Reine Metlej

Reine Metlej holds an MS in civil engineering with a minor degree in environmental engineering; a certified trainer for startups/entrepreneurs; delivers workshops and training for a variety of accelerators, incubators and organizations. Among her practices, she serves as a waste management consultant, growth consultant and investment acquisition consultant for multiple projects across the MENA region. 

Her entrepreneurial experience started as a founder of BIOwayste offering a decentralized solution that converts organic waste into cooking gas and biofertilizer; and currently in the process of developing her second startup R-yen offering renewable energy solutions such as solar energy, wind energy and other green technologies. 

Reine has won 10 awards and acquired 35 certificates with both multinational and local organizations. She serves as a panelist, keynote speaker, jury member, and interviews at different media outlets. She is featured in publications such as L’orient le Jour, UN Women, European Union, Arab News en Francais, Womena, UNICEF, BBC, Sustain the World, Tele Liban, LLWB Success Stories, AUF and UOB. 

She has also been invited to participate in the MED conference in Rome (the annual high-level conference with over 4.1 million attendees) and the first Arab SMEs Summit by UNESCWA in Amman, Step Conference (as a mentor for participating startups) in Riyadh and MED Business Days South 2023 in Cairo. Reine is an accomplished professional, currently excelling as a startup trainer and business coach, a sustainability consultant, founder of BIOwayste, the partnerships manager at MY FELS, and the global project manager at eleva8or. In addition to her professional track, she’s also part of two youth-focused initiatives. She’s an EU Jeel Connector with the European Union and a Global Shaper with the World Economic Forum.

What were your initial years of growing up like? Tell us about your life before starting your professional journey/venture/initiative and what inspired you to choose this career. 

Before starting my professional journey and venturing into entrepreneurship, my early years of growing up were filled with various experiences that shaped who I am today. I was born and raised in Lebanon, a country known for its rich history and cultural heritage. Growing up in Lebanon exposed me to both the beauty and challenges of life. From a young age, I had a passion for learning and exploring the world around me. I was a curious child who was always eager to understand how things worked. This natural curiosity led me to develop an interest in science and problem-solving, which eventually influenced my decision to pursue a career in engineering. As I progressed through my education, I realized that I wanted to make a positive impact on the environment. This desire to contribute to sustainability and address the pressing issue of organic waste management inspired me to choose a career path that combined my engineering background with environmental concerns. The idea for my startup, “BIOwayste,” came to me as I recognized the potential of decentralized systems to convert organic waste into valuable resources. I saw an opportunity to create a sustainable business that could address both environmental challenges and the need for alternative energy sources. The economic situation, the COVID-19 pandemic, and the subsequent lockdowns further reinforced my determination to pursue this path. Instead of allowing these obstacles to hinder my plans, I embraced them as opportunities for personal and professional growth. I took the time to enhance my business skills, participate in boot camps and training programs, and develop a resilient and dynamic mindset. Additionally, throughout my journey, my passion for women empowerment remained a constant driving force. Having faced challenges myself as a woman, I was determined to break down barriers and prove that gender should not be an obstacle in the business world. This commitment to empowering women and promoting their initiatives became an integral part of my daily life and work. In summary, my life before starting my professional journey was marked by curiosity, a passion for learning, and a desire to make a positive impact on the environment. These experiences, coupled with the challenges I faced, inspired me to choose a career in engineering with a focus on sustainability. The culmination of these aspirations and circumstances led me to establish my startup, “BIOwayste,” and work towards creating a more sustainable and inclusive world.

Was there any turning point in your life that changed your journey? If so, what was it? Please tell us the backstory behind it.

Yes, there was a turning point in my life that significantly impacted my journey and shaped the person I am today. It was the challenges I faced in continuing my education and choosing the career I wanted that served as the catalyst for this transformation. The backstory behind this turning point is rooted in the obstacles and barriers that I encountered while pursuing my education. Like many individuals, I faced financial constraints and limitations that made accessing higher education a challenge. However, I firmly believed in the power of education and its ability to open doors of opportunity. These challenges forced me to think creatively and seek out alternative paths to achieve my goals. I worked tirelessly to secure scholarships and grants, tirelessly researching and applying for various opportunities to fund my education. I was determined to overcome any financial hurdle that stood in my way. However, I had a clear vision of the career I wanted and the impact I aspired to make. I refused to be confined by traditional norms and instead chose to pursue my passion for engineering and environmental sustainability. This turning point marked a pivotal moment in my life, as it pushed me to challenge the status quo and forge my own path. It required resilience, determination, and a firm belief in my abilities and aspirations. By overcoming these challenges and pursuing my education and chosen career, I not only gained valuable knowledge and skills but also built the personality I had always dreamed of. This turning point served as a reminder that success often comes through perseverance and embracing the road less traveled. It taught me the importance of fighting for my dreams, even in the face of adversity. The challenges I encountered during this period provided me with invaluable life lessons and fueled my passion for empowering others and breaking down barriers. In essence, the turning point in my life was the culmination of the challenges I faced to continue my education and choose the career I desired. It shaped my journey by instilling in me the resilience, determination, and unwavering belief in myself that continues to propel me forward today.

Tell us about your goals, interests, and role models.

I am a driven entrepreneur with ambitious goals and diverse interests. My primary focus is propelling my startup, “BIOwayste,” to global success by revolutionizing organic waste management. Sustainability and environmental preservation are at the core of my mission. I am deeply passionate about women empowerment and breaking down gender barriers in the business world. As a successful entrepreneur, I aim to inspire and uplift women to pursue their dreams. My interests span science, problem-solving, and technology, allowing me to find innovative solutions that merge engineering principles with sustainability. I am fascinated by the potential of science and technology to address environmental challenges. I draw inspiration from trailblazing individuals who have made significant contributions to entrepreneurship, sustainability, and women’s rights. Their stories motivate me to push boundaries and strive for excellence. Overall, I am driven by ambitious goals, diverse interests, and influential role models. Through my pursuits, I hope to inspire others and create positive change in the world.

Everyone has their own set of challenges when starting an entrepreneurial journey. Still, the most essential part for others to learn is how you deal with those. Would you like to share with us your challenges and your coping mechanisms?

Starting an entrepreneurial journey comes with its fair share of challenges. I faced obstacles such as navigating economic downturns and the impact of COVID-19, securing funding, and building a sustainable business model. My coping mechanisms involved resilience, adaptability, continuous learning, seeking support from mentors, and maintaining a healthy work-life balance. Embracing challenges as opportunities for growth has been key to overcoming them.

What impact do you feel you have been able to create with your work so far and how would you want to grow in the next few years?

Through my work, I have been able to create a tangible impact on the environment and sustainability. In the next few years, I aim to further expand the reach and impact of my startup. I envision scaling up operations globally, collaborating with diverse partners, and implementing our systems in communities around the world. By doing so, I want to make a significant contribution to waste management practices and promote sustainable development on a larger scale. Additionally, I am determined to continue empowering women through my entrepreneurial journey. As a role model, I strive to inspire more women to pursue their dreams, break through barriers, and thrive in the business world. I plan to actively mentor and support aspiring female entrepreneurs, fostering a network of empowered women who can create a lasting impact in their respective fields. Overall, my goal is to create a positive and lasting change in environmental sustainability while championing women empowerment. I am excited to grow my startup and extend its influence in the coming years, making a meaningful difference in the world.

While the global pandemic of COVID-19 is associated primarily with adversities, it has also brought about a true boom in startups, with successful entrepreneurship in many countries. The pandemic has impacted all of us in one way or another. Would you like to share your experience on a personal and professional level?

The global pandemic of COVID-19 brought significant challenges personally and professionally. However, I embraced the opportunity for personal development and adapted my startup, “BIOwayste,” to overcome obstacles. Utilizing digital platforms, I connected with customers and partners, sustaining growth during uncertain times. The pandemic reinforced the importance of sustainability, driving my commitment to creating a greener future. Overall, I turned adversity into opportunity, navigating the challenges and positioning myself for success in a changing world.

Your journey and your vision are very inspiring, but are there any achievements or accomplishments you would like to mention?

I’m proud to have achieved several noteworthy milestones on my journey. One significant accomplishment is the establishment of my startup, “BIOwayste,” which has gained recognition for its sustainability-driven approach in converting organic waste into cooking gas and liquid fertilizer. Additionally, I have successfully acquired many certificates and won many awards. Furthermore, being a Jeel Connector with the European Union, a Global Shaper with the World Economic Forum and a member of the Lebanese League for Women in Business and actively promoting women’s empowerment is an achievement I hold dear. These accomplishments fuel my drive to continue making a positive impact and achieving even greater milestones in the future.

Would you like to share with our young budding women entrepreneurs the change you would like to see in the world if given an opportunity?

As a passionate advocate for women empowerment and entrepreneurship, I would love to share the change I aspire to see in the world. Given an opportunity, I would like to witness a world where gender is no longer a barrier in business. I envision a society where women are equally represented, valued, and supported in all entrepreneurial endeavors. I want to see young budding women entrepreneurs fearlessly pursuing their dreams, breaking through stereotypes, and achieving remarkable success. By creating an inclusive and supportive ecosystem, we can unleash the untapped potential of women, fostering a generation of innovative and impactful leaders who will shape a more equitable and prosperous future.

What’s the most important thing you have learned in your personal life and professional journey? What is your personal motto in life?

Through my personal and professional journey, the most important lesson I have learned is the power of resilience and embracing challenges. The downs and failures I encountered along the way have become valuable opportunities for self-discovery and growth. I have discovered that the motivation derived from overcoming obstacles can be just as, if not more, powerful than the drive for success itself. My personal motto in life is to seize every viable opportunity and be unafraid to take risks. I firmly believe that easy paths rarely lead to meaningful achievements. By embracing challenges, pushing boundaries, and constantly seeking new experiences, I have been able to shape the person I am today. As a 26-year-old engineer, founder of a globally rewarded tech startup, a startups Trainer, sustainability consultant with 2 jobs, I am proud of my journey and the person I have become.

Women are a growing force in the workplaces worldwide, standing shoulder to shoulder with their male counterparts. There are cracks in glass ceilings everywhere, with many women breaking through to carve out a space right at the top of the pyramid. What are your thoughts about women’s leadership today?

I firmly believe that women’s leadership is a powerful and transformative force in today’s workplaces. Women have proven time and again that they possess exceptional leadership qualities and a unique perspective that contributes to diverse and inclusive decision-making. The cracks in glass ceilings are indicative of the progress we have made towards gender equality in leadership roles. Women leaders bring a wealth of skills such as empathy, collaboration, and adaptability, which are essential in navigating complex challenges and driving innovation. Their ability to foster inclusive environments and empower others creates a positive ripple effect throughout organizations. It is inspiring to witness women breaking through barriers and ascending to top positions, challenging traditional norms and paving the way for future generations. However, despite the progress, there is still work to be done to ensure equal representation and opportunities for women in leadership. We need continued efforts to address unconscious biases, provide mentorship and support networks, and promote workplace policies that foster gender equality. By harnessing the collective potential of both men and women, we can create a more balanced and effective leadership landscape that benefits individuals, organizations, and society as a whole. In conclusion, women’s leadership is an invaluable asset in today’s world. By embracing the unique strengths and perspectives of women, we can drive positive change, shatter glass ceilings, and create a more equitable and inclusive future for all.

With your grit and determination, you are making a considerable impact, breaking through, and serving as role models for many budding entrepreneurs. What would you want to say to our young women leaders/audience reading this?

To all the young women leaders reading this, I want to empower you with a simple message: Believe in yourself, embrace challenges, and never settle. You have the potential to make a lasting impact. Surround yourself with supportive mentors, continuously learn and grow, and fearlessly pursue your passions. Your voice and unique perspective matter. Together, let’s break barriers and shape a future where our dreams become reality.