Joseph Freiha is “a citizen of the world” and his credo is to enjoy life, whether at a professional or personal level. He has worked very hard to access both. Then again, given his personality – full of curiosity, courage and kindness – it simply could not have been any other way.
Joseph was born in Lebanon where he spent the first 15 years of his life. Despite the war, he has very good memories from those early years, being surrounded by his loving family and friends. In the midst of his teenage years, he moved to Paris with his family and decided to stay while they came back to Beirut a couple of years later. There, Joseph worked his way through high school, university and on to become a fulfilled professional. He studied at the Sorbonne University, specialising in economics and international management. With his Master’s degree in his pocket, Joseph joined a major multi-national automobile manufacturing company. The 10-year stint in the corporate world was, as he describes it, “an amazing second university” and a perfect foundation for what was to come. Since, at that point, Joseph was thinking about launching a company of his own, he decided to completely step outside of his comfort zone and take on a full-time MBA at the world-renowned IE Business School in Madrid. This incredible endeavour exposed him to Spain, the Latin world and far beyond, studying with people from more than 70 different nationalities. Inspired from his experience in Madrid and, when back in Paris, Joseph stuck to his objective of becoming an entrepreneur. He is now the successful founder and CEO of INOVAD, a marketing agency providing services to small- and medium-sized companies. His focus is mainly on the education sector and the digital world. Joseph not only loves what he does professionally, but the lifestyle he has chosen and worked for gives him the flexibility to pursue his passion of travelling. That is what excites him the most.
Emerald Jaaz is privileged to interview Joseph Freiha, who has had the audacity and determination to follow his passion and work towards attaining his desired lifestyle. By travelling for at least one-third of the year, Joseph never ceases to learn: about himself, about others and about the world we live in. A virtuous cycle that nourishes his humanity, generosity and love of life. A wonderfully unique encounter!
“The multi-cultural experiences I had during my studies and at a professional level made me realise that a diverse group of people is always more creative and efficient than a mono-cultural one.”
– Joseph Freiha
Emerald Jaaz: Joseph, what do you enjoy the most about your current lifestyle?
Joseph Freiha: First of all, I enjoy what I do on a professional level. Besides allowing me to meet regularly great people, my activity also gives me the flexibility to be able to do what I love, but also when I want to do it. Travelling is a big part of that. I certainly cannot complain!
Emerald Jaaz: What does your current professional activity consist of?
Joseph Freiha: I manage INOVAD, where we help small and medium companies develop their brands and grow their businesses in France and abroad. We take care of the entire frame of marketing: building the strategy, positioning the brand and helping to deploy it nationally and internationally. Our intervention includes a wide range of actions, focusing mainly on the education and digital / tech sectors. It is very rewarding since I orientate people to develop themselves and their careers as well as making brands bloom. Friendschoices.com is probably the project that is right in the middle of my work and passion for travel. It is a community of international globetrotters and epicureans who share their travel and culinary experiences. It connects people who love to travel, who enjoy life, gastronomy, who are eager to discover and learn about other cultures and share their experiences, just like I do. In addition, I have recently launched Bataii.com, proposing a new way to do online polls on a variety of different themes. It helps to accompany the new social developments that are triggered by the current digital revolution, allowing people to give their opinion on topics of their interest, and confront them with others’. During the last French presidential campaign, it has encountered a success that was way beyond our expectations with more than 300 000 votes. The results of the polls are published directly on the platform, without any kind of manipulation.
Emerald Jaaz: What made you choose to live the life you do today?
Joseph Freiha: Just like I did already a number of times in my life, I felt the urge to step outside of my comfort zone. Becoming an entrepreneur was definitely that: a huge step into the unknown. Hard work, perseverance and dedication are the basis of entrepreneurship. You do not count the hours you work and, needless to say, you need to be ready to sacrifice a few weekends too. But it also offers you great satisfactions when you reach your goals, as well as the liberty of movement and initiative, which are precious to me. This freedom allows me to travel outside of the rush periods and lets me enjoy the beautiful things the world has to offer in good conditions. As the saying goes, I definitely work hard and play hard!
Emerald Jaaz: What are your main interests and passions; and what causes are close to your heart?
Joseph Freiha: Besides travelling, I love to develop brand strategies and communities, which is part of my work. I am also passionate about advising and orienting people and companies to bloom and prosper. From a social perspective, one of the causes I am very much concerned about is the way we live on this earth and how we preserve its resources, such as the oceans. I would like our children and grandchildren to live on this beautiful planet and enjoy its treasures at least in the same conditions we are able to. I must admit that some signs are quite worrying…
Emerald Jaaz: What do you like most about Paris, the city you currently live in?
Joseph Freiha: I am a very lucky person to live in the most beautiful city in the world! At least that is my opinion! Paris is really an amazing city in many ways: the unique architecture, the rich cultural life, the incredible gastronomy and, to nourish my passion for travel, the city is very well connected to the rest of the world. Even after 27 years of living here, I still continue discovering new things since the city evolves fast and renews itself. You can never be bored here!
Emerald Jaaz: What is the source of your inspiration and motivation?
Joseph Freiha: My wife, family and friends are the source of my inspiration and motivation. I am lucky to be surrounded by amazing people who are examples for me to follow. Making people around me happy is the most important thing.
Emerald Jaaz: Please give us an example of one of your typical days.
Joseph Freiha: Fortunately, or unfortunately, I don’t have a typical day. I guess that this is a common trait of life as an entrepreneur. I constantly work on new projects and events, which enables me to meet a lot of new and diverse people. I find that extremely rewarding. Since my work doesn’t really contribute to having a very structured life, I therefore need to make an extra conscious effort to stay efficient and organised on both professional and personal levels. It is challenging, yet at the same time exciting not to have routines.
Emerald Jaaz: Please give us an example of one of your ideal weekends.
Joseph Freiha: I have two examples of ideal weekends. The first is discovering a new city, town or country with my wife: a quick immersion into new adventures. The second is staying in Paris and enjoying, with my friends and family, all the wonderful things it has to offer. A sunny weekend in Paris is priceless!
Emerald Jaaz: Among the places you have visited, which one moved you the most?
Joseph Freiha: Amongst the many amazing places I had the chance to visit, it’s really hard to pick just one. All these travel experiences have moved me since they allowed me to meet great people and discover new places. They make me think differently and discover new aspects of myself. For instance, on the top of my head, I can mention the fantastic temples in Kyoto I visited with a Japanese friend and where I had the chance to have a discussion with a Taoist monk; or a friend’s wedding on a paradisiac beach in the Dominican Republic; as well as the incredible forces of nature of the Iguacu Falls in Brazil. I would say that every single voyage was impactful and moved me in a different way.
Emerald Jaaz: Which place do you like to return to regularly and why?
Joseph Freiha: I like to regularly return to two cities: Madrid and Beirut. I will start with Beirut, the city where I was born and where my family lives. Beirut is definitely the city of contrast. It is a place where you can find the best and the worst, side by side; where you can find the most liberal spirits and the most traditional ones; yet, it is the best place where you can party and enjoy amazing food. For those who are planning a vacation to Lebanon, make sure you cut down on your calories in advance since you risk putting on a few kilos! Madrid, where I studied for my MBA, is a city with a lovely atmosphere and a surprising serenity compared to Paris. It has a great vibe and the people there are very friendly and open. If you add to that 300 sunny days a year, it definitely makes it a great place to be.
Emerald Jaaz: Which place would you like to visit that you haven’t yet visited?
Joseph Freiha: It would definitely be Armenia since my wife has Armenian origins and I would like to better discover the roots of her people. Even though Armenians have suffered a lot in history, their diaspora has kept an incredibly strong sense of belonging, culture and identity throughout the generations – wherever they are.
Emerald Jaaz: Please share with us a couple of your favourite places to hang out, to eat, to mingle, to reflect or simply to watch the world go by.
Joseph Freiha: In Paris, I love to sit at any terrace of a café when it is sunny – and simply take in the atmosphere. For example, I like the areas around the Luxembourg Gardens as well as the Tuileries Gardens. The new cafés along the Seine River between the Invalides and the Concorde bridges are a strong sense of the Parisian spirit. When I am in Lebanon, I love mingling in Byblos, this absolutely magical town with an incredible mix of historical landmarks. But there is nothing better than sitting in front of the Mediterranean Sea on my beach house terrace, enjoying good wine with my wife and friends. The simple things are the best!
Emerald Jaaz: Any recent cultural tips?
Joseph Freiha: I like discovering people like I read a new book: with a sense of curiosity and an eagerness to learn. The multi-cultural experiences I had during my studies and at a professional level made me realise that a diverse group of people is always more creative and efficient than a mono-cultural one. It requires more efforts in the beginning from the members, but at the end the outcomes will be always richer.
Emerald Jaaz: What motivates you to achieve your goals and to get out of bed in the morning?
Joseph Freiha: Thinking that today will be better than yesterday and preparing tomorrow to be better than today!
Emerald Jaaz: What are you most grateful for?
Joseph Freiha: Being in good health, having a roof over my head and eating enough food makes me realise that I am luckier than most human beings on this planet. All the rest is a bonus – and I am blessed to have much more.
Emerald Jaaz: What values are key to you?
Joseph Freiha: Honesty, kindness and courage
Emerald Jaaz: Please share with us an important lesson you learnt in life.
Joseph Freiha: Smile and life will smile back to you!
We are grateful to you, Joseph, for sharing your fascinating story with us.