KUWAIT: She launched her business from home online, taking her products all over Kuwait to farmers and popup markets, making gourmet food items that are natural from organic and local sources. Patty Marotte, owner of Infusions, aims to help providers and farmers to rise with her. After a year and a half, Infusions is now a fully-functioning kitchen away from her house.
But Marrotte does not have a background in business. She has been in Kuwait for over 16 years, and making connections and forming a solid network to help her with the project was not easy. She needed help.
Starting a small business is a big mystery in Kuwait for both Kuwaitis and non-Kuwaitis. Many people are interested in self-employment and the establishment of projects, notwithstanding that a majority of them have not studied business administration or belong to a family of merchants. So what makes entrepreneurship a trending topic in Kuwait?
In the last decade, Kuwait has witnessed a boom in the domain of entrepreneurship. The reasons may be exposure to international experiences, the sense of regional competition and the desire to keep up with successful projects in Gulf countries such as Qatar and the UAE.
Equally, it has become an urgent need to have a variety of industrial sources of income, as talents that emerged in areas such as art, cooking, agriculture and crafts want to storm the market with new ideas to revive the Kuwaiti economy. In order to accomplish this, entrepreneurs must have places to learn, exchange experiences and network, which in turn opens opportunities.
Place to connect
The first to bring this concept to Kuwait is Sirdab Lab. “We noticed that there is not much of an entrepreneur community that is connected and learning from each other. We have made the first attempt with a space where people will meet and connect. We wanted people from various experiences to be able to develop their business and feel comfortable in a safe environment where they can ask as many questions as they like and not feel intimidated.
Our mission is to create a place where consistent and comprehensive support for entrepreneurs is available,” said co-founder Haider Almosawi. Sirdab Lab helps tech entrepreneurs improve the tech quality of their applications and provides workshops as well as mentorships for startups.
The entrepreneurial evolution has created a need in the market where some still choose not to depend on government support, or simply, may need a little capital to start their projects. From here, another trend that is entirely new to the society in Kuwait has bloomed – crowdfunding through Jaribha.com.
The spirit, belief and philosophy behind this concept is the fact that there is a growing number of people in the GCC and MENA regions that are extremely creative, forward thinking, driven and entrepreneurial. However, most of these people shy away from presenting or taking a chance with their projects because of the lack of funding and acceptance of the idea in the region or area they are marketing in.
That is where Jaribha comes in, by supporting the ideas of these creative individuals and turning their ideas into funded projects. “This is the reason why my partner and I have decided to bring the crowdfunding idea to Kuwait,” said co-founder Saleh Al-Tunaib. They are working closely with a lot of organizations like the Sabah Al-Ahmad Center For Giftedness and Creativity (SACGC), LOYAC, Qout Market, Sirdab Lab and others.
There are other communities in Kuwait such as YourAOK network that aims to enhance the creative industry, Lambah for artists and designers and Brilliant Lab, a startup accelerator. Despite an increase in these hubs, the entrepreneur community has not matured yet. There are many obstacles to face, including laws that are not clear to all startup business owners, who find themselves forced to waste their money to satisfy these laws. Also, some of them resort to renting fake offices to get a license. And of course, there is the slow process of legitimating the business.
Yet, Mosawi of Sirdab Lab believes that Kuwait is heading in the right direction and the government is trying to facilitate procedures for entrepreneurs. Meanwhile, Jaribha’s Tunaib is hoping to get more attention from organizations like SACGC to assist them in supporting the entrepreneurial community.
Infusion’s Marotte could not have made it to the next stage of her business without help from Sirdab Lab, whom she gives credit for introducing her to the founders of Jaribha.com. With collaboration from Sirdab and Jaribha, Infusion managed to gather the amount of capital that covered the cost of buying the equipment needed for her project, and become the first successful crowdfunded business story in Kuwait.
By Athoob A Alshuaibi