across all of our social media platforms now.