Through the LEAP Project, CBIE and our partners, Ryerson University and INJAZ, work to support the economic empowerment of Jordanian women.
One aspect of our project has been the creation and operation of an incubator program exclusively for women-led startups, housed at INJAZ’s mySTARTUP incubator space. This program supports the female founder’s entrepreneurial journey with coaching, capacity building and community networking, but also importantly addresses gender-specific barriers these women may face.
This March our first cohort of female founders celebrates 6 months in the program. We sat down with four of them to discuss their journey so far as a Jordanian Women Entrepreneur.
How does being a woman impact your journey as an entrepreneur?
“When I first started pursuing my business, the biggest challenge I had to face was being able to come and go as I please in a culture where women are not allowed to be out after sunset. Now that I have overcome that, things are so much easier and I have never felt more in control of my life.”
“Many of us as women face a lot of difficulties with the culture we live in. When we don’t behave the way people expect, they judge us for who we are and for pursuing our dreams.”
“Entrepreneurship in general is still regarded as unconventional and risky, and even more so for a young female graduate. I have been blessed to have the support of my family, but have experienced hesitance and a lack of encouragement from others around me.”
“I was often advised to recruit a male co-founder. While this could have simplified certain tasks where men face fewer societal barriers than women, I wanted to challenge the norm rather than accept it so I recruited a female co-founder.”
In your opinion, why is it important for women to be entrepreneurs?
“Women constitute almost half of the population. An economy without the participation of half of its population is an economy that will fail to grow and develop.”
“Women have the capability, vision, drive and resilience to be entrepreneurs. Statistics show that women possess higher integrity than their male peers, and female-owned firms generate higher revenue and create more jobs than male-owned firms.”
“Many families see their daughters as a liability, a person who is incapable of being independent. It’s important to become an entrepreneur to change the way society sees women. We are entrepreneurs because we are completely and independently capable of achieving our dreams.”
“Being an entrepreneur is empowering. It gives you purpose and channels you energies towards your dreams and ambitions.”
What has the women-led startup program at mySTARTUP provided to you that might be different from other incubator programs in the city?
“The most important thing is the supportive community we find in each other. As women entrepreneurs, we can connect with other women facing the same obstacles.”
“The programming is personalized to your needs. It helps you grow and succeed as a person and an entrepreneur amidst all the challenges that you face.”
“It’s an inclusive space that equips women entrepreneurs with the confidence, skills, and knowledge to engage effectively and productively in the world of entrepreneurship.”
“Our mentors were always there not only to guide us on a professional level, but also to support us on a personal level.”
How has your experience in the incubator program been so far?
“The opportunity to be in such a place is one in a life time. The people that we are surrounded by are so amazing. At the end of the day, it’s the people you surround yourself with that either push you forward or bring you down.”
“So far, my company has progressed much more quickly than anticipated. We managed to take Ecope from a concept to a thorough business model with a functioning physical prototype currently under testing in a matter of five months. Through mySTARTUP, we have seized many opportunities, including pitching at the World Government Summit in Dubai to an esteemed judges panel and audience. I have experienced valuable personal growth and become more aware of my own strengths and areas of development. I am a lot more confident and better equipped with the knowledge and skills to realize Ecope’s vision.”
Thank you to our founders for their candid feedback, in particular: Lina Zohlof, founder of Mugglez; Batool Dabbas, founder of Sahhatech; Samia Sharawi, founder of Quitem; and Lianne Manna, founder of Ecope. (Responses were condensed for clarity.)