Aspiring Entrepreneurs in Unexpected Places

blog post image (1).jpgWomen in Saudi Arabia still need permission when traveling abroad or signing contracts [1], yet a Saudi woman’s business was just ranked #24 on a Forbes list of 60 up and coming female-run tech startups.[2] Nouf Alsaleem is just 20 years old, and her homemade food delivery service, Mathaqi, made the list. Alsaleem is one of many aspiring Saudi Arabian women entrepreneurs embracing new opportunities despite Saudi Arabia’s orthodox rules dictating practically every aspect of a woman’s life.

This is not the only surprising story coming out of the kingdom; it follows on the heels of other improvements for Saudi women. The ban on women driving was lifted in June. Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is also encouraging more women entrepreneurs to implement their ideas. These changes are part of the Saudi government’s Vision 2030—an initiative that, among other things, seeks to increase women’s participation in the economy.[1]

In August, 14 young female social entrepreneurs from Saudi Arabia traveled to Washington state to attend a series of workshops put on by a business incubator. [1] The women received customized training on how to develop their ideas into viable business models.

One participant in the conference, Reem Dad, is creating a virtual reality tour for people who want to experience Medina, an important religious site for Muslims. Dad said, “Everything is changing now…There is space for females everywhere.” [1]

Currently, Saudi women make up 39 percent of entrepreneurs, which has increased dramatically from a mere four percent just ten years ago. [3] This growth is both surprising and exciting given the importance of women’s involvement in the economy. It is widely accepted that a country experiences faster economic growth when women are working. [4] In addition to economic benefits, children also benefit when their mothers have a stake in the family income. [4]

As Saudi women gain a voice through their entrepreneurial efforts, they will be helping to advance their nation’s development as well as empowering themselves in more ways than one. Women’s voices aren’t the only things that are needed—we also need their ideas.

—By BT


[1] France 24. “Saudi women entrepreneurs grow their ventures at US incubator.” 29 August 2018.

[2] Sharma, Gouri. “The ‘big push’ to Saudi women: ‘We are creating entrepreneurs’.” 5 October 2018.

[3] Abid, Ameera. “’Embrace Risk,’ Saudi Arabia’s new entrepreneurs urged.” 3 May 2018.

[4] UN Women. “Facts and Figures: Economic Empowerment.”

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