Engaging Entrepreneurs

A leading Arab American businesswomen is eager to set Jordanian entrepreneurs and startups on the path to growth.

By Nada Atieh

Juman Doleh-Alomary, the head of IT auditing at Wayne State University in Detroit, led a session on designing business plans and pitching strategies at the Zain Innovation Campus (Zinc) last month.

Alomary, who is also a former president of the Arab American Women’s Business Council, was invited to Jordan to share her knowledge with budding entrepreneurs by the US embassy in Amman.

What did your training session at Zinc involve?

We had four pitching presentations and three of them were from young ladies. I know there are many initiatives concerning women’s empowerment and getting women to be part of the workforce and doing more with them on that front. The fact is we don’t have enough women in the workforce based on the number of graduates, yet there are a ton of programs that are helping to change the way and help families to allow them to explore what they want and enter the workforce when they need to. That was one thing that made me think, wow, women are really moving forward. It was a very impressive group of men and women.

What success stories resonated with you from the pitches you heard?

There was one woman who was a product of Zinc’s program. She took a ton of training from them and they helped her launch her product as well; she makes a health drink that is high in vitamin B12 and Iron after she found out that these are the most deficient vitamins in the Jordanian diet. She was able to get that juice manufactured in a very organic way without wasting energy. She did that very well and said she’s a pioneer in that area but she needs her company to get bigger. She was so happy and proud. The amount of pride that women had of their work, in general, and giving back was just phenomenal. There was another older woman, possibly in her sixties, sitting in the back of the room who teaches women and refugees plumbing. She said they need it. It’s fantastic as a work skill. She can use it as a female-plumber and go during the day, when the man is out of the house.

Was there a common thread of questions that you heard repeated through these sessions?

It was specific to the industry. The woman who created the organic health drink said she was struggling to find investors to move her company from where she is now to something bigger because there’s just not enough awareness about health foods and organic drinks or environmentally friendly drinks. So, she said there was a lack of knowledge. She felt she needed to educate more and I said yes, you probably do. If you have a unique product, and process, you have to convince the investor. That is a social responsibility kind of job. We talked about different ways she can find investments, like crowdfunding, or organizations outside of Jordan. I gave them a couple that I know of that are a reliable source of investing.

What advice do you have for entrepreneurs eager to leave their mark?

My advice for entrepreneurs is don’t get discouraged. If you have the right idea just be persistent. Believe and find people around you who will believe to make you successful. Sometimes it is hard when you fail so many times but just keep at it and find the right people around you to help you. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Most entrepreneurs think they need to make it on their own with no body helping them but no, look for resources and do your homework. I think there are a lot of resources available. The idea of being passive and thinking things will happen to and work for them is, well, we need to change that and have a mind shift. We have countries like the United States, which is trying to put forth a lot of positive programs to provide direction, training, scholarships, and give grants to create competition. This is one resource. I found organizations giving tons of help. Their challenge is getting the word out about what they do and how they can recruit more people and entrepreneurs. So just seek out resources, there are tons of resources available. They should really take advantage of that. Understand your product or your service and make sure that you stay persistent and make it better.