Founders are constantly endeavoring to keep their businesses and team members thriving, persevering through economic turmoil, global pandemics and any other factor that might be slowing down the business and hindering its growth.
In an effort to shed light on Lebanese women-owned businesses in Lebanon and North America and the challenges of navigating uncertain times, LebNet WiT organized an online holiday networking session titled ‘Lebanese Women Owned Businesses: Roadmap for Growth’. The December 15th event featured a short introduction by Christiane El Kareh on the Kfarshima Community, followed by a 30-minute panel and breakout sessions.
“The platform was created two years ago after I moved to Canada. I wanted to help women promote their small businesses in Lebanese village Kfarshima. We encourage people to buy locally, and in return we help the sellers with marketing and branding and connect them with event organizers and influencers,” said Christiane who encouraged attendees to gift their loved ones in Lebanon products made in Lebanon by Lebanese women. Participants who donated to the event will also receive a set of 5 made in Kfarshima coasters as a thank you for their donation.
Starting Up and Surviving
The 30-minute panel was an inspiring discussion between three women leaders - Nisreen Deeb, Executive Director at Lebanese League for Women in Business (LLWB); Audrey Nakad, Co-Founder at Ostaz, a private online tutoring platform; and Marianne Zakhour, Co-Founder and Co-CEO at Orderbot, an order management platform for online ordering. - who built amazing businesses and shared their daily struggles. It was moderated by Karine Sarkissian, WiT Community Co-lead and Networking and Startup Program Lead and Founding Partner at Tamar Capital.
While the common goal between all three businesses was to empower individuals one way or another, either through learning or teaching (Ostaz), selling online (Orderbot) or becoming tech leaders (LLWB), each one of these founders had a different challenge.
For Audrey, her biggest obstacle was funding. “We are going through a difficult time right now and need funding,” she stated. Her online tutoring platform, which was acquired in May 2021 by Inspired Education Group, a global group of premium schools, features 60,000 learners and 1,000 background checked teachers and has conducted around 90,000 tutoring sessions on the platform, according to Audrey. Despite the success, talent retention remains another challenge the co-founder is facing. “We as a management team act as therapists to make sure our team is motivated. We try to keep them shielded from reality and we’re trying our best to retain them and attract new talent.”
Marianne, who co-founded Orderbot to help others promote and sell their products online, talked about the constant need to look for the next new idea in order to stay relevant. “There’s never been a time where metrics and delivery times were more important,” she said. “My dream is to expand to allow people in less fortunate countries to deliver products and grow their customer base.”
Nisreen touched upon the reality of women in tech fields in Lebanon, how they need others to help them believe in their abilities. She was elected in 2013 as one of the tech leaders in Lebanon through the Women Tech Founders program by the US Department of State. Additionally, she launched several projects and initiatives to empower women to pursue careers in tech and initiated Girls Got IT with four other founders. With LLWB, she is not only helping tech students, but also women founded projects and college dropouts.
“LLWB is a non-profit. We don’t do business, we do impact. Our biggest challenge is to keep our mission alive by convincing the private sectors, NGOs, local donors and entities to join efforts despite the situation in Lebanon. Another challenge is to keep the organization sustainable by working through issues like employees’ mental health and motivation,” she added.
The event ended with breakout sessions where the panelists went into direct conversations with participants to discuss their issues and help them resolve it.
Those interested in watching the entire panel can visit this link.
“Thank you so much for all these amazing discussions. LebNet has a lot of resources such as our internship programs and the Women in Tech initiatives that we are running so be in touch with us so we can support you,” concluded Karine.