Off hours: Dubai PR entrepreneur Sophie Toh enjoys thrills and challenges of a business

Sophie Toh is the managing director of the Dubai-based consumer PR company TOH, a company she set up in 2009. The Briton, 33, moved to the UAE six years ago following stints at Brunswick Group and the luxury lifestyle agency, Luchford APM.

What are your favourite things to do on the weekend?

I love the feeling of not being tied to a timetable, so I try and keep things really relaxed and low key on the weekend – as the chances are that I’ll have to look in on a work event or two during the busier months of the year, putting a premium on downtime. Favourite things to fit in include a late lunch at La Petite Maison with my husband or checking out the latest restaurant with friends to keep on top of who’s doing what. The weekends are also the times when I hatch my best creative ideas, so I’ll try and make it to the pool and make some space to think.

What do you consider to be your favourite hobby?

I always have some form of exercise in my routine. At the moment it’s Flybarre, a fashionable Pilates / ballet exercise hybrid from New York – specifically the classes that my friend teaches. This makes it more of a social gathering than a workout, which is a bonus for those who are easily bored.

What can’t you live without?

My life is filled with amazing friends, family and colleagues. I’m incredibly fortunate to have such great people around me and I think life would be meaningless without this group. On a more practical level, I’m rarely without some form of Apple device, whether it’s the new watch I bought that tracks pretty much everything aside from my thoughts, my iPhone or my MacBook, so I’d have to say Apple. I’ve read and reread the Steve Jobs autobiography many times.

What do you consider the secret to your success?

I’m resilient and tenacious and I’m able to find the energy and daily drive to keep moving forward and brush off challenges, which is probably important for any entrepreneur. I’m also lucky that I love my profession but equally I also really enjoy the day-to-day concerns of running a business. If I wasn’t able to do both I don’t think I’d have the company I do today.

What advice would you offer others starting out in your business?

Be polished and super professional at all times and remember that you’re only as good as your client roster. In my experience, it’s better to stay small and niche with a carefully chosen team until you hit your comfort zone and then scale up. Also, surround yourself with people who know how business works in the UAE, to help you with accounting, legal issues and other red tape. A solid structure is the best investment you can make as it will hopefully prevent costly surprises down the line.

How do you achieve a work-life balance?

It’s tough, but I try to be super organised and book enough travel throughout the year to see my family in the UK and visit my husband, Lucan, if he’s on a film set abroad. He’s a film producer for Wigwam Films. So in essence, physically removing myself from the office.

How do you relax after the working day?

Despite my crammed diary, I find that I need an hour in the evenings to decompress to get a good night’s sleep. To unwind, I’ll spend some time with my two Pomeranians at home. They’re highly amusing company, sometimes better fun than any human (aside from my husband). I also love reading and am currently devouring the new Harper Lee novel that was released this month.

If you weren’t in your current role, what else would you be doing?

One of my passions is being able to inspire females in the workplace and to help them understand that there is a vital role for them to play in the male-dominated business world, and that we have unique skills that can make a real change. So I nurture an idea of training, of being a business mentor or a life coach to address the issues of getting women into successful careers. I also have a strong creative streak and trained as an interior designer while at university. It was always my dream to work in design, but perhaps that’s something I’m going to have to keep to a keen hobby.

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