Your most precious time of the week has finally arrived. You’re sewing, baking your signature blueberry muffins, or creating colorful digital visuals on your Photoshop application.
Is it already 10:00 pm?
You didn’t feel time ticking away, so immersed were you, between needle and thread or dough and baking sheet. You found yourself flowing like a soap bubble in its graceful ascent—light and unencumbered. It’s your unique form of meditation— the perfect balance between focus, detachment, and enjoyment.
You love it so much you wish you could do this for a living. Sadly, for a variety of reasons, it remains a hobby. You steal time out once every week or two, praying that no annoying phone call or emergency will encroach on your peace or schedule.
Where did the years go?
Got married and found yourself elbow-deep in diapers and formula,
Landed a job and started to appreciate that you don’t have to panic mid-month over whether you’ll be able to pay all your bills.
Or was it at your 2nd cousin’s wedding where your brother’s neighbor gave what, in his view, is sterling advice: “I don’t think the neighborhood needs another bakery? Everyone loves Abu Hassan’s cakes”?
You thought: “Not everything needs to be wrapped up in the glitter of enjoyment; there’s value in just putting your nose to the grindstone.” Or “Happiness is overrated.”
And if that self-talk fails, you can always resort to the old reliable, irrefutable: “What makes you think you’re so special?”
Well, almost irrefutable…
Battling the Odds
Here you are today; you finally settled on a brand name after about forty iterations. You fumbled through a logo design with the help of design applications – or perhaps you’re very fortunate like me, and your best friend is a designer. You started your Instagram page and passed your business card to family members and co-workers, and viola… you’re open for business.
It’s been quite the rollercoaster ride, hasn’t it? The number of rejections and negative feedback you encountered made you consider never changing out of your PJs ever again. Although you’ve always understood that success is non-linear, sometimes you wonder if you have the stomach and the stick-to-itiveness to see it through amidst comments like: “Not everyone trusts local products” or “Your product is priced too high.” But there’s also the occasional happy dance – when no one is looking.
A Small Business in a Big World
As someone who passionately supports small and local businesses through my Instagram Page, I understand the struggles of small business owners. Running a small business in a highly saturated local market universe can be very competitive. A business owner needs to understand things many people won’t even try to learn, from budgeting, marketing, and administration to communications, and, unfortunately, not everyone can afford the know-how to run a successful small business. To many, it may even turn into a burden.
I once met with a small business owner who embroidered pillows, coasters, bags, and such items. She learned the art of embroidery, or what we call in the Arab world tatreez, from her Palestinian mother and grandmother.
At first, her business picked up. She was familiar with using social media and showcasing her unique products online, but this small business took her away from her family. She had 3 children under 10, another was on the way, and she already had a full-time job as a teacher. Her main struggle was that her small business was time-consuming, as embroidered pieces took a long time to complete.
At first, she would sit late at night finishing orders after putting her kids to sleep. Her husband was a great supporter and helped her with housework, but at one point, she no longer felt this bursting passion inside as when she first started this business.
When her fourth baby was born, she stopped her small embroidering business. She wasn’t upset that it didn’t work out; on the contrary, it was a channel for meeting customers who turned into friends. She’s focusing on her family, home, and work for now, but she plans to pick up where she left off soon.
Empowering Small Businesses: Driving Local and Global Impact
We live in a world conditioned to trust big-name brands. Changing that perception takes time and a change of culture. But some love small businesses for their originality, the little details, the craftsmanship, and the fact that supporting a small business also supports the local economy!
According to the World Bank, formal SMEs constitute 90% of businesses globally and over 50% of employment.
This impact isn’t just on a macro level. The ILO SCORE Programme survey indicates that micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) represent more than 70% of global employment and contribute 50% of GDP. In emerging economies, it is estimated that formal SMEs contribute up to 40% of national income (GDP) and are responsible for creating 7 out of 10 jobs.
The IMF’s report, ‘Small and Medium Enterprises in the Pandemic: Impact, Responses, and the Role of Development Finance’ highlights that in lower-income economies, where SMEs are the largest source of employment and delivery of goods and services, disruptions have significant social and welfare implications for the poor and rural populations.
Starting your own small business is not just a path to personal fulfilment—it’s also a critical component of global economic health. As a small business owner, you’re not just chasing your dream but also making a substantial contribution to the economy and your community.
Stumbling on Hidden Gems: Championing MSMEs through the “Local Product”
One afternoon, while searching for the perfect gift for a friend’s birthday, I found myself diving into the diverse, creative world of local craftsmanship on Instagram. My aim was to find something unique, something authentic. Page after page, I discovered makers of soap, creators of jarred goods, and artists of embroidered pieces, all pouring their heart and soul into their craft. I was struck by a powerful realization that there was an abundance of talent and creativity in my local community that deserved recognition and a broader platform to shine.
Birthed from this realization was “The Local Product,”—a dedicated Instagram page designed to champion small and local businesses across Jordan. My vision was to create a digital showcase, connecting the immense talent in our local community with potential customers near and far.
Four years into this journey, “The Local Product” has grown into a platform celebrating the diversity and resilience of small businesses in our region. From traditional jarred goods made by an elderly lady in a local market to modern, trendy designs from a young graphic artist, the stories I’ve encountered have been as varied as they have been inspiring. These journeys, replete with their unique struggles and triumphs, have served as a testament to the unyielding spirit of entrepreneurship.
The challenges were multi-faceted for the business owners who approached me: the rapidly evolving market trends, the budgeting complexities, and the struggle to stand out in a saturated market. Yet, despite these hurdles, they kept their heads held high, learning and adapting with each step. Their stories not only underline the grit and determination of small businesses but also highlight the evolving support systems – local bazaars, concept stores, or pop-up shops- that have opened new doors for them.
Looking back at these four years, “The Local Product” has been more than just an Instagram page—it’s been an eye-opening expedition into the heart of our local community, bringing light to the untold stories of determination and resilience.
In the Heart of the Local Market
Meeting the Matriarch: A Tale of Tradition
Walking through the bustling local bazaar one day, I came across a septuagenarian whose delightful array of jarred goods was impossible to overlook. The special red and white cloth coverings of the jars whisked me away to Italian-like village cafe tables. She greeted me warmly, offering a sample of her makes – a traditional dish of small, pickled eggplants stuffed with red peppers and walnuts. The taste was divine, carrying the nostalgic essence of my grandmother’s kitchen. This was a story of a grandmother who, driven by her husband’s passing, had channelled her time into creating something meaningful and authentic.
Her Granddaughter, a young graphic designer, was the artist behind the brand’s beautiful stickers. The Granddaughter’s eyes lit up when I revealed my Instagram page and my work promoting local businesses. Shortly after, I featured their scrumptious, traditional jarred goodies on my page, and their small venture began to soar.
Growth and the Challenges of the Changing Market
As my page grew, so did the number of small business owners who approached me seeking advice on navigating complex and evolving market trends. They narrated tales of struggle and perseverance, of attempts to comprehend a field where they had no background and the steep learning curve involved. The recurring theme was their belief in their craft and the determination to forge ahead despite the slow growth.
Every small business I have discovered has a distinctive narrative of highs and lows or an adventure that’s still unfolding. The key takeaways are these: running a successful business requires planning, the courage to take calculated risks, seeking guidance, having a support system, and, if luck permits, that one opportunity that could turn things around.
A Glimpse into the Future: Bazaars, Pop-ups, and Concept Stores
The budgetary constraints often echoed in their stories, with many local entrepreneurs seeing potential in farmer’s markets and bazaars as platforms for connecting with potential customers. The rise of concept stores and pop-up shops has paved the way for these MSME owners to affordably experiment with a more extended physical store presence. This innovative approach provides a sustainable method for these passionate entrepreneurs to envision and explore potential future scenarios for their brands.
Navigating the Entrepreneurial Landscape
As we admire the resilience and creativity of these small business owners, it is essential to step back and evaluate the macrocosm of entrepreneurial success. One way to gain this broader perspective is through the lessons presented by Michael Gerber in his classic, “The E-Myth Revisited.” Here are some key takeaways:
- Work “on” your business, not “in” it: Immersing yourself in day-to-day operations might be the right approach, but small business success requires a broader view. Focusing on planning and strategizing can lead to significant growth.
- Consider your business a franchise prototype: Standardizing procedures can enhance efficiency and consistency and simplify staff training even if you don’t plan to franchise.
- Balance the Three Business Personalities: Gerber identifies three critical roles in a business — the Entrepreneur (dreamer), the Manager (planner), and the Technician (doer). Balancing these roles is vital to a well-rounded business.
- Follow the Business Development Process: This involves Innovation, Quantification, and Orchestration, which are integral to building a consistent and profitable business.
- Aim to create a business, not a job: Your objective should be to establish a self-sustaining entity that can operate effectively with a competent management team, not a business that depends on your constant presence.
- Prioritize customer satisfaction: Understanding and consistently delivering what your customers’ value can lead to their satisfaction and repeat patronage, which is vital for a successful business.
- Make your business system-dependent, not expert-dependent: Gerber suggests developing systems that allow your business to function effectively, even without key individuals. This strategy reduces dependency on the owner or a few key people.
To any small business owner reading this blog, if you have a great idea, turn it into an extraordinary one by having your authentic touch to it. Don’t compare yourself to others or copy what some are doing; just focus on your brand.
As a small business owner, you bring unparalleled authenticity to your brand, a personal touch that sets you apart. And this authenticity has the power to turn great ideas into extraordinary businesses.
So, continue to dream, dare, and innovate—you never know who might be stumbling upon your hidden gem next.
Contributed by Tala Bacouni
Embracing unpredictable adventures and tackling challenging experiences, I took the leap to leave my stable, full-time corporate job and transform my passion for writing into a thriving career. As a freelance writer, I indulge in reading both fiction and non-fiction books, endeavor to master the art of cooking delectable meals, champion small and local businesses through my online initiative, and relish exploring the great outdoors whenever the opportunity arises.
Art for Muriel’s Blog by Iraqi Artist Mariam Beirouty
Also written by Tala Bacouni, You Are Your Perfect Time