‘Let us make a mistake’: Omani women lead an (Sh)entrepreneurial evening of stories and conversations

Entrepreneurship is a perennial buzz word bordering on rhetorical fatigue , in the traditional discourse on employment generation and business literature. There are plenty of entrepreneurship forums and platforms such as TiE on a global basis. A select few focus on women and their stories regarding their journeys in the big bad world of business. Women in Business have metaphorical glass ceilings, which has recently been amplified with the recent debates on the news ticker and twitter feeds such as diversity.

Entrepreneurship Seminars and Conferences are non conventional sites of knowledge production, as stories are shared and lessons are learnt, beyond the textbook. Entrepreneurship is a contact sport, and insights catalyse the Imagination for creating value. Oman is a country on the cusp of transforming beyond a hydrocarbon present and entrepreneurship is the natural engine for economic growth. Women in Oman lead the way in many a realm, and business is no stranger to their brilliance and strategic expertise.

Knowledge Oman, a pioneering social initiative curating relevant context and content regarding entrepreneurship in the country, founded by youth visionary Mr. Tariq Al Barwani. The last instalment of the entrepreneurship seminar series, had a stellar A Player cast with an auditorium packed to the brim. The evening of learning began by an articulate talk by Madam Sharifa, the founder of a USD 15 million micro fund – The Wadi Accelerator. She hit the nail on the head when she quipped that ‘Self Development is as important as Business Development’. She goes back to learning something new every two years, and doubles down on grit as a quality for an entrepreneur. She finds being a women entrepreneur no different than being a male entrepreneur and foregrounded her talk by thanking the men in the audience for being there for a women entrepreneur seminar!

Madam Sharifa warned the entrepreneurship community to be careful of limelight and to concentrate on the bottom line rather than be egotistical. Be humble, was the straight forward takeaway. A great, great talk, full of good leads. Memorable Stuff to recall on a bad day.

Next up the curve was a terrific panel discussion constituted by six panelist’s, sharing commonalities in their entrepreneurial journeys marked by joy, disappointments and the range of emotions spanning the spectrum. The panel had a jeweller, a handicrafts pioneer, a hospitality entrepreneur, a bakery owner, a social Internet enabler, and a famous fashion designer popular in the GCC. An eclectic all women panel (obviously) is a rare event, and was certainly the piece de resistance of the evening. A lot of stories of accidental starts and failures were common themes mapped from their stories. The ‘light bulb’ moment was fascinating to understand as entrepreneurs are movers, and they move the ecosystem forward. These amazing women were candid and honest. The Fashion Abaya entrepreneur on the panel, started her business by saving her wedding expenses. Some amazing insights were shared.

The best business expertise is learnt by doing, and academics do definitely fall short, way short. But, through this article, i hope to record these narratives of Omani women entrepreneurs which need to be read and this will I hope, Add to the entrepreneurial conversations in Oman and the wider region, as writing is an act of theorisation and memory.

The most impressive bits of Seminar time are what might be labelled as fillers, inconsequential gaps in space time eagerly waited for it to get over with and move on to the real deal. However, these networking gaps over some Gloria Jeans Coffee and savouries, are nodes for collaboration and a quick exchange of business cards and ideas. These exchanges are starting points for opportunities to open up and bloom.

Knowledge Oman does an amazing job in creating these interconnections by forging practitioner and volunteer communities of ideas and learning and this evening and the entire entrepreneurship series was a seminal moment in the contemporary landscape of learning in Oman.

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