Interview Rabii Outamha, Business Mentor & Lecturer, Digital Strategy & Marketing Consultant, and PhD Candidate, Morocco.
Keywords: Entrepreneurship, entrepreneurial journey, mentoring, incubators, the triple helix, Casablanca.
How did you first develop an interest in entrepreneurship?
My interest in entrepreneurship came from my consultant experience, passion for research and teaching, and desire to be an entrepreneur. I've always had a flair for entrepreneurship. My curiosity fueled my aspiration since I always ask what and how we can improve things in every area of life. A curious mind who thinks critically and has an entrepreneurial orientation would see business opportunities everywhere.
My entrepreneurial journey started by having side hustles during my school time. I left physics to study economics and management. I wanted to learn how to start and manage a business. I was studying at the university and doing freelance work as a consultant to apply my acquired knowledge. I discovered entrepreneurship as a field by trying business before I deepened my understanding by learning its concept, strategy, innovation, and every function within management. I partnered with many friends to co-found several companies in different sectors and activities.
I've done successful and unsuccessful businesses, and the learning experience has been fruitful since it transcended into knowledge that I transfer to people who want to start a business. My experience has always been a source of knowledge and inspiration for people in my entourage. If one wants to start a business, they consult me for advice and help. So I was indirectly a business mentor until I decided to make it one of my main missions due to the increasing demand for mentoring services thanks to word of mouth.
Can you tell us how you helped young entrepreneurs establish their startups?
My approach as a business mentor is to be involved in the whole process, from Ideation to creation. Most of the time, the wannabes come with vague ideas or no ideas but the intention and the ambition to become entrepreneurs. I push them to challenge their ideas, ask questions, and search if their product or service is relevant to the market and provide a solution to a real problem. Then, I ensure their ideas become business models and not just beautiful concepts that sound promising during the pitch but remain in the dreamland, unable to see the light of the market.
The rest is following up with the realization of the project step by step and supporting them in management until they can continue on their own. Being involved on every level could be time-consuming and exhausting. Still, I'm patient with them, especially when I see a project with high potential that requires a severe push and accompanying.
"Casablanca is full of wonderful people willing to put time and effort into developing entrepreneurship in the city.” Rabii Outamha.
Casablanca City Morocco
Picture Credit: Mohammed Mekssi on Pixabay
How do you help young entrepreneurs stay motivated and have a realistic understanding of the challenges they will face?
Telling the truth about the challenges young entrepreneurs will face while motivating them to pursue their entrepreneurial journey is a hell of a task. It is paradoxical, and their emotions can easily drift away and cool the ambition’s fire in their hearts. My approach is to show them how they can strengthen their mind by strategically using their knowledge and being strong emotionally through specific practices.
I ensure they understand why they need to know the challenges and the negative aspects they will find in the business environment. First, it will help them plan better. It can prevent psychological damage due to the surprise effect and even create business ideas to answer some issues, especially regarding B2B.
Then, I encourage them to find a purpose for their life and relate it to their entrepreneurial journey. For example, some people love helping people in disadvantaged regions. Volunteering with associations could be an option, but it can be limited in impact. Becoming a successful entrepreneur could help pursue this purpose on a larger scale by providing resources through your network and your own money, significantly impacting people's lives.
Another way to help young entrepreneurs to stay motivated and keep going is by dividing the process into small steps, which makes the journey easier and full of quick wins that uplift their spirit on every level.
Is there a good range of support in Casablanca and Morocco, as a whole, for new startups?
Several organizations, institutions, and programs support entrepreneurship in the country. Casablanca, in particular, has the most significant number of these institutions. Regarding the availability of support, we can make a positive conclusion. However, in terms of the impact on entrepreneurial activity, we still need to verify it, and I am investigating it.
For example, I discovered many incubators produced few startups while training young entrepreneurs for over a decade. I also observed some issues in how they teach entrepreneurship. The main problem is being lecture-oriented instead of giving practical sessions in which trainers will assist the participants in making real progress in their projects. For example, teaching how to make a business model could be easy, and participants will quickly understand it, but can they make it? The business model is not just a scheme of nine canvases a wannabe needs to fill and hang on a wall. The process involves skills in many areas to conduct a serious study of the business, which can be achieved only by experts. The question is: are the trainers experienced in business model formation, or have they just learned from reading about it?
I’ve become more involved recently with incubators, and I’m helping them build a program that could impact entrepreneurial activity more and increase the results in terms of startup creation. But, of course, the number of issues we need to address is considerable. Still, fortunately, my involvement with them made me discover wonderful people willing to contribute to this mission and ready to put time and effort into developing entrepreneurship in the city.
What role do universities, industry, and government need to play to support entrepreneurship?
Universities, industry, and government are the key players in the entrepreneurship ecosystem. Each has a specific but not limited role in supporting entrepreneurship. The university's role is to prepare the youth for entrepreneurship by providing the proper education and updated knowledge about every area necessary to assimilate the market need, the business environment, the innovation ecosystem etc. Incubation is a direct way in which the university contributes to entrepreneurship development.
The industry contributes by updating the university's skills and knowledge. Universities teach an academic view, but enough to become an entrepreneur. The industry can fill the gap by providing mentors with practical experience. Lastly, the industry can fund research that could lead to innovative solutions, support the projects or even provide investors who will become business partners with the young entrepreneurs.
The government's role is to prepare the field and facilitate collaboration between the university and industry. This mission will transcend to a bigger vision by building strategies and action plans involving the three parties to achieve a national vision or even be in an international one. The triple helix model can provide solutions to address several issues regarding the entrepreneurship ecosystem. However, the alignment between the strategies of each agent is crucial, or conflicts of interest could manifest.◼️
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