Dana Shuqom – AMIDEAST’s Country Director
Dana Shuqom has been AMIDEAST’s Country Director since 2012. She has successfully stimulated growth in clients, beneficiaries, and revenue. Shuqom previously worked as the executive director of the Business and Professional Women’s Association in Amman, during which she increased membership by 180 percent, and has an extensive background in communications, consultancy, and marketing.
What does it mean to be a female entrepreneur?
To be an entrepreneur is to see an opportunity and to seize it. Many confuse the title of business owner with entrepreneur. I believe that you can be an entrepreneur even if you are an employee in a company and see an opportunity and are creative and resourceful enough to create ways to turn it into a profitable or useful service or product. By being a female entrepreneur, I have additional motivation to motivate and support other females through my work.
What was the most valuable lesson you learned throughout your journey?
Achievements are built incrementally. Often people want to achieve success and wealth quickly and forget that it is important to go through the initial phases in order to acquire the necessary knowledge to succeed when the right opportunity presents itself. I learned that employees are willing to give their hearts and souls to make a project succeed if they believe in the project, the organization, and its leadership.
Why did you choose this business in particular?
I have tried working for private business, for semi-governmental organizations, as a business owner and for NGOs. The last two are where I found myself. As a business owner, each challenge overcome is a success. The need to survive in the competitive market provides daily motivation. The rush one gets when landing a new deal, and the pride success generates are unparalleled.
The mission of NGOs provides daily inspiration and motivation to give and to grow, in order to serve more people. Our work at AMIDEAST creates opportunities through education and training.
Do you think you have managed to leave a mark?
I hope that I have managed to leave a mark in the lives of my employees by providing guidance and support and continuous learning opportunities, and in the lives of the beneficiaries of projects I managed by giving them skills that will enable them to improve their lives.
What are some of the main challenges you face as a female entrepreneur?
As a female in the workforce in general, and not just as an entrepreneur, working while having young kids is always challenging. The absence of daycare facilities that can offer a safe and nurturing environment for kids at an affordable price means women have to rely on housekeepers to take care of their children while they are at work. Not all women have a mother or a mother-in-law who is able or willing to take care of the children in the afternoon or when the kids are very young, and most cannot afford housekeepers. This was my biggest challenge, and continues to be the challenge faced by every female I know, often forcing many to choose between motherhood and being economically active.
The second challenge that is relevant particularly to females, is the inability of women to build networks outside work hours because of social issues. Men meet with clients or potential work partners over argeeleh in the evenings, and many deals are sealed in cafes. For cultural reasons, and for reasons related to household responsibilities, women are not able to build such informal networks with male business associates.
There were only a few occasions where I felt that being a woman was a disadvantage. In general, hard work and commitment to deliver high value products of excellent quality is sufficient to earn respect from stakeholders.
What advice would you give other female entrepreneurs?
I would say, do not be afraid to pursue your dreams, but do not jump into debt or large investments without due diligence. Take the necessary time to learn about the industry, study the market, and find out who the competition is and what it does. Entrepreneurship requires a great deal of investment in money, time and effort. Invest these wisely.
Who inspires you?
People who are creative, those who seem fearless, and those who project wisdom and inner peace.
What are your future plans?
I started a campaign to push for more women to serve on corporate, educational and governmental boards of directors. My goal is to have at least one third of every board be comprised of women. I started another effort years ago to help women acquire their inheritance rights, and hope to see more justice given to women in our area regarding this issue. I am also working on a book and hope to see it published in a few years.
This is part five of a 12-piece story. Other parts include: