So this is is brief if somewhat belated recap of the Entrepreneur’s Conclave, which happened last week right after Adam and I returned from our trip. (Note: I’m not including what I wrote about that trip here, but yeah, it was truly unbelievable.)
In the morning session of the event, our senior and junior entrepreneurs (nine of each in the final count, as I few dropped out dramatically at the last minute) gathered at the Oman Sail building at the marina of Muscat’s luxury beach villa complex, the Wave. After everyone had a good deal of breakfast, cigarettes, and intense pictures taken with the event set-up, we broke up into mixed teams, each including both juniors and seniors. We provided them with laptops and a business case study, and gave them an hour to solve it. During this time I got to go around to each group, answering questions and generally observing their progress and collaboration. This was really fascinating for me, because each group had a very distinct approach to dividing the labor, discussing points of contention, resolving disputes, thinking outside of the box, and approaching the questions. Seeing how so many different, talented business-people worked in a pressurized setting like that, and how their strengths and weaknesses operated in combination, was a huge privilege for me as an aspiring entrepreneur myself.
After the case study was the regatta – naturally I copped a ride on one of the Farr 30 boats with some of the businesspeople that I really admired/got along with, namely Huda Al Lawati (co-owner of Ice Cream Mama and ProShots, with her husband Rami), Sadiq al Mehdi (owner of Slider Station and B&F, two excellent burger places), Ashraf Al-Mazrooe (owner of arguably the best shisha spot in Muscat, Moorish Café) and Mohammed Tamami (owner of Tamami Networks, a management consulting firm). The captain of our boat was none other than Mohsin Al Busaidi, the first Arab to sail around the world and a bit of an Omani celebrity. Suffice it to say, I was the weak point of the crew. Nevertheless, the whole exercise was conducted in Arabic (so rare haha), so that was cool for me; I learned the non-Fusha words for simple things like “pull” “tight” “let it out” “sail” etc.
Upon our return, we enjoyed a delicious lunch catered by Kargeen and announced the three winners from among the junior entrepreneurs after synthesizing the reviews given by the seniors. The winners were 1) Rashid Al Barwani, owner of RevGx, a martial arts and lifestyle fitness center, 2) Abdullah Al Barashdi, owner of Bab Al Rayan Catering Company, and 3) Zuwaina Al Badaa’i, owner of Star of the Sea, an Omani tourism company that specializes in taking guests on sea adventures in a traditional Omani dhow.
That night, everyone returned to OmanSail for the gala dinner – as well as nearly 60 other VIPs, businesspeople and potential investors that I had invited from the US Embassy, previous contacts, friends etc. My friend Fahad Al Raisi, a retired and very successful Omani businessman (who also runs the Oman Society for Deaf-Mute Children), attended, and that in particular meant a lot to me. The three winning entrepreneurs each gave speeches at the dinner – all in English – and certainly hit very different notes. Abdullah began by quoting Martin Luther King, from the “United States of Kingdom” and overall delivered a thrilling speech about his dreams to inspire and own a Lamborghini, not skimping on any rhetorical flourish whatsoever. Zuwaina, who admits that she doesn’t love public speaking, nevertheless spoke movingly about how she and her husband had rescued and refurbished this old (HUGE) dhow boat, and sailed it hundreds of miles along the coast from Sur to Muscat in order to start their company. Her speech also included a lovely slideshow to give the audience some idea of what the dhow experience is really like. Rashid – who ultimately won the competition – spoke passionately about his family-friendly gym, it’s potential to reduce the high rates of diabetes in Oman and also to change the cultural attitudes towards exercise and physical activity.
Overall, the night was a huge success and lots of fun for all involved. The two hostesses (greeting the guests) were also friends of mine from modeling – Salacia and Sonya – so I got to hang out with them whenever I needed to step out.
An article about Rashid and the competition’s conclusion: http://www.theweek.co.om/disCon.aspx?Cval=7779