Oman fashion: Best of both worlds
by Saleh Al Shaibany | November 24, 2014 , 5 : 23 pm GST
Photo – Cio Datan
Sama Al Subhi and Heba Al Harthy are typical college students but they are among a growing number of young women who are juggling academic excellence with the management of their newly established businesses.
The two have been friends for four years studying together at Modern College of Business and Science doing their undergraduate degree in Airport Management. But that is not the only commonality they share. Sama and Heba have established a fashion design business just three months ago with the support of their families. With little funds of their own, the two women have turned one of the rooms in Heba’s house in Al Hail into an office and a workshop.
“We had this idea for quite a long time. Women’s fashion is in demand in Oman. Many women want to look good when they wear clothes and most of them will not want to repeat the same clothes in weddings or other events. We thought of testing the market three months ago and we have been quite successful so far,” 23-year old Sama told Thursday.
They have already sold a number of clothes in that short span of time but the biggest challenge they face is not to market their product but to find time with the pressing demands of their academic work.
“We are still students and we have classes to attend, assignments to write, presentations and sit for our examinations. It is not easy to divide ourselves into two separate lives and ambitions. We have to achieve good grades but at the same we don’t want to abandon our new business since we already see a good potential ahead of us,” Heba, who is in the same age as her business partner, explained.
It is the college environment that has inspired them to embark in the fashion trade journey. More than 70 per cent of the 1,400 students in their college are women. They find the network at their disposal is too good to miss. They also know that being proactive and go for opportunities are key to their business success.
Why could not they wait until they graduate and start the business? “We have to start here because our fellow students we have around us are not only our present customers but future clients as well. They will have more money when they go to work but the most important thing we have already established a business relationship with them and they will always come back to us for their fashion needs,” Sama explained.
Earlier this month, state-run Al Raffd Fund has announced a soft loan of RO1,000 for higher education students for their business start-ups. Al Raffd Fund also has loan schemes starting from RO10,000 to RO100,000 available to all Omani citizens from the age of 18 to 55. Some banks also encourage young people to start SME projects with easy financing credit to help them realise their entrepreneurship dreams.
But for Sama and Heba, bank financing would come later and perhaps they may never need to go into that route. They rely on a pool of resources around them such as advices from teachers, parents and training they acquired from local-based designers. But above all, the two women have a lot of determination to succeed and they are under no illusion that the path towards business independence will be smooth sailing.
“It is not going to be easy to establish ourselves in this very competitive trade. We still need to graduate so we can go to work. The money we get will finance our business. We are good in dividing ourselves into two tasks. Our plan is to work for five years and then devote 100 per cent to our business and we are not planning to fail in our ambitions to become our own bosses,” Heba said.
Both women admit that launching a business from college or university campuses is never an easy task but with better coordination and all-round support it can be achieved.
“If we did not start here I don’t think we would have done anything about it after we start work,” Sama explained, “here we have the drive and energy and it will be easy to continue after graduation.”
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