My work mainly revolves around millennials. They are my friends, and that's the group I encounter the most when I'm moving around the Middle East. They are everywhere: if you don't believe me, just go to any popular place, or go to a shopping mall, and see for yourself which is the dominant age group there.
It’s no surprise that millennials make up the majority of the region’s consumer base, according to the World Economic Forum.
My latest venture, Sekka, targets Khaleeji millennials and the youth, and our research targets these two age groups. During a recent study, I came across a report by HSBC Private Bank which suggested that the Middle East has the highest number of millennial entrepreneurs in the world. I was proud of the report's findings that 63 per cent of the business owners in the Middle East were under the age of 35.
Look at the famous Find Salt restaurant chain, or the founders behind Abu Dhabi’s leading pop-up exhibitions: Mirbad, Festember, and The Station – all of them are under the age of 35.
The HSBC report also suggested that the youngest average age of entrepreneurs in the Middle East is 26.
I've also been working closely with Sheraa – a government entrepreneurship hub in Sharjah – where the vibe is positive and you can actually feel the energy of youth as soon as you walk into the centre. Almost everyone you come across at the Sharjah hub – whether for work, or brainstorming, or attending the workshops, or an event, is young. The energy is contagious.
That’s all great news, but as young people we are also in a hurry. We are accustomed to instant information, fast deliveries, and speedy results. If we want something, there are many vendors competing to get it to us faster than the other, and at our convenience. Many retailers work on weekends, deliver for free, and provide numerous payment options including “cash on delivery”.
But what’s not so great is that we sometimes take this kind of mindset with us when we’re building our businesses. I often find myself in such situations. If something is delayed for a day or two, I begin to worry and think of the worse, when in fact, not realising that is the normal pace of things. Same thing happens if an email response or a review is delayed.
The same goes for when we are expecting business results. We want to see growth and expansion now. And if it’s delayed, we worry and think that we’ve failed. A colleague of mine built a beautiful online platform for artists in the region. She had the groundwork done properly, but when she didn’t see thousands of dollars streaming in after only couple of months down the line, she considered shutting her business. It literally took us days, countless evidence in success stories packed for her to read, and a lot of convincing so that she’d change her mind. Thankfully, she did.
I find myself in a similar position sometimes but I remind myself that beautiful things take time to grow. And what’s important is persistence and not slow ing down even if things take their own sweet time. So here’s what you can do if you find yourself in a similar situation:
I’m serious, this is the first thing you’ve got to do. If you find yourself stressed in an office, take the rest of the day off, and do something that relaxes you, be it a day at a spa, or going for a hike. Just get out of there. What works for me is going for a walk or seeing some friends, and then sleeping on the matter. About 90 per cent of the time, I would wake up feeling much better, and not so stressed out.
Lean on people
We don’t think clearly when we’re in the midst of a stressful situation and that’s why you have colleagues, friends, team members and mentors. Utilise your relationships. Talking to someone who’s also running a business helps a lot. Seek advice, and this is why it’s absolutely crucial to have a mentor, especially, in the first year of managing a business.
Enjoy the process
Last but not least, enjoy the process in all of its phases. I learnt the toughest and most important lessons in my business through my darkest times, and I’m sure you will too. As cheesy as this may sound, look for the silver lining.
Manar Al Hinai is an award-winning Emirati writer who manages her branding and marketing consultancy in Abu Dhabi