Advancing Women Entrepreneurs: U.S. State Department Delegation
Sahar Dwaikat, CEO of FlyerAd for Graphic Design and former participant in TYO's WISE and FWEN projects, recently returned from her third trip to the United States this year. Selected to join the “Advancing Women Entrepreneurs and Economic Leaders” delegation sponsored by the U.S. Department of State, the trip brought businesswomen to meet with their American counterparts. Over three weeks, Sahar visited 5 cities and spent time with various CEOs, founders of startups, and other successful women to gain best practices for her business. Below, she shares some of the highlights from her trip, and how it has helped her grow as a Palestinian entrepreneur.
What was the purpose of your trip?
There were 3 main purposes of the trip- to showcase women’s entrepreneurial advancement, illustrate best practices in business, and demonstrate the very important role women play in economic development.
To showcase women’s entrepreneurship in the U.S., we met with females who started their own businesses in various industries, like marketing, incubation centers for startups, and publishing. One of the most exciting speakers was Lesley Jane Seymour, Editor-in-Chief of More Magazine, which is a very successful publication for older women in the US. She talked about challenges faced in her entrepreneurial process, and how she has overcome them. The trip also talked about best practices in businesses- and we met with private companies like Big Frame, which is a Youtube advertising company run by a young woman who was around my age, and Goodwill Industries, where we discussed to us the ways companies can benefit their communities for good. To learn more about women’s critical role in development, we visited the Small Business Administration in Washington, DC and also met with the National Association for Women Business Owners, who provided us with interesting facts about women’s economic empowerment. I was especially impressed that at least 5.5 million new jobs will be created by women small business owners in America by 2018, and hope to one day see this sort of progress in Palestine. To show how women's empowerment is so valuable in communities, we also visited universities- and my favorite was our time at Spellman College in Atlanta, where we spoke with professors solely about women's issues in Palestine, and how we can work together for more gender equity.
Where did you go?
Over my three weeks in the U.S., we visited 5 states: Washington, DC; New York, NY; Ohio; Atlanta, Georgia; and Los Angeles, California. I had traveled to DC and New York before, but this was my first time in other parts of the country- and I loved California! The majority of our meetings were held in Washington, DC- and when we traveled throughout other cities, we looked at how small businesses were connected throughout America. I appreciated seeing the support systems that the U.S. offers entrepreneurs, like advocacy for their rights and special emphasis on women's participation.
What was the most inspiring moment?
All of the meetings were incredible- but the most valuable for me was my time with SCORE, which is an entrepreneurial incubation center in Washington, DC. As I walked around their office and saw the many entrepreneurs at work on their projects, I was so inspired by the energy- and the way others were encouraging one another. This motivated me, as I saw how many people just like me are working hard to run their businesses around the world. In the future, I hope I can bring a center like this to Palestine so entrepreneurship can grow here!
How did this help you as a female entrepreneur?
Through my 3 weeks, I gained new skills and further understood concepts like leadership, the importance of mentoring, and strengthening my network with other women leaders. I learned that no woman can do this alone- we, as entrepreneurs, need other women to support us and our businesses, and we need to support our colleagues. I also learned to listen to others, regardless of their age, level of experience, or where they're from- because everyone has some useful advice or information for me to gain from them. Most importantly, I realized that anyone can do anything if she believes in herself and works hard.
As Palestinian women, we face many obstacles for success- but we still need to work hard to ensure that we are competent, ambitious, and well-educated. Through this trip, it became clear to me that we deserve the same opportunities as any other women- my challenges have made me a stronger woman, and I hope the same for others from my country.
Cayce Pack is the Women's Empowerment Program Coordinator at Tomorrow's Youth Organization. Above, she interviews Sahar Dwaikat about her latest travels to America as part of a female entrepreneurship delegation.