KUWAIT: The second and final day of the fifth annual Youth Empowerment Symposium (Tmkeen) yesterday witnessed a host of activities to provide opportunities for Kuwaiti youth to gain valuable insights about entrepreneurship from industry leaders, academics and experts. As a national youth initiative, Tmkeen holds this annual conference with the goal of spreading awareness, knowledge and inspiration to aspiring entrepreneurs in addition to a myriad of other events throughout the year.
The activities on the second day of the conference started with the final judging committee for the KIPCO Tmkeen Award. This was followed by a panel discussion on 'SME's Journey to Global Success', which featured Hamad Al-Sayer, Managing Director of Al-Sayer Retail Est, Noor Al-Qatami, Co-founder & CEO of Saveco, Abdulmohsen Al-Babtain, CEO of SPARK Athletic Center, and Talal Al-Ajeel, Managing Partner of Reyada.
"We have successful businesses all over Kuwait. But young Kuwaitis are afraid of taking risks with new ideas, and that's why we see copy-paste projects," said Sayer. He added that the reason for seeing a lot of cafe, restaurant and cupcake businesses is because the public sector isn't supporting small businesses and entrepreneurs.
For Babtain, the problem with young people is that they are not creative. "A successful person is one who creates something from nothing," he said. He noted that everyone must use his hobby and turn it into a business to be motivated, adding that setting up a business requires entrepreneurs to follow up every single detail.
Qatami gave three pieces of advice to young Kuwaitis. "A lot of people accept jobs only because of high salaries, and that's why they hate them. You have to love what you do," she explained. She added that young people should not give up on their dreams, but keep up the hard work. Finally, she said everyone who has a business should think about giving back to the society. "The problem is that we steal projects. We are not searching for society's needs," Ajeel said, adding that the private sector must help young people to turn their ideas into action.
Tmkeen is a national initiative that is delivered by Kuwaiti youth to the youth in Kuwait. It has been holding this annual youth symposium, as well as separate events during the year, to educate, inform and inspire. It also works to assist youth business leaders by providing a training and development leadership program.
During the opening speech on Monday, Ali Al-Ebrahim, President of Tmkeen, said that the conference is held under the patronage of HH the Amir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, noting that the Amir is always supportive of young people and supports them to achieve their ambitions. He added that small enterprises play an important role in the economic development of countries. "We aim to inspire and encourage small and medium Kuwaiti projects by giving them a chance to meet famous personalities who began small, but later launched prominent brands and became founding partners of major companies," Ebrahim said.
At the inaugural seminar, Bader Al-Kharafi, Vice Chairman of Zain Group, and Corey Owens, Head of Public Policy at WeWork, spoke about innovation and the future of technology, moderated by Hassan Al-Mosawi. Kharafi said Zain has continually invested in new technologies to stay ahead of the competition. "If we ask people what they want, they will say the latest car and the latest phone - the answer will always be related to the newest technologies," he said.
Kharafi added that companies must have a corporate and creative role to encourage Kuwaiti youth. He noted that Kuwait has talented young people whose ideas should be taken seriously. He explained that education is important to shape the minds of the youth. "The new generation is characterized by constant movement and ambition without borders. The ideas of young Kuwaitis should be implemented and all the difficulties and challenges should be faced. There are a lot of personalities who started from scratch, and then proceeded to establish leading institutions," he added.
Owens noted that the person responsible for the policy of a company should look at the company from a distance to see his moves the way they should be done. "I believe that a successful person is one who disagrees with his manager to take the company towards success. After my experience at big companies, I think that motivation and desire are key, in addition to the team, which encourages you to achieve," he said. Owens advised young people to surround themselves with people who believe in them, encourage them and trust that they will show their best towards any work they do.
Along with Owens, the former head of public policy at Uber and Facebook, Tmkeen hosted two other successful startup entrepreneurs - Jeremy Liew, a Partner at Lightspeed Venture Partners and a key investor in Snapchat, and Jennifer Boulanger, Head of Global Recruitment at Booking.com.
By Faten Omar