The force is within you!
Updated: Nov 5, 2021
I recently had the pleasure of spending one month in Jordan. It is a beautiful country, yes, but what left me in awe was all the amazing female entrepreneurs (and some male, but let’s leave them out for now), that I had the pleasure of meeting in person and interacting with. This post is for you!
My team member Bayan Btoush counted the number of entrepreneurs that were in the 1-month long program, in the 2-day workshop, and in any additional organized session (no one was counted twice!). The total is (drum roll) 101 female entrepreneurs! I am of course amazed by the number but even more amazed by the assertiveness and skills of the women I worked with and the quality of their businesses. The span was huge; everything from ideation and prototyping to female entrepreneurs with companies of more than 20 employees and a history of 15 years; in everything from hardcore tech, education, design, to scented candles.
Below, I have tried to collect my thoughts and to find the overarching themes of my month in Jordan – and from here on and to the end of this blog post I will talk directly to the 101 female entrepreneurs:
First, I am deeply impressed by many of the business opportunities that you are contemplating or implementing already. Not all of them are “investor ready”, some might never be but that is, for sure, not a failure on your behalf. As you heard me say many, many times during our time together: You define what success is for you! For some of you that might be to have a good salary and a few employees, for others, there is a dream of growing organically all over the Middle East, and for yet others, there is an ambition of having external investors – with everything that entails! None of those is more right than the other!
Moving on I want you to stay connected, and that is from the bottom of my heart. Most importantly to each other, but also to me. In Jordan, I saw it happening, again and again; you supported each other, you realized you were already a customer of someone else’s business. You re-created and redefined your own and others’ business opportunities based on the conversations you had with each other; you formed embryos to partnerships, and you introduced each other to “connections of connections”. All of those are great building blocks for you to develop even more robust and sustainable businesses, i.e., setting yourself and others up for success.
Don´t forget impact! We talked about it, and I could see the interest it sparked in some of you when we battled if you were circular enough in what you offered, in your execution, and in what comes next. No longer is the question for many of you: “Impact or Profit?”, instead it is a statement “Impact and Profit!”. None of you can battle or carry on the shoulder of your business all that needs to be done to reassure impact in all ways needed. However, each one of you can – as can entrepreneurs all over the world – do something and by doing something you will together send powerful messages to those who can initiate wider systems changes.
Furthermore, what amazing role models you are for women and generations to come! It takes courage and bravery to pursue the work of a female entrepreneur, and at the same time be a wife, a mother, a sister, a daughter, a friend. You are doing a tremendous job balancing all these roles– not always reaching the expectations that you and others have on you. Allow yourself to set reasonable ambitions for what you can do. Remember that each day only has 1440 minutes – and even if you increase the density of those minutes, the brutal facts are that there are always going to be some things that don't get done. Therefore, let go, allow time for yourself, and be proud of what you accomplish during a day.
Finally, at Stanford, I worked with a great professor, Tom Kosnik, and he had a rather big bust of Obi-Wan Kenobi, the Jedi Master in the original Star Wars movie in his office. During lectures, Tom often cited the Jedi Master's quote “May the force be with you”. At the risk of upsetting Star Wars fans, I would like to deepen the meaning of that quote and say: the force is not to with you, the force is you! The force and the bravery that each one of you has within you will allow for you all to develop sustainable, resilient, impactful businesses. That is how a powerful entrepreneurial ecosystem is built – with entrepreneurs at the core.