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After Dramatic Life’s Story, Businesswoman Gives Back

Wafa Kanan has plenty to keep her busy. She runs her own marketing and printing company, and has recently launched a glossy magazine catering to Middle Eastern Americans. Still, Kanan finds time every year to organize a fundraiser to support Project Angel Food with Kriza Aveda, an operator of salons and spas in the Valley. Once a year, Kriza Aveda locations donate a portion of their proceeds to Project Angel Food, which delivers meals every day for people living with serious illnesses across Los Angeles County. Kanan’s company Unique Image Inc. is now serving more than 100 clients, including such Fortune 500 companies like The Gas Co., Holga, and the San Mateo County Festival. With capabilities from commercial printing to creative design including direct mail and fulfillment services within a 5,400-foot warehouse, she answers her clients marketing campaign needs from start to finish, helping them to design and implement the best marketing strategies possible. In its first year, Unique Image earned $1.2 million, making it possible for Kanan and her growing company to help the community by devoting a portion of their net profits to help non- profit organizations such as the U & I Vision program. As an eight-year-old living in Beirut, Kanan witnessed the start of the Lebanon civil war. “I remember standing on our balcony, hearing screams of neighbors, and my family running out of our Beirut home leaving everything behind,” said Kanan. “We lived in the mountains for years, as death made its way though Beirut city and the surrounding areas my mother would hug me very tight, and say “you are the future.” Kanan and her family would spend many sleepless nights, standing in line for water and bread; she even played with empty bullets as toys. Despite the civil war, Kanan’s family instilled hard work and dedication in her, making sure she completed elementary school and encouraging her to graduate from high school. “Being a woman isn’t easy, period,” said Kanan “It’s a little harder coming from a Middle Eastern background, with a father who was old school assuming I would not continue my education and marry at 15, but, for me things were going to be different.” During the middle of the Lebanon crisis, Kanan built a travel business, an import export venture, went to the University of Lebanon to study law, and earned her degree in 1988. Kanan feels that being a victim to the war was her motivational drive to rebuild everything that was destroyed. “My business and my new home I just had purchased were severely damaged in separate bombings,” said Kanan. “I was home finishing my last touches and preparing the house with pride for my mom and my dad to step into for the first time, then, boom!” Everything was destroyed, all I remember seeing was dust, and darkness all around me I remember thinking I might be dying.” After weeks of just feeling fortunate to be alive she pleaded with her family to let her emigrate to the United States. Mustering up her attorney skills she won her case under one family condition that she not lose her Middle Eastern principals or values, and so she moved to America. In light of the constant bad publicity toward the Middle East, in the spring of 2005, Kanan organized a team of people to launch ALO Hayati, a magazine that caters to Middle East Americans. “While other magazines have a political twist our magazine has none while we show that the Middle East is more than that (terrorists) there is a lot of good things happening in our country as well,” said Kanan. ALO Hayati’s mission is to reach the youth of communities that live a more modern life style, have a more open mind-set yet are of Middle Eastern heritage, but are born in America. Its goal is to give these individuals a sense of who they are without diminishing their western culture. Kanan hopes that the magazine will be a cultural tool that can be used as a clearinghouse for getting more information on current living trends with a Middle Eastern flair. The magazine also plans to reach people outside the Middle Eastern community and wants to enlighten them about the beauty of the culture of that region. “I always wanted to publish a book explaining in detail about my life experiences, but I realized that my experience is one of many. There are so many experiences like mine that I decided to publish a magazine that gives voice not only to my experiences but to my culture as well. ALO Hayati means “Hello Darling.” The first issue had sections on heritage, entertainment, interior design, travel, a dating tip column, a horoscope, and tips for the golf course. The main feature of the magazine is the Great Escape section. The first edition will feature Dubai, telling readers of the vacation possibilities for this area. There is also an inside spotlight of Middle Eastern community members such as Salma Hayek and Casey Kasem. Elissa, a Middle Eastern singer with three smash hit albums graces the first cover to hit American streets. Boasting 50,000 readers, the magazine is the first of its kind in the United States. “I did not see any other lifestyle magazines on the rack for the Middle Eastern community when I started ALO Hayati,” said Kanan who hopes to add more advertising with Middle Eastern actors in the future as the magazine grows. “There are a lot of similarities among culture and mixing, I think showing these similarities will give a chance for people outside the community to see and learn more about the Middle Eastern community overseas and in America.” With Unique Image’s contacts they are making every effort possible to get the new magazine in from of every advertising agency in the U.S., now being listed in Bacon’s and along with other major media directories. AOL Hayati is currently negotiating a distribution contract with one of the largest distribution companies to get the new magazine out to a broader American and Canadian audience. Kanan sees ALO Hayati along with Unique Image as a medium for creating a positive bi-cultural and dual marketing image for readers and clients of all nationalities. Unique Image itself offers clients the luxury of calling one company for all their marketing needs. “Wafa has been a guardian angel for us,” said Lisa Alegria of Pacific Lodge Boys Home. “She came in studied our program, interviewed us then created a logo that fit us perfectly. She goes way beyond just the printing, since we began working with her she has joined our board of directors.” Unique Image will create a concept from an idea and formulates, designs, prints, and gets the product to the customer. “My vision is as we grow both Unique and ALO we are set to continue making a positive impact in the lives of anyone who needs it the most,” said Kanan.

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