On the right track


“You are only young once”, says Hamzeh Al Fuqha, Founder, Next Presentations and a serial entrepreneur. In this article, Hamzeh talks about his experience and presents 9 tips to propel college entrepreneurs in an attempt to help them get their startups on a path of sustained success throughout the MENA region.


Our youthful energy and enthusiasm does not necessarily carry over to later in life. The challenge of our younger years is to harness those qualities. Our college years can do more than provide a solid career foundation. There can be a time when we take our ideas, give them life and create businesses that shape the future of the MENA region. That is what I have been working hard to accomplish. I have learned some things they do not often teach in school.


1. Find the “sweet spot” where your talents and commercial needs overlap.


You know what you are good at and what you enjoy. Now think about “needs.” What product or service would improve your life? When you identify the need, find projects and courses that will help you fulfill that need and build your business. Tap free, online courses at sites like Coursera.org and Udacity.com. For me it was public speaking and debating. I used those passions to start a business coaching public speaking. That led me to founding the MENA’s first personal branding and reputation management firm while in college.


2. Don’t be afraid of change; embrace it.


You may even want to leave college for a while. I turned my back on a prestigious scholarship and dropped out in my second year. I wanted to experience real business. It was one of my best moves. You may want to change majors. I changed majors three times. Finally, I landed in business school. I lost some credit hours, but that is a small price to pay compared to staying in a field you do not enjoy.


3. Find co-founders and build a strong network.


College is the ideal place to find others who share your dream. Talk about your ideas in class and in your social life to discover people who “get it.” College alumni often tap into networks after they leave school. Do not wait! You are surrounded by enthusiastic students with the talents, skills and vision you need to make your idea a reality. I have leveraged college contacts to great success.


4. Expect the older generation to be critical.


Many families and older businesspeople do not appreciate the potential of college entrepreneurs. Unlike before, simply pursuing the lower blocks of Maslow’s hierarchy is not enough. Respect and appreciate the advice of elders but remember that it is not necessarily geared for today. Do what you need to do. Sometimes it is better to ask for forgiveness than permission.


5. Capitalize on your strengths and stop fixating on your weaknesses.


Too many people spend their lives trying to get better at something for which they have no natural ability. Maximize your strengths. The payoff is far greater. Refer to tip #3 above and tip #9 below to make up for your weaknesses.


6. Money will come.


Do not worry about money. If you are doing something you love and are good at—and the need is real—the money will follow. So what if you fail? You have learned something important and you move on. Thomas Edison said, “I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work.” Strive until you strike the right balance between your passion and financial freedom.


7. Build your personal brand.


Success today is built on brands and narratives. The story of your life should establish your brand and that brand should appeal to others. A good CV will land you a good job in a cubicle. A good brand will propel you to success wherever you decide to do.


8. Get a mentor.


Experienced businesspeople have much they can teach us. We cannot let our youthful ideas, energy and enthusiasm prevent us from seeking and accepting the sage advice of those who have achieved success. Seek a mentor with a business and goals close to yours. Boldly ask for help. When you show a mentor you mean business, he or she won’t say no.


9. Outsourcing is key.


Any skill you need is available on a freelance basis over the Internet. Sources like Elance.com, oDesk.com and Nabbesh.com connect you with a global talent pool. This allows startups to pay for a service only when it is needed, reducing overhead. Build relationships with your freelancers. When they understand your expectations and goals, they will do a better job. These nine tips should give enough information and encouragement to join the ranks of college entrepreneurs who are bringing new vision and vitality into the MENA business scene.


About Hamzeh Al Fuqha:


Hamzeh Al Fuqha is a serial entrepreneur, inventor and angel investor. He founded Next Presentations and co-founded SmartAd. Hamzeh is a frequent speaker at industry seminars and guest lecturer at the American University of Sharjah on entrepreneurship and leadership. He has received several awards and won numerous national public speaking and debating competitions. Hamzeh has trained various public figures and high-level managers on executive communication skills and speech delivery techniques.


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