Entrepreneurship: Challenges and opportunities
A few years ago I was about to start a new business. I had spent a few months studying the market, preparing a business plan, but before all that, developing a dream. The idea then seemed to have prospect; the starting up expenses were moderate, the expected return on the investment was attractive, and the whole idea was designed to serve an important niche in the market in an unprecedented way. I even got in touch with a number of international suppliers who showed excitement to support and start a business relationship with this entrepreneur from Saudi Arabia. Unfortunately this story did not progress to a happy ending, or in actual fact, did not start, because I decided to stop.
When I started the actual work on the ground, which meant dealing with governmental agencies and other established businessmen in the market, I was stunned. What was attractive and plausible on paper turned into something practically impossible in reality. There were endless series of procedures and obstacles that made no sense at all.
The cherry on the top was a businessman whom I met while looking for a shop to rent. He owns a newly established mall and we met to negotiate a leasing contract. He asked me about my company and when I told him it was a start up, he refused to continue the negotiation. You have to be an established business owner or you are not welcomed in the mall, he said. I tried to explain my plans and the importance of new businesses to the economy, but judging by the look on his face, I felt like I was explaining advanced mathematics of Maxwell’s electromagnetism equations! This is just a glimpse of how complicated it is to start a new business here as a young entrepreneur.
This story came to mind after I had the chance to meet with Michelle Messina, the CEO of Explora International LLC, an international consulting and advisory firm specialized in innovation, leadership, and entrepreneurship. Messina was visiting the Kingdom to conduct a number of meetings and workshops with governmental officials and local entrepreneurs.
It is a good sign to see that the country is realizing the importance of entrepreneurship and start-ups to its economical structure. It is only recently that we started to notice the surge in government and other socially active organizations providing funding and support opportunities to new entrepreneurs. However, there are still rules to be changed, processes to be eased, and laws to be made more tolerant of small businesses’ needs. As Messina put it: It is a complete echo system.
The local market is still young; initiatives and innovative ideas related to global hot topics like power consumption, global warming, water shortages etc., could all turn into successful businesses. We need an entrepreneurship heaven where young talents and curious minds find it easier to explore ideas, implement them, and create opportunities for achieving diversified incomes.