Mumtaz Alam | Caravan Daily
WASHINGTON / NEW DELHI — “You are the future of not only Saudi Arabia but of the world. I am impressed by who you are, your story and your journey.” These were the remarks of stalwart Indian-American entrepreneur, civic leader and philanthropist Frank Islam for a group of young Saudi women entrepreneurs touring the United States.
Drawn mostly from Medina, the second most sacred city in Islam, the 15-odd representatives of women-led Saudi start-ups had an hour-long direct interaction with Frank to learn ‘tricks of the trade’ from him – the man whose success saga is a textbook story of rags to riches. His journey from Azamgarh to Aligarh to America to study and then his American journey of entrepreneurship — from $500 in capital and himself as owner to $300 million annual turnover and 3000 employees in just 13 years — has impressed a number of a people in the last three decades. Now was the turn of Medina girls, fresh graduates mostly in teens or early twenties, to learn ABC of entrepreneurship from him.
The interaction was part of the Saudi Arabia-Halcyon Incubator Intensive program hosted by Halcyon last month in Washington. Seven of the most promising early-stage female-founded social enterprises from Saudi Arabia were invited for a two-week immersive program.
This intense, abbreviated but equally robust residency experience was to provide those Saudi ventures with new knowledge skills, resources and connections to grow their business, said an official from Halcyon.
In their invitation to Frank Islam, the organizers said: “Frank, considering your leadership position in the US-Muslim committee, interest and support for social enterprise in the US and India, and, of course, your personal success as an entrepreneur, it would mean to a great deal to have you address the Saudi cohort.”
Telling about his journey and sharing his American experience with the budding entrepreneurs, Frank said: “I came here at the age of 15 from India. I crossed the ocean to realize an American dream. I had nothing with me but a belief in America. I had confidence in my American dream.”
“I got the elements that I needed before I do business — good education, good experience, urge to become an entrepreneur and a team of talented men”, said he outlining the prerequisite for a successful venture.
“With my management, myself and a team of talented men, we were able to go from one-man company to a company of 3000 employees and 300 million US dollar as annual turnover in 13 years, ” he said.
The young Saudi entrepreneurs candidly posed questions at Frank. In response, he offered some mantras of success:
— Failures taught me how never go backward
— Seizing the moment and take a risk.
— What people see as challenge, entrepreneurs take as opportunity
— Create niche difference compared to competitors
— Be the best you can be
— Exploit your fullest potential
Concluding his valuable pieces of advice, Frank asked the yongsters: “Make your own journey like Bill Gates, Steven Jobs or Frank Islam did their own. Stay true to yourself. Surround yourself with talented people who share your vision and values.”
“Of all, what has been the most important manta for me is this. THINK SMALL TO WIN BIG,” he said and as a parting gift he gave this: “When you become successful, help other people to succeed.”
India-born Frank Islam saw hope and a bright dream in the eyes of the Medina girls. He could not hold back his feeling.
“You are the future of Saudi Arabia. You are the future of the world. If you succeed, our efforts will succeed, Saudi Arabia will succeed and the world will succeed. You are the hope of tomorrow and I hope tomorrow will bring better days for all the world,” said Frank Islam.
At the end, Frank and his wife Debbie who was with him during the program invited the Saudi group to their multi-million dollars landmark ‘Norton Manor’ at the outskirts of Washington. The promising entrepreneurs from Saudi female-founded business entities included: Asmaa AbdelMohsen, Zainab Hawsa, Nadaa Muhammad Samman, Ebtehal Nayef AlMohammadi, Heba Zahid, Bushra Alghamdi, Sara Jaber, Aliyaa Zaidan.