Design for work life

Nivin El-Gamal tells how she set up her interior design company and how she works around her son who suffers from a genetic disorder.

Nivin El-Gamal named her luxury interior design firm Galaxy Stars after her childhood love of Galaxy chocolate. She set up the company in 2006, inspired by her passion for interior design, and it works with individuals such as foreign dignitaries, pop stars and VIPs as well as with organisations working across a number of high-end London projects.

Since its formation, the company has grown to 25 employees and has a central London office from which it serves wealthy clients around the world. For the last nearly five years, Nivin has grown the business while caring for her son who was born with a genetic disorder which affects his immune system. 

She says she has always been passionate about interior design and studied the subject both in Egypt and the UK. “I had already helped many of my friends and family with interior ideas, all of which got great feedback, so I decided to combine my experience and education to launch my own interior design business,” she says.

“I knew it would be different designing for the general public rather than people I knew, but design is something close to my heart and I was keen to make a career out of doing something I loved.”

Genetic disorder

Nivin is the former wife of Sheikh Ahmed Bin Saeed Al Maktoum. Their son, who is four, was diagnosed with Mannose-binding lectin deficiency (MBLD), a genetic disorder which weakens the immune system and increases susceptibility to repeat infections. Nivin had to put the business on hold when her son was very young, but has recently relaunched and works around his needs.  However, he has become her inspiration.

She says: “He will always come first and though he is unwell his strength and determination each day drive me on and have inspired me to launch The Sheikh Saeed bin Ahmed Al-Maktoum Charity in his name, which we hope will help fund further research into the disorder.”

She tries to work around her son’s schedule, planning all important meetings whilst he is out of the house at school. That way, she says, she has time to be mum in the morning and evenings yet can be an efficient business owner during the day. “It’s tough but I try and keep the two separate to ensure both areas get my full attention at different times of the day,” she says.


Nivin says that along the way she has learnt some valuable lessons in how to balance work and family life. Here are some of her top tips:

– Don’t procrastinate, just do. Many people hoping to launch a business simply spend too much time planning, she says. “It is easy to get stuck in ‘analysis paralysis’ and if you want to make strides forward you should act and not be afraid to make mistakes, as long as you learn from them,” she states.

– Prioritise. Nivin says: “As a mum you are under constant pressure to meet a busy schedule so it is essential to work out what activities you should devote time to. I try and spend time on tasks that will drive the business forward, rather than making changes which add very little value.  Decide what things bring results for your company and avoid wasting time and energy on things which won’t bring the business success or you, happiness.”

– Be confident and delegate. Nivin says: “Over time it’s not just you who will determine how well your business performs, it’s those around you, and you have to be prepared to let go and let others work their magic, if you want your business to continue to grow. Stay one step ahead of the game by ensuring you hire the right people when the time comes, this will help develop your business and cause less headaches along the way.”



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