Effat University event draws industry specialists
JEDDAH: Entrepreneurship is a very serious responsibility, which can be shouldered by having faith in God and believing in oneself.
This was stated by Sofana Dahlan, CEO and founder of Tashkeil and Kayanote, at Women’s Entrepreneurship Day (WED) held at Effat University in Jeddah, which focused on Saudi Vision 2030 goals.
Sofana Dahlan, who is also WED ambassador to Saudi Arabia, said: “The road was not paved for me. Entrepreneurship is something that is still in the process of growth, and we need to open the door for dialogue to discuss and address the challenges faced by our entrepreneurs.”
She said: “Everyone is doing a great job, but individually. In 2014, I was appointed to be the WED ambassador to Saudi Arabia with my colleague Sarah Al-Ayed. Our mission was to change the stereotyped image of the Saudi woman.”
The event took place with the support of Princess Lolowah bint Faisal Al-Saud, the university’s vice chair of the board of founders and the board of trustees, and general supervisor.
She was accompanied by Princess Haifa Al-Faisal and Norah bint Turki Al-Faisal. Those present included Ghassan Al-Sulaiman, governor of the General Authority for Small and Medium Enterprises.
Mohammed Hakeem, associate professor at the University of Jeddah, who was the master of ceremony, said: “We see today Saudi female entrepreneurs who have been meeting the challenges; we need to listen to them, share their concerns and stories of success, and benefit from their experiences. One of the goals of Saudi Vision 2030 is to strengthen and enrich women’s entrepreneurship.”
Malak Al-Nory, dean of graduate studies and scientific research at Effat University, said: “Effat University’s vision is to prepare and inspire future women leaders. We want to equip them with the knowledge and skills needed to have sustainable, pioneering roles in our society.”
Al-Sulaiman is one of the biggest supporters of our youth to enter the field of entrepreneurship and help them achieve their goals and overcome challenges.
In his speech, he discussed the future of entrepreneurship in Saudi Arabia. “Back in the days, the common culture of entrepreneurship was revolving around the people who had their own trade and those who were working in the field of Haj and Umrah. However, times have changed now.
“Today, we are going through economic challenges, but I’m very opti- mistic about the future of entrepreneurship. The Kingdom is very serious about developing the sector of small and medium enterprises (SMEs), with the establishment of the Fund of Funds (Sondouq Al-Sanadiq).”
Al-Sulaiman said: “In Canada, 40 percent of public enterprises are owned by women, and 70 percent of startup businesses are owned by women. So, entrepreneurship is an essential empowerment for women more than the labor market, where their participation in enterprises in the first world countries is more than the labor market,” Al-Sulaiman added.
Osama Ashri, head of SMEs and an entrepreneurship specialist, addressed the ecosystem of entrepreneurship in the Kingdom in his presentation.
The forum included six panel discussions with more than 30 activists in the field of entrepreneurship addressing the current cultural changes in Saudi Arabia and how it impacts female entrepreneurs, the different types of support extended by the government and private sectors for entrepreneurs, the role of educational institutions in aspiring and empowering potential female entrepreneurs, challenges facing them in accessing financial channels to fund their projects, and the role of government and policy-making bodies in enabling entrepreneurs in Saudi Arabia.
For her part, Sofana Dahlan, said that the forum sheds light on the importance of the role of the entrepreneurship in achieving Saudi Vision 2030, and learning about the system and environment of entrepreneurship, the role of the public and private sectors, the educational and finance sector in the development and support of SMEs with the participation of a group of supporters.
Dahlan explained that the data of business records at the Ministry of Commerce and Industry by the end of the year 2014, indicate that the total number of women’s commercial establishments had reached 100,572, representing about 9.5 percent of the total volume of commercial establishments in the Kingdom. The volume of capital of these businesses reached about SR6.4 billion, which is a weak record compared to their estimated wealth.
There were two pitches presented by The Associate and Teamup, where they discussed their projects and the obstacles they went through.
Top executives from Saudi Aramco Entrepreneurship Center and King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) were among those who took part in a panel discussion. (AN photo by Huda Bashatah)