Entrepreneurship curriculum ‘needed at Saudi schools’



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Published — Wednesday 13 February 2013

Last update 13 February 2013 6:05 am

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Michelle E. Messina, CEO of US-based Explora International, held a meeting with top officials of the Jeddah Chamber of Commerce and Industry (JCCI) during her recent visit to Saudi Arabia, and also conducted workshops in Riyadh and Dhahran.
The workshops in Riyadh were designed to share information and insights about the entrepreneurial mindset and inspire more women to become entrepreneurs, she told Khalil Hanware of Arab News in an exclusive interview in Jeddah.
"At the JCCI, we discussed many ideas and opportunities for generating larger numbers of entrepreneurs in the region," Michelle added.
An original mentor in the US Department of State program Pathways to Prosperity in the Americas for Women Entrepreneurs that evolved in the Global Women's Business Initiative, she said: "The US Department of State program is designed to inspire more women entrepreneurs, connect them with resources and trade opportunities around the world. Providing women with more opportunity, economic power and economic choice is good for the world's economy and our communities."
 
Following are the excerpts of the interview:
 
You recently attended workshops in Riyadh and Dhahran. What were these workshops about and who attended?
 
The workshops in Riyadh were in collaboration with GloWork and Al-Nahda, and designed to share information and insights about the entrepreneurial mindset and inspire more women to become entrepreneurs.
 
 
How was your meeting at the Jeddah Chamber of Commerce and Industry and who all did you interact with?
 
I had the honor of meeting several members of the Jeddah Chamber of Commerce and Industry (JCCI), including Secretary General Adnan H. Mandourah, Director of International Relations Bander B. Natto, General Affairs Section Manager Hanaa I. Al-Zamzami, Director for Small Venture Development Center Dr. Faisal A. Abdullgader, Ghazi Adel Mousli, supervisor delegation, international relations department, and Dr. Basmah Mosleh Omair, CEO of the Al Sayedah Khadijah Bint Khuwailid Center. We discussed many ideas and opportunities for generating larger numbers of entrepreneurs in the region. Some of the ideas we discussed included:
Youth Entrepreneurship Camp held in Saudi Arabia and in Silicon Valley, the world's most influential ecosystem for entrepreneurship and innovation. These camps are an ideal opportunity to influence Saudi young people in their career and business path. In July and August of this year, Explora International is hosting students from Mexico, China and Singapore. We would be honored to welcome youth from Saudi Arabia into Silicon Valley.
Startup Saudi Arabia: Saudi Arabia could offer stipends to attract international entrepreneurs to build their companies in the Kingdom. These entrepreneurs would also share the entrepreneurial mindset in the region and hire local talent to work in their startups.
InnovationTour 2012: Explora International regularly welcomes international delegations to Silicon Valley for the purpose of studying and understanding the entrepreneurial mindset and the supporting ecosystem. This year's program will feature a week in Silicon Valley (June 22-28), and 3 days in Singapore learning how they have adapted their ecosystem to drive entrepreneurship (June 30-July 2). The InnovationTour 2013 is a business study tour designed for government, academic and trade association officials and will be a small group under 20 individuals, to ensure peer learning.
 
In your opinion, who can be an entrepreneur?
 
Anyone can be an entrepreneur, especially individuals who are self-directed and want to build their own business. Ideally, they should be very open to receiving feedback, advice and ideas from others, as this willingness tends to enhance the entrepreneur's perspective and help them build a stronger business, better products and services, and contributes to a more diversified economy.
 
 
How important are entrepreneurs in a country's economy?
 
Start-ups are a crucial driver for job creation in the United States. From March 1994 to March 2010, businesses less than one year old created 3.9 million jobs a year on average, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, though that number has declined during the recent economic weakness. Entrepreneurs are essential drivers in the growth and diversification of the economy.
 
Women in Saudi Arabia are aspiring to become entrepreneurs through small and micro enterprises. What can Saudi Arabia do to have more women entrepreneurs?
 
Being an entrepreneur has to be an acceptable path in a young girl or woman's life. This means she must have examples to aspire to such as other women who have done this. Girls also need to be inspired at an early age (12-15 years old) in the schools with entrepreneurship curriculum, ‘rock star’ speakers and role models, and workshops so they can 'see themselves' as entrepreneurs. Finally the process of setting up and starting a business, along with the supporting ecosystem, must be optimized for speed and the efficient support of her business growth and sustainability.
 
 
In Saudi Arabia the youth population is very high. What advice you have for them?
 
There are opportunities to inspire Saudi youth to create and control their own future as entrepreneurs. Some program ideas that would support this goal would be:
Youth Entrepreneurship Camps for the 12-15 age group, both in Saudi Arabia and in Silicon Valley, that include mentoring for each young person;
Developing or enhancing an entrepreneurship academic track and/or certificate in the universities;
Producing an annual conference on entrepreneurship in Saudi Arabia with international invited guests and speakers that would spotlight the country as a region that welcomes and support entrepreneurs.
 
What role does Explora International play in the United States and globally?
 
Explora International is an international advisory and strategy consulting firm. We are based in Silicon Valley and focused on driving more entrepreneurship around the world. We have worked in more than 20 different countries during the past 5+ years and understand how to adapt the best practices of Silicon Valley. We accomplish this through the following capabilities: 
Ecosystem Consulting: By doing and an in-depth assessment of a region or country's ecosystem, Explora International can identify both the current actors and gaps in the ecosystem. Then we make specific tactical recommendations for aligning all actors around the common goal of supporting the vibrancy and sustainability of the ecosystem and the entrepreneurs.
Innovation Tours: Explora International regularly welcomes
international delegations to Silicon Valley for the purpose of studying and understanding the entrepreneurial mindset and the supporting ecosystem. This year's program will feature a week in Silicon Valley (June 22-28), and 3 days in Singapore learning how they have adapted their ecosystem to drive entrepreneurship (June 30-July 2). The InnovationTour 2013 is a business study tour designed for government, academic and trade association officials and will be a small group under 20 individuals, to ensure peer learning.
Youth Entrepreneurship Camp: Held in Silicon Valley, the world's most influential ecosystem for entrepreneurship and innovation.  But these could also be implemented in Saudi Arabia with local entrepreneurs, professors and supporting experts. The camps are an ideal opportunity to influence young people in their career and business path. In July and August of this year, Explora International is hosting students from Mexico, China and Singapore. We would be honored to welcome youth from Saudi Arabia into Silicon Valley.
 
 
What tips would you give to become a successful entrepreneur?
 
Pay it forward: We must support our fellow entrepreneurs and help one another without expecting ANYTHING in return.
Form networking groups: Meet more entrepreneurs and help one another.
Form mentoring relationships: Entrepreneurs needs mentors, advisers and coaches. And these should not necessarily be friends and family members.
Talk openly about mistakes and failures: Only then can we remove the stigma and guilt that may accompany the process and journey of building a company. With entrepreneurship comes risk, with risk comes failure. We must understand the connection between these elements and not stigmatize nor penalize the entrepreneur.
 
What role do you see for SMEs in boosting the economy?
 
SMEs are essential for job growth, industry diversification and providing citizens more economic choice and power. Saudi Arabia will also attract more foreign direct investment as its entrepreneurs build their businesses, that will grow into SMEs and larger corporations.
 
 
Saudi Arabia is looking toward entrepreneurship as a tool for youth empowerment and a key for generating employment. How can entrepreneurs help in creating jobs?
 
In the United States, from March 1994 to March 2010, businesses less than one year old created 3.9 million jobs a year on average, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. That is a lot of new jobs each and every year providing new opportunities, the development of a more skilled and sophisticated workforce with economic choice and economic buying power.
 
 
What obstacles do entrepreneurs face?
 
The main obstacles are:
Lacking examples of entrepreneurs: Can Saudi Arabia spot light and profile more successful entrepreneurs in the media so prospective entrepreneurs can have role models?
Ease of setting up a business: Just on the aspect of starting a business, Saudi Arabia ranks 78 out of 187 on the World Bank's Doing Business scale. This 78 out of 187 ranking is quite low and indicates entrepreneur faces numerous obstacles, delays, ambiguity, official document, licenses and permit requirements just to start a new business. Could this be a clear opportunity to assess the process and determine how and where it could be streamlined?
 
You were an original mentor in the US Department of State program Pathways to Prosperity in the Americas for Women Entrepreneurs that evolved in the Global Women's Business Initiative. How does this initiative work?
 
The US Department of State program is designed to inspire more women entrepreneurs, connect them with resources and trade opportunities around the world. Providing women with more opportunity, economic power and economic choice is good for the world's economy and our communities.
 

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