JEDDAH: Behind every Saudi small and medium enterprise, you will find a creative, passionate entrepreneur empowered by support and social reforms.
Saudi women were known to own their businesses long before the social reforms took place, but the trend has grown extensively as changes pushed many into the business world, diversifying the market, their source of income, and contributing to the Kingdom’s gross domestic product.
The global trend of women in business is important, helping them to be self-dependent, play a prosperous role in their community, and raise employment rates. Governments have encouraged women by ensuring there are laws to protect them and their businesses, with the private sector also furthering the transformation.
Arab News spoke to 36-year-old Saudi Hessa Hassan, founder and owner of Curl Boutique, the first salon in the Kingdom that focuses on curly and natural hair. The entrepreneur opened her salon in October 2020 after studying the market and finding that few salons catered to women with curly hair. She was certified in her trade and through her social media platform, encouraged women to love their curls.
She told Arab News: “Stepping up and evolving our roles can only be a positive thing for all involved. Including and empowering women in the economy in a new way — as creators, entrepreneurs and business owners — is one of the surest ways to boost the sector and get the Kingdom where it wants to go. It also, frankly, is a good way to ensure women will get the goods and services they actually want.”
She said women also bring new and fresh perspectives, creativity, expertise, and leadership styles that can add an important new dimension to the sector and to the economy.
“Beyond that, having a system and role models that support them — like Saudi Arabia is doing now — will increase the numbers of female participants in businesses and the economy and inspire an ongoing cycle of growth and investment. I truly believe the possibilities are endless, and we are just at the beginning,” Hassan added.
The business owner said it is important to support small local businesses owned by Saudi women.
“There has been an enormous amount of untapped potential and we are finally starting to see it bloom. In many cases, people will be buying these goods and services anyway, so why not support home-grown talent?”
She added: “This is talent that knows the context, market, and needs of the community. And again, contributing to and supporting this system will cause ripple effects in the economy and in the real lives of women and families that we might not even fully imagine yet.
“I know that on a personal level, if I had seen someone like me running a business when I was young, I might have been inspired to start much earlier.”
Hassan said that she hoped to “inspire girls — including the beautiful, brilliant, and ambitious young clients I see every day — to follow their dreams and be the ones to provide solutions in the marketplace, rather than waiting or looking outside.”
According to a World Bank report, the number of Saudi women entrepreneurs increased by 50 percent between 2018 and 2019, particularly in the consumer service sector.
According to a Global Entrepreneurship Monitor report in 2020, the highest rates of women’s entrepreneurial intentions were reported in the Middle East and North Africa region at 36.6 percent. Saudi female entrepreneurs were responsible for driving this trend.
Reforms in the Kingdom have provided funding to projects and initiatives, which have created opportunities for women in government and the private sector. These reforms have played an integral part in creating safe work environments to foster growth and innovation.
Arab News also spoke to Yasser Al-Ammari, a Saudi entrepreneur, who initiated a campaign to support small local businesses owned by Saudi women this month.
The founder of the online platform coffinado.com, saw that the role of women in the small business sector provides a boost for all Saudis to help one another and allow their businesses to grow.
“By sharing an announcement on social media to support local businesses, Coffinado seized this opportunity to show appreciation and support for fellow female business owners, especially those who just started,” he said.
Al-Ammari said most of the important departments at Coffinado are led by women, such as the marketing, partnerships, and human resources teams.
As a founder of a small business himself, he said that a woman’s role in business is significant, and highlighted that female business owners bring out the best in a company when they are fully dedicated to it.
“Their roles are as important as men’s work in every business,” he said, adding: “Women with high commitment, dedication, and hard work drive always bring the best benefits to the business.”