From Farmers Markets to Big Business Success: How This Entrepreneur Built an Arts Empire

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From Farmers Markets to Big Business Success: How This Entrepreneur Built an Arts Empire

Nawal Motawi

Posted on February 12, 2019

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In this episode you’ll learn:

  • When Nawal first discovered her love of art
  • How Nawal’s parents influenced her career and life path
  • Why Nawal briefly dropped out of art school
  • What other career paths Nawal considered
  • Why Nawal decided to start her own business, despite having little business experience
  • How Nawal learned to successfully run her own business
  • Why Nawal is learning to be more careful with her words
  • How Motawi Tileworks bounced back after the 2008 economic crash
  • Why business leaders like Jack Stack and Bo Burlingham have inspired Nawal
  • Why Nawal started using the Toyota style of manufacturing
  • When Nawal decided to start opening up her books
  • How her mother reacted to Nawal winning her Woman-Owned Small Business Award

Nawal Motawi is the award-winning owner and artistic director at Motawi Tileworks in Ann Arbor, Michigan. In 1992, Nawal launched Motawi Tileworks out of her basement and sold her one-of-a-kind artistic tiles at local farmers markets. Today, she runs this thriving, nationally recognized company with over 30 staff members. The tiles are currently sold in over 450 showrooms, stores and galleries around the country.

A practitioner of open-book management and the Toyota style of lean manufacturing, Nawal leads Motawi Tileworks with a vision of positivity and accountability. This mentality has led her company to top success, and through hard times as the team worked to find solutions together.

In addition to her art, Nawal’s leadership has also gained national attention. In 2017, Motawi Tileworks landed on the Forbes America’s Best Small Companies List. In 2016, she received the Woman-Owned Small Business Award presented by the Michigan Small Business Development Center. Nawal and Motawi tiles have also been featured in publications like the New York Times and Dwell Magazine, and can be seen at destinations like Disneyland, the University of Michigan Medical Center and Yale University.

In this week’s donothing podcast, discover what inspired Nawal to realize her artistic dreams, how she grew Motawi Tileworks to prosperity, why she’s always striving to be a better leader and much more.


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