Entrepreneurship in Saudi Arabia is not solely the domain of men. Young Saudi women are increasingly pitching their ideas and projects, and achieving international success. During our meeting today with Nora Al-Harthi, Taif native and cofounder of Wardatstore, the young female entrepreneur told us how a question from one Gulf tourist led her to create an online flower shop.
Safar Ayad: Tell us a bit about yourself and how you came up with the idea for Wardatstore?
Nora Al-Harthi: I recently graduated from college with a degree in computer science. The idea of opening an online store crossed my mind when I graduated. At the time, I wanted to start my first entrepreneurial project, but… I didn’t exactly know what that would be.
Then I met an Emirati woman in Mecca, who came to perform the Umrah pilgrimage. When I told her I’m from Taif, she said, “Oh, Taif! We used to visit this city twice a year to buy its famous rose products. I wish there was someone who could ship these products to us in Abu Dhabi.” And that’s how Wardatstore was born. I immediately got a team and started planning and then implementing. The process took around six months and we officially launched the store on April 17th.
SA: What products does Wardatstore offer?
NH: The store currently offers 11 Taif rose products available all year round, as well as a few seasonal products that we offer for a limited period of time (such as the Taif rose coffee beans that we released during Ramadan). Our products include the first-class Taif rose essential oil (or as they call it, the Royal Fragrance), as well as several kinds of naturally distilled Taif rose water. We also provide a collection of skincare products. Readers can check out our products here.
SA: As a Saudi woman entrepreneur, what challenges have you faced?
NH: It’s very normal to face some difficulties, especially when you’re an entrepreneur. The important thing is to always be positive about every obstacle you face and to always resort to expert advice. Some of the difficulties were technical; others were administrational, commercial, or related to shipping. However, all of them were enriching and fun and we learned a lot from them. As an entrepreneur, you have to be ready to take the risk, make the effort, and withstand pressure, criticism, failure, and everything else.
SA: How do you prepare your products? Do you have agreements with rose factories? Tell us about the difficulties you faced in this regard.
NH: Wardatstore is the first to sell and market Taif rose products online. Some factories did not trust us at first. Others refused to cooperate. However, with time, and after we proved our model, we were surprised to see these factories sending us requests to market their products through the store. The lesson never comes at the beginning, it comes from what you achieve and reach.
SA: Will Wardatstore’s experience motivate others in different Saudi cities to create online stores and market their products?
NH: Of course; this is something I’ve discussed in the past on Twitter. We are seeing lately many Saudi online stores that are exploiting the country’s natural resources such as Mango Jazan, Olive Jouf, Madina Dates, Roman Bedah, and of course Wardatstore. And it makes us proud to see these Saudi young people and the increasing level of maturity in terms of entrepreneurship in the Kingdom.
SA: Do you receive orders from outside Saudi Arabia? What are your target markets?
NH: We have received orders from 14 countries around the world, most of them from the Gulf. The first regional order we received was only a week after we launched the store. It was from the UAE. Afterwards, as the store’s name began to spread, we started receiving orders from Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, Oman, and the UAE.
We primarily target the Saudi market but we are planning to expand to the Gulf in the future.
SA: Store owners in the region often face difficulty in payments and shipping. How did you overcome these difficulties?
NH: There are no fast and easy payment methods for customers. We provide two payment options: either PayPal or wire transfer to one of the store’s bank account.
Shipping hasn’t been a problem at all. There are many reliable shipping companies in Saudi Arabia, and all of them allow businesses to open an account to ship their products at special rates (the more shipments you have, the less you pay).
When we started developing Wardatstore, there weren’t many competitors, so we had to do everything from scratch, and we have succeeded. That is why I would like to tell every person looking to delve into entrepreneurship: Start, venture, and go! Your life will be full of challenges, fun, and passion. You will get tired initially, but believe me, it’s worth it, and it will be one of the best experiences you will ever go through.