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Michigan Ross MBA Alum’s Startup Named as One of 2020’s Most Disruptive MBA Startups by Poets&Quants


Poets&Quants has named Thawra Network, co-founded by Rima Imad Fadlallah, MBA ’20, as one of 2020’s Most Disruptive MBA Startups.  

Now in its second year, the list honors MBA-founded companies with the potential to beat the 90 percent failure startup rate. To compile this year’s list, Poets&Quants reached out to 34 top full-time MBA programs for entries, with 27 schools represented with an MBA founder from the 2020 or 2021 class. 

“Thawra means revolution in Arabic,” Fadlallah explained. “Thawra Network seeks to transform the sociopolitical outcomes for Arabs and Muslims in America through identity-affirming content and groundbreaking stories.”  

Fadlallah and her co-founder, Yasmeen Kadouh, were inspired to start Thawra Network because of their background as proud members of their community in Dearborn, Mich., which is home to the largest Arab concentration in any city outside of the Middle East.

“For Arabs and Muslims, there is a sheer lack of accurate and affirming content out there,” Fadlallah told P&Q. She believes that accurate media representation matters and that people should have access to characters or narratives that resonate with them. 

Maximizing her MBA and entrepreneurial resources at Ross

While Fadlallah pursued her MBA at Michigan Ross, Thawra Network launched its first of many platforms - the Dearborn Girl podcast - to catalogue the stories of Arab or Muslim women. 

“My MBA was pivotal in connecting me to the people, resources, and leadership skills necessary in founding Thawra Network,” Fadlallah revealed. 

A class that she credits as having been most valuable in helping her launch Thawra Network was Lindy Greer’s The Psychology of Start-Up Teams.

“First and foremost, it was sobering to learn that 90 percent of startups fail, and that the majority of those failures are due to people issues within the company,” said Fadlallah. “The biggest lesson I learned was that having a strong company culture can either be Thawra’s #1 asset or its greatest downfall.”

During her time at Ross, Fadlallah utilized many of the resources that Ross offers for entrepreneurship. She was a member of the Sanger Leadership Center’s Ross Leaders Academy, a Zell Entrepreneur in the Zell Lurie Institute (ZLI), and was part of the Zell Lurie Commercialization Fund. She also competed in the Michigan Business Challenge and placed second in the 2019-2020 academic year.  

Fadlallah also emphasized how professor Marcus Collins was an important person in helping her launch her startup. 

“Marcus is a marketing genius. During my first year at Ross as an MBA, I asked for permission to sit in on his BBA Social Media Marketing class. So much of what Yasmeen and I have built today comes from the lessons I learned in that classroom, as well as from follow up one-on-ones during Marcus’ office hours. He is still someone I call today to help inform Thawra’s strategy and long term vision,” she said.

Thawra Network aims to be the “one-stop shop” for Arab and Muslim content in America, and their content is currently streaming in more than 70 countries across the world. In addition to the Dearborn Girl podcast, the company also recently launched their Dearborn Girl shop, and Typical 3rab, a TikTok channel that celebrates Arab-American culture. Read more from Rima Fadlallah in P&Q

Learn more about Thawra Network