What is your background?
I studied transportation and logistics, not due to passion, but because it was an area that was booming in Lebanon. When I worked in this field, I realized it was not for me. So I wanted to change careers, but I could not find any courses for adults in Lebanon. Since I had to go to Paris, I took a summer course of 3 weeks in luxury marketing. Chanel immediately hired me, as they were opening a new boutique in downtown Beirut at the time, and I stayed there for two years.
But, again, you were weary…
In 2012, I no longer wanted to be an employee and I wanted to launch my own business. I thought back to my Parisian experience, and how it has been useful for me. I also reflected on how important education is for the Lebanese, we pay a lot for universities and we put a lot of effort into it, even at an older age! However, in Lebanon, there was still no structure that offered continuing education, so I wanted to offer courses, which were intensive in a short period of time, for adults.
How did you come up with the name “The Agenda Beirut”?
Since I came from a fashion and luxury background, we first thought to call it “Beirut Fashion Academy” but I did not want to limit myself to one field. I thought of “magazine”, “calendar”, and then “agenda” had the association of dates, but also studies, with a very global connotation. As I thought it could easily be exported, I called it “The Agenda Beirut”. I knew that I was going to create a need, and it quickly developed into “The Agenda Cairo, London, Kuwait.” We are also going to open a second official brand in Lebanon, and one in Dubai.
You were simultaneously working on your image on social media…
For the first two years, there was no existence of “Tony” on social media; it was just about The Agenda. But when it took off, I was interviewed several times, and that’s where Tony’s Instagram really exploded! People can easily connect and identify with a person rather than a brand. On the page of The Agenda there are pictures of the classes. While on my page, I share more personal things, to the point where people ask to be on my page in order to gain more visibility! In the same way as some experts who want to give a course at The Agenda Beirut in order to have more credibility.
Has anyone consulted you for your public image?
Nobody has consulted me. But as it is a professional profile, I am always worried about projective a bad image. I still have international banks that ask me to train their employees; I work with fashion brands, advertising, and so on. I try to preserve an image that is not too boring, but not too eccentric either, with certain limits.
What is the most difficult part of your job?
What is difficult is the number of people with whom one has to work with day-by-day, the energy that one has to put in this project where there are two classes a day and then events in the evenings. Especially since other academies are opening up, taking the same concept of The Agenda, and you have to keep making sure to stay on top.
How do you answer people who find your courses too expensive?
There are reductions for the students, and employees can pay in installments. But believe me, if we didn’t keep a certain positioning, the quality would drop. It is not expensive for prestige, but to keep a certain level, because this money, above all, serves to have good experts.
How did you manage to get to London, where the market is already saturated?
My trick is Lebanese expertise. For London, we started with the makeup artist to the stars Bassam Fattouh, for the Arabs who live there. I do not take experts from the countries in question, but always Lebanese, because I Lebanon to teach those abroad.
The Agenda Beirut Turns 2!