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Interviews Women Entrepreneurs

To commemorate the celebrations of International Women’s Day, My Startup World spoke with Selina Bieber, Commercial Strategy Senior Director, International Markets of GoDaddy about women’s entrepreneurship in the region and how Godaddy is supporting women entrepreneurs in the Middle East.

How would you describe the startup landscape in the Middle East and how do you see women’s representation in this growing eco-system?
The startup eco-system in the MENA region has been developing steadily in recent years. With the pandemic as a catalyst, a lot of people embraced hybrid work and as well as made a conscious choice to build something of their own or focus on their side micro- and nano-businesses. Digital has been a key enabler of this shift and the UAE stands out in how it has embraced the power of digital. According to a Bayt-YouGov survey released in late 2022, 63% of respondents would like to pursue their own venture. Against this backdrop, the UAE in particular has been fostering the eco-system through excellent connectivity, an array of social-cum-office spaces and visa and regulatory developments, even launching a 12-month virtual working programme for business owners who want to relocate. The culmination of these efforts that ranked the UAE as the number one country for entrepreneurs in 2022.

The UAE also scored high in indicators such as the availability of good opportunities to start a business, the availability of skills, knowledge and experience to start a business, confidence in the ability to meet the challenges posed by Covid-19, plans to use digital technology to develop business and the ability of entrepreneurship projects in the country to generate new jobs.

In terms of female representation, there has been an increased focus on enablement across all the core enablers of entrepreneurialism: investment, solution development, mentoring and guidance, community building and more. However, the challenges faced in MENA are shared challenges across the globe. A Boston Consulting Group study highlights that if there was equal participation between female and male entrepreneurs, global GDP could rise by 3-6%, translating into $2.5-5 trillion. Today, the average share of women-owned small and medium enterprises (SMEs) is only 14 percent, and despite a 73% literacy rate among adult women, women have the lowest rates of Total Entrepreneurial Activity (TEA).

These statistics show that there is still a lot of work to do for women’s entrepreneurial participation in the SME world to evolve. Education, skills, financing, industry resources, networking and peer support, among other factors, all play a role in this dynamic.

Access to funding for women entrepreneurs is an important issue in this equation. Addressing the unmet financial needs of women-led businesses and providing adequate funding represents a tremendous opportunity for businesses and economies.

How do you find the state of women entrepreneurship in the region?
As mentioned above, further representation and championing of women entrepreneurs is needed – in the region and globally. In this golden age of globalization, digitalization and start-up booms, we are seeing digital emerge as a key path to participation. Women are coming from a different starting point, some take time out after being mothers, may have a different educational background, a weaker financial position or have less people to champion them due to underrepresentation in their field.

This is where we focus our support. Digital offers an easy entry point to create, develop and grow their business in an affordable and manageable way. GoDaddy empowers SMEs as they join the digital transformation move globally through knowledge-sharing and providing the tools and resources to help their business grow online.

What steps does the industry need to take to promote women’s entrepreneurship?
For entrepreneurs and small business-owners to digitize their business, and sell online, it is important that they have access to the necessary tools, solutions and resources to help them along their entrepreneurial journey. From website creation, e-commerce stores and sales channels to digital marketing tools and social media support, as well as training and workshops, there are several elements to help support their businesses grow online and succeed.

As a woman and a mother in the business for several years, I’ve faced various challenges and found numerous forms of support throughout my career. Being GoDaddy’s Commercial Strategy Senior Director of International Markets requires me to wear many hats across business operations, with my team spread across several time zones, against this backdrop maintaining a work-life balance can be easier said than done. In this regard, I’m privileged to work for an organisation that provides me with the autonomy and collaborative environment to manage that balance. Throughout my career at GoDaddy,

I’ve had the opportunity to engage with entrepreneurs from all over the world and understand some of the core challenges they are facing and why they chose this path of entrepreneurialism.

What kind of programs are you running for women entrepreneurs?
Our global mission is centred on entrepreneurs: We’re on a mission to empower our worldwide community of 20+ million customers — and entrepreneurs everywhere — by giving them all the help and tools they need to grow online.

As seen in our GoDaddy 2022 MENA survey results, digital is seen as a core pathway for business growth. From customer acquisition to retention, to product or service promotion and functioning as a sales channel for ecommerce, online tools and solutions present an opportunity for entrepreneurs. We support them on this journey by developing the tools and solutions needed for entrepreneurs to name their idea, create a compelling brand and a great looking website, attract customers with digital and social marketing, and manage their work.

In addition to this, we have specific initiatives aimed at promoting diversity and equal opportunity for entrepreneurs across the globe. For example, Empower by GoDaddy is GoDaddy’s global social impact program, equipping entrepreneurs of all backgrounds with training, tools and peer networks to accelerate their journeys. Entrepreneurs engage in customized learning experiences, work 1-1 with GoDaddy volunteer coaches and local mentors, and gain access to wrap-around services, in-kind products and networks boosting their small businesses’ success.

In MENA we have been able to collaborate with key industry stakeholders to support entrepreneurs and generate more awareness around the benefits of having women in technology related roles and providing guidance on setting up an online presence.

While our partnership with Rowad 2030 in Egypt is the most recent example of our regional efforts, we previously collaborated with ‘Start Up Without Borders’ to educate and train 500 entrepreneurs across MENA on how to run an effective online business and hosted female middle school students as interns as part of the GIZ ProGirls program to offer an opportunity to learn at GoDaddy and introduce them to the field and sectors of STEM. And by giving them the opportunities to share experiences with us and allowing them to take this experience gained while interning with GoDaddy into account as they decide on their future professional career path.

Furthermore, GoDaddy collaborated with Arab Fashion Council where we supported aspiring fashion designers to take their fashion business online. We ran a campaign in 2021 that showcased talented makers from the region.

What kind of support do you offer to women entrepreneurs and how do you ensure their success?
We at GoDaddy are devoted to supporting entrepreneurs by maximising their capabilities, allowing them to grasp their potential both internally among its colleagues and externally among its customers.
We have become globally recognized as one of the best companies for career growth, and are a champion for women in technology through our unique approach of empowering women that has been praised in business schools and companies. Additionally, GoDaddy initiated women-oriented initiatives such as the GoDaddy Women in Technology networking group.

In addition, it has become more important than ever to ensure that we are supporting anyone and everyone in their efforts to get online. Entrepreneurs, small businesses, people with a side hustle and people seeking to connect, our focus was making digital an opportunity for all.

As a result, our services educate entrepreneurs on how to create an effective and attractive website, allowing them to not only cut back on their financial expenses, but excel in their respected fields.
We provide online tools and guidance to help establish a strong online presence, in addition to providing a platform to develop an ideal business website and sell products and services online.

Also recognizing the need to cater for our Arabic speaking audience, we expanded our Do-It-Yourself (DIY) website solutions offering in MENA to include an Arabic Website Builder and Arabic E-Store solution. These integrated tools give our customers the ability to build and publish their websites in their own language, creating a more user-friendly experience both for them and their customers. We also offer affordable hosting plans to help ensure businesses are online fast and reliable with 99.9% uptime guaranteed.

Additionally, GoDaddy Professional Email tool helps start-ups project a presentable and polished image when engaging with their customers and partners. GoDaddy Digital Marketing Suite helps entrepreneurs and small business owners expand their online businesses with an SEO-friendly website and drive business growth.

All of GoDaddy’s products and solutions are supported by expert guidance from our Customer Care representatives, via phone and chat options, to help small business owners along their online journey.
At GoDaddy, we also have an overall understanding of how entrepreneurs use our products through feedback loops and this allows us to understand the utility of the products for entrepreneur customers everywhere and that helps us to develop the right products and tools they need to help them succeed.

What are some mistakes that women entrepreneurs should avoid?
I don’t like to focus on ‘mistakes women entrepreneurs should avoid’ as all entrepreneurs make mistakes.

What women do need to do more of is marketing themselves. I watched a TED Talk recently that focused on knowing your worth and asking for it – as women we tend to lean into modesty, speaking as a collective rather than championing ourselves and our peers. So my message here is – know your worth!

What message would you like to pass on to the woman who wishes to become an entrepreneur?
After years of experience in the business field, I managed to come up with certain guidelines that I think would be of benefit to entrepreneurs.

  • First of all, don’t be afraid and take the leap!
  • Seek advice from the experts in your field. Build your network and foster it, know who will mentor you, champion you, offer hands on support etc. This will be your village.
  • Do your due diligence – Research and plan. Understand your milestones and generate KPIs for yourself and monitor how you will get there. Having a plan and a roadmap will make starting much easier.
  • Also lean into data. Numbers tell a story, especially when it comes to online properties. Unlock the power of that to tell you what you are doing right or wrong and where you can improve and how your customers are engaging with you.
  • Find your brand voice. In a world inundated with content, your customers want to connect with authentic and real value. Be yourself, your brand self.

In the end, it will prove to be the most satisfying decision and subsequent journey of your life.

How does GoDaddy plans to celebrate International Women’s Day in the Middle East and how can women entrepreneurs from the Middle East region be part of these celebrations with GoDaddy this year?
Listening, engaging and storytelling. March is a delightful month because we share and hear more stories, engage with female entrepreneurs or communities that champion these women-led businesses. As we listen and engage, we are in the privileged position to be able to share and amplify the stories of these women through blog posts, social and media activity and offer guidance on how to successfully run a small business and hopefully inspire other women to follow their lead.

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