On Tuesday night, Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker met with a dozen Saudi entrepreneurs in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, as part of her trade mission to the Middle East. The entrepreneurs work in a variety of sectors, including retail, real estate, food services, and more.
Secretary Pritzker briefly discussed her experiences as an entrepreneur with more than 27 years in business. Then, the male and female participants shared their own stories of entrepreneurship, and discussed challenges and opportunities for entrepreneurs in the region.
The attendees ranged from: a hamburger chain owner who built his first restaurant in 2009 with four employees and now has 17 franchises and 130 employees across the country; an entrepreneur who created a new real-estate-development division at his family’s business; and, a serial entrepreneur who launched an electronic recycling facility, an investment company, and a design school.
The group discussed the importance of education and skills training for entrepreneurs. Secretary Pritzker highlighted the success of the King Abdullah Scholarship Program, which sends tens of thousands of students to study at U.S. universities each year.
The group also emphasized the overall need to encourage more young people to take risks and launch businesses. Other topics included business financing, contracting, mentoring, and the value of business incubators.
Secretary Pritzker mentioned how the Commerce Department is working closely with the Saudi government – and other governments across the region – to create commercial insolvency laws that allow entrepreneurs to take risks, fail, and try again. The Secretary highlighted how the strong rule of law in the United States, along with its bankruptcy laws, encourage risk taking and innovation.
Looking forward, Secretary Pritzker noted that the Obama Administration would soon launch the Presidential Ambassadors for Global Entrepreneurship (PAGE), which she chairs. The goal of PAGE, she said, will be to share America’s unique culture of entrepreneurship with the rest of the world.