Entrepreneurial Conversations

I had a really fun evening the night before last.  I participated in The Global Entrepreneurship Week Start Up Circuit. I really liked the concept; The Bahrain chapter of Young Arab Leaders, the organisers, brought in different experts and specialists to help budding entrepreneurs start businesses.  Each one of them gave a 10 minute presentation about their field of expertise.  The following organisations were represented:

Ministry of Industry and Commerce
Tamekeen
Bahrain Business Incubator Centre
United Nations Industrial Development Organisation
Bahrain Development Bank

And a few others, nine in total, and yours truly was one of them.  I talked about the Five Fatal Marketing Mistakes Every New Entrepreneur Should Avoid.  I must say it was very well received.

When all the speakers were done we sat at different booths where the attendees could approach us and ask us questions.  I was virtually mobbed with people wanting to speak to me.

Some were just fans who wanted to say hello and thank me.  Others had detailed questions about their businesses, or businesses-to-be.  I loved some of the ideas that people had, and some I did not.  I tried to be as diplomatic as possible with the bad ones.

I was approached by a group of high school girls whose project was to create a business.  What really fascinated me was that they had to create a real business, not just a fictitious one.  They were part of InJaz.  I love their energy and enthusiasm.  They had 3 business ideas.  Two of which I did not like, but I liked the third one (I don’t want to say what it is to respect their privacy).  They asked if I would visit their school and I agreed.  So maybe sometime next year.

One lady asked to give her some ideas to market her abaya shop.  I gave her some ideas, but her reaction was “Oh but that’s so much work!”  “Well, are you an entrepreneur or not?” I responded.    “If you are then you’ve got to do what it takes.  Otherwise find yourself a job somewhere in the government and work from 8 to 2, reading newspapers and drinking tea.”  She got the point, but I don’t know if she’ll implement.  There are no short cuts, if you want to bake your cake and eat it, fine.  But you still have to bake first.  And you might have to bake hard.

One of the people that approached me was a young man who seemed very smart, started a couple of micro-businesses while still in college, and was working for the government.  Among the businesses he started was importing honey from Nepal.  He said that he lived and breathed marketing and wanted whatever advice I could give him.

I said something like “what the hell is someone like you doing working for the government??”  “I ah… well am in my final year in college, and I graduate next May.  Maybe then I’ll start my own business…” he replied.  “Look young man!” I said “If I see you next May still working for a bureaucracy I’ll lose all respect for you!  Don’t waste your life like this!”  I added with annoyance.

The reason I was so harsh with him was because I could see the entrepreneurial fire in him.  There are people who are meant to have jobs, and people who are meant to create businesses, this young man was certainly in the second category.  Maybe this chat was just the push he needed to start out on his own.

Another person I spoke to was this young man who wanted to open a coffee shop.  If I had a dinar for every coffee shop idea I heard I’d be very rich indeed.  Can we get more boring? I gently tried to dissuade him from the idea.  And after maybe a 10 minute or so conversation he reluctantly agreed with me.

I had lots more conversations and talked non-stop for about two hours.  The hall was empty by the time I finished with the last person, the cleaners were just coming to clean up.

What impressed me was the fire I saw in some of these young people.  And I’d like to congratulate and thank Young Arab Leaders for putting together such a great event.  I’d also like to thank the Kaufman Foundation for developing the concept of Global Entrepreneurship Week.  I don’t know how much this week cost to set up, but it was offered free to all the attendees.  I think a few lives were changed that night…

Talk to you soon.

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