By Andrea Celeste – Oct 26,2017 – JORDAN TIMES
AMMAN — Jordanian entrepreneur Penelope Shihab has been listed as one of 100 powerful and influential Arabs around the world by Arabian Business magazine.
She gives a lot of credit to her country and people, including bedouins whose indigenous ways have given her ideas that evolved into a line of biotech productions that, she says, are making a good success in Britain, where she has settled with her business.
She believes that Jordan has a lot to offer to entrepreneurs. “I cannot say that I could find all the facilities in the country. Here in Jordan, we do have very good education; good schools, and good universities, all of which are good resources,” she said during an interview with The Jordan Times.
To her, the country is a good place to start entrepreneurial activities because the Kingdom “is good for research and development, we have talented people and skilled professionals that allow us to be the kitchenette for start-up projects in the region.”
In 2015, Amman was rated the second best city in the world for start-ups. “Trying to fill its natural resources gap with human capital, the government has invested in infrastructure, education and also reformed regulations, meaning Jordan is now one of the easiest and cheapest regions to register a business,” a report has said.
In addition, according to Shihab, Jordan’s openness to others and good reputation as a stable country makes its easier for entrepreneurs to obtain visas to countries like the US, where they can have access to face-to-face meetings with high-level professionals that operate globally.
The main challenge, however, is the lack of adequate governmental support. “The government does not offer financial support or fund start-ups. The only financial resource available is through bank loans, which, in turn, do not offer much capacity for growth,” she noted.
The businesswoman had to relocate for two reasons: Jordan being a small market and taxation.
“In order to commercialise my product and be able to sell on the global market, I needed to attract more investment to the company on an international level. Another driver for expansion and subsequently moving outside of Jordan was taxation; we do not have tax relief for entrepreneurs in Jordan that is why most entrepreneurs leave to the UAE, the US and Europe to reduce their costs,” she said.
For her, expanding her company was not easy “but with the help of my network of professionals in Europe, namely in the UK, since I studied there, I received all the help I needed to understand the system, and my transfer to England was facilitated accordingly.”
The relocation, however, is a “double-edged sword,” she said, noting that “the movement of professionals and talented people outside of the country affects it negatively, while at the same time, as those professionals are able to earn more money outside of Jordan, they will be able to send money back to their families who are still living in the country and are still in good connection. So at the end of the day, these professionals and talented people stay in contact with the country in a way or another”.
Being abroad, the businesswoman misses certain things in her home country. She says Jordanian women, unlike their peers in the West, are privileged to have supportive families.
“Women in Jordan do not realise how lucky we are! We have our families’ continuous support in getting good education and to secure good living conditions. While in the Western world, families tend to be less supportive. We should take advantage of this and use it to grow.
“In my opinion, women in Jordan are very strong, very determined, and very persistent! I encourage every Jordanian woman to find her passion and to start her own thing; do not stand in queue waiting for job opportunities or the government.”