Washington: A group of young women entrepreneurs from Saudi Arabia attended a two-week immersive residency program here to hone their skills and learn tricks of the trade from business leaders in the United States.
The Saudi Arabia-Halcyon Incubator Intensive program hosted by Halcyon in Washington had one and half dozen representatives from seven of the most promising early-stage female-founded social enterprises from Saudi Arabia.
The intense, abbreviated but equally robust residency experience was to provide those Saudi ventures with new knowledge skills, resources and connections to grow their business, said an official from Halcyon.
An important part of the workshop held in August was Saudi delegates’ direct interaction with renowned Indian-American entrepreneur, civic leader and philanthropist Frank Islam.
In their invitation to Frank Islam, the organizers said: “Frank, considering your leadership position in the US-Muslim committee, interest and support for social enterprise in the US and India, and, of course, your personal success as an entrepreneur, it would mean to a great deal to have you address the Saudi cohort.”
Drawn mostly from Medinah, the second most sacred city in Islam, the 15-odd representatives of women-led Saudi start-ups had an hour-long direct interaction with Islam to learn ‘tricks of the trade’ from him – the man whose success saga is a textbook story of rags to riches. His journey from Azamgarh (his birthplace in Uttar Pradesh, India) to Aligarh Muslim University (India’s leading Muslim academic institution) to America for higher studies and then his American journey of entrepreneurship — from $500 in capital and himself as owner to $300 million annual turnover and 3000 employees in just 13 years — has impressed a large number of people in the last three decades. Now was the turn of Medina girls, fresh graduates mostly in teens or early twenties, to learn ABC of entrepreneurship from him.
“You are the future of not only Saudi Arabia but of the world. I am impressed by who you are, your story and your journey,” said Islam after the Saudi women introduced themselves and gave a brief about their enterprises at the beginning of the interaction.
Telling about his journey and sharing his American experience with the budding entrepreneurs, Islam said: “I came here at the age of 15 from India. I crossed the ocean to realize an American dream. I had nothing with me but a belief in America and I had confidence in my American dream.”
Outlining the prerequisite for a successful venture, he said: “I got the elements that I needed before I did business — good education, good experience, urge to become an entrepreneur and a team of talented men.”
“With my management, myself and a team of talented men, we were able to go from one-man company to a company of 3000 employees and $300 million as annual turnover in 13 years,” he said.
The young Saudi entrepreneurs candidly posed questions at Frank Islam. In response, he offered some mantras of success: Learning from failures; Seizing the moment and taking a risk; Taking as opportunity what people see as challenge; and Exploiting one’s fullest potential.
Summing up his talk, Islam advised the Saudi youngsters: “Make your own journey like Bill Gates, Steven Jobs or Frank Islam did theirs. Stay true to yourself. Surround yourself with talented people who share your vision and values.”
“Think small to win big,” he said as his most important mantra and as a parting gift renowned philanthropist Islam told them: “When you become successful, help other people to succeed.”
Frank Islam saw hope and a bright dream in the eyes of the Medina girls. He could not hold back his feeling.
“You are the future of Saudi Arabia. You are the future of the world. If you succeed, our efforts will succeed, Saudi Arabia will succeed, and the world will succeed. You are the hope of tomorrow and I hope tomorrow will bring better days for all the world,” said Frank Islam.
The promising entrepreneurs from Saudi female-founded business enterprises included: Asmaa AbdelMohsen, Zainab Hawsa, Nadaa Muhammad Samman, Ebtehal Nayef AlMohammadi, Heba Zahid, Bushra Alghamdi, Sara Jaber, Aliyaa Zaidan.
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