Thursday 05, October 2017 by Jessica Combes

Women entrepreneurs–go for it!

 

Women can have it all–a fulfilling career with flexible time allowing them to dedicate themselves to their families, which can even include working with their spouses, according to a panel discussion of day two of the WomenSME conference.

Pursuing your passion  doesn’t have to be an abstract concept, but women are expected to dream big said Life and Balance Coach, Katherine Winny, a key note speaker at the event, whose sentiments were echoed in the following panel.

Priya Televane, CEO of 361 degrees Design Solutions LLC started her business 7.5 years ago. “I have always felt that you should dream big and work towards it to make it a reality. My dream was to have my own design firm, but there were many women in Dubai already into design so I decided to go into design and fit out. It was a very tough, male-dominated industry to get into.”

She had the full support of her husband who joined the business full-time 1.5 years after the business opened and Televane realised it was self-sustaining, following a number of successful projects received by referrals. She said it was a roller-coaster when he joined because she saw him 24 hours a day.

They mitigated any problems by clearly laying out the goals of the company, ensuring they were clear on what they wanted to achieve in the next three years, five years, and beyond.  They are both very clear on their scope of work. Televane fills the role Managing Director as well as Business Development manager while her husband works as the Design Director.

The business offers both of them flexible hours, which improves their family life because they can both spend valuable time with their 2.5 year-old son.

“Do not be afraid to start your business,” reiterated Maya Alghaith, Co-Founder of Healthgate, a company dedicated to providing women and new mothers with safe, natural, and non-toxic sanitary products and nappies. She emphasised that SME owners should also be bold when going up against bigger players with a large marking budgets.

The business of sanitary product is worth around $100 billion globally and when Alghaith started her business she knew it would be tough. “I started my business because I believe we [women] deserve a product that is natural that will not damage us, and I was really shocked by the misconception that big manufacturers disclose the ingredients in personal care products such as sanitary napkins or diapers, and the topic is taboo. Companies do not disclose their ingredients and the there are no regulations in any countries besides Japan.”

She likened trying to enter the market to being a small fish tossed into a shark-filled ocean, where she had to learn quickly how to survive and sustain her business. Being a smaller brand meant her product did not get the best shelf placement; it was side lined by much bigger brands.

Alghaith doesn’t have anywhere near the marketing budget of global giants and has to rely on social media and word of mouth marketing, which has worked. Healthgate’s market share is increasing and she put it down to loyal support from customers. In spite of the difficulty she has faced entering the market, her advice to any small business owners is to decide what they want to do, and take the leap of faith and start their business. “Do not be scared if there are big sharks. A big shark will not eat another big shark, but a piranha will eat a shark.”

WomenSME ran over two days and addressed the challenges faced by entrepreneurs who wants to start a new business or grow their business in a competitive environment, as well as providing solutions for entrepreneurs who are on a limited budget but aim to improve their business in terms of marketing, human resourcing, financial management and to understand opportunities available in the Middle East.