Entrepreneurship is already infamous throughout the world for being a tough vocation. It’s a long endeavor with little to no profit in the beginning stages and requires full-time nurturing. Many businesses fail. On the other hand, individuals who succeed at entrepreneurship can say they have excelled at one of the most challenging obstacles of careerhood.
In Palestine everything is difficult: from travel to accessing water. Out of necessity, most people expend more time problem-solving than on the task at hand. If entrepreneurship is difficult internationally, it is exponentially so in Palestine — which is why TYO, along with the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women offers the The Fostering Women Entrepreneurs in the Middle East (FWEME) program. The psycho-social effects of the business incubation program are immeasurable, introducing women to leadership roles in their immediate community and thus establishing them in Palestinian society. The program serves as a confidence builder and a skill builder, which teaches women to market their products and themselves.
This semester FWEME focused on teaching Business IT and social media marketing concepts, as well as advancing professional English competency. Entrepreneurs honed spoken English and were given emphasis to the written language in order to become accustomed to professional correspondence with potential investors. Practical application was learned as each word and concept was introduced. Adjectives in particular – learning how to better market their products with descriptive language – were a vital component to honing English competency skills.
Social media was a big focus in the IT class as entrepreneurs learned how to further market their businesses. We taught entrepreneurs the basic tenants of PR and engaging social media marketing: Targeting their audience, writing about the uses of their products, and showing visual evidence of customers using their products. Women improved existing social media pages for their businesses and were introduced to marketing techniques specific to Instagram and Twitter as well, such as the marketing benefits of visuals and hashtags.
Due to the unique nature of Palestine, entrepreneurs face a special set of challenges which were met in the marketing class. Palestinians cannot own credit cards, nor is there any true import/export trade, and there is no reliable or convenient mail system… which makes online shops a difficult, near impossible business to establish. Many of the women specialize in products such as hand-crafted herbal soap, traditional Palestinian embroidery, and home accessories that would be greatly benefitted with online ordering. With this set of challenges presented, entrepreneurs have not lost their spirit or motivation and are still hard at work developing their businesses for future growth. Many spend their days searching for ways to expand despite the limitations of locale, researching trade shows and expos which could potentially pick up their products for international retail.
In a way, Palestinians are natural entrepreneurs — they are a people who have proven excellence at overcoming obstacles. It is remarkable that the difficulties of entrepreneurship combined with the seeming indifference of the world has only served to renew their sense of dedication to success.
-Zahi Khouri Fellow, Nada