A major component of our FWEME business training curricula is about risk-taking: encouraging women to step out of comfort zones for different kinds of opportunities, like taking a loan, talking to investors, or traveling.
In FWEME Entrepreneur Maysaa Abu Mohsen’s case, risk-taking took a whole new level last month, though, when she received the opportunity to participate in a three-week internship program in the United States through the Active Citizen Summit 2.0. At the beginning of March, Maysaa hadn’t been on an airplane, and never ventured farther than Amman, Jordan- but by April, she’d been on six different planes, attended classes in Washington, DC, and spent several weeks in Chicago, Illinois.
Upon her return, we caught up with Maysaa to learn more about her time in the United States, what she learned, and how it’s improved her ability to move forward.
Why did you travel to the United States, and where did you go?
I attended the Active Citizen Summit 2.0, a three-week program sponsored by the Association of Young Political Leaders. The Active Citizen Summit brings 18 entrepreneurs and young leaders from different countries in the Middle East and North Africa to the United States. The goals are to gain more business skills to make our own projects better, and to learn more about American businesses and American culture. It also had time for us to meet with other organizations, universities, and institutions that might be helpful for us both professionally and personally. I went to Chicago, Illinois for two and a half weeks, and then to Washington, DC for three days.
What were the main activities during your time there?
The main part of my travel was my internship- I’d never had an internship before, and wasn’t sure exactly what it was before I came to America! I interned at Diana’s Bananas, a candy company based in Chicago. I had my own desk, and got to follow different kinds of employees around to learn about their tasks, and tips for being a better manager. My favorite was my time with the Production Manager- I got to work in the factory line to see how they produced good quality candy in a fast way, and how she worked with the employees in the factory. This was very important to me because I want to one day have a factory line in my soap production business, so it was great to learn the details of how Diana’s Bananas manage theirs.
Maysaa pauses from her busy work in the factory to pose with a mentor, the Production Manager.
How did this trip improve your confidence?
I was very nervous at first about the traveling part- the thought of going to the airport alone overwhelmed me, and I didn’t know how I would feel on the plane! I realized though that I was capable of getting around without problem- I felt strong asking for help when I needed it, and made friends with fellow travelers along the way! I wasn’t scared at all, and learned that it’s better to be bold and ask instead of being shy.
In Washington, DC, I gave a presentation about my soap business to my fellow Active Citizen Summit 2.0 participants, as well as representatives from USAID and the Center for National Policy. Giving a presentation in English scared me at first- I’d never had to do something like that for such an important audience. I was successful, though- and I cannot wait for the next opportunity!
Maysaa learn risk-taking has many benefits- like checking out a beach for the first time!
What will you share with your fellow entrepreneurs from this experience?
First, I want other women entrepreneurs in Palestine to know that they can’t be afraid- they must be confident and ready to make many connections if they want their business to succeed. I also learned what strong management looked like through my relationship with Bob, my manager at Diana’s Banana’s. He challenged me to be better and be more bold, but also made sure I was comfortable, and felt like a real part of the team.
Second, I am very proud to be an entrepreneur from the Middle East- each day of our program, we’d have trainings at DePaul University in Chicago where we talked about our experiences as young professionals from the Arab world. We have many challenges that are all the same, but we also have much room to grow and make the best of our futures. I want other women to feel proud that they are working in a place like Palestine, and making it better for females.
Lastly, I’d warn them about sushi- it wasn’t my favorite American food- and I’d tell them about how great the Italian food is!
– Cayce, TYO Women’s Empowerment Program Coordinator, conducted this interview with the assistance of Inas Badawi, TYO Women’s Program Assistant.