An Entrepreneurial State of Mind It's important growing startup ecosystems like that of the KSA foster an open narrative around mental wellbeing for entrepreneurs.

By Mohammed Abdul Ghaffar

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From the start of their journey, entrepreneurs are empowered -and, ultimately, expected- to achieve stratospheric success. The prevailing narrative perpetuates that by seizing the opportunity, and doing what they love, entrepreneurs can overcome all obstacles to achieve great things, while maintaining picture-perfect balance.

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is proving itself a fertile ground for entrepreneurs, recording a 65% increase in business ownership over the past three years. The Global Entrepreneurship Monitor reported that 90% of adults see entrepreneurship as a favorable career choice, and a third of Saudis are keen on launching a business within the next three years.

With the Kingdom providing ample opportunity and offering a promising future, navigating the rocky road to success demands more than monetary and advisory support. The entrepreneurial journey is over-idealized and simplified. The truth is that building great companies and developing visionary innovations is hard.

Entrepreneurial success takes commitment and hard work. When fully in the throes of the ups and down of managing a startup, it easy for entrepreneurs to forget that prioritizing mental health is a priority. Mental health prevails as one of the overlooked and underrated contributors to entrepreneurial success. It is important that when defining success, entrepreneurs take into consideration the balance between achievement, health, and well-being. There is no glamor in overworking oneself to breaking point.

Related: A Look At How Saudi Arabia's Vision 2030 Has Spurred Entrepreneurship In The Kingdom

Entrepreneurship has unique setbacks, but not prioritizing one's mental well-being inhibits the right mindset to make critical decisions that spearhead the business to tremendous success.

The thrill of starting a business has a multitude of stressors, such as financial concerns and operational challenges. Couple this with uncertainty about the future, and compromised mental health becomes evident. Plus, in the GCC, public attitudes and stigma toward mental health illness prevent people from seeking psychological help, negatively impacting an individual's life. With an increase in conversations around the topic, a safe place is evolving to discuss mental health. Entrepreneurs are visionaries and pioneers, but they are as vulnerable as everyone else, if not more so. According to a study out of UC Berkeley, 72% of entrepreneurs have a mental health issue. Stepping back, and taking time to assess how they feel, provides a moment of solace to explore the need for seeking support.

The concept of being highly celebrated and working hard may look motivational, but in reality, it is toxic and delusional. It is easily believable that working hard equates to high productivity, but that is not the case. The only outcome is poor mental health. Plus, the entrepreneurial universe spans not only the entrepreneurs, but also their friends, families, colleagues, and partners. There is a pertinent need for open conversations that inspire action and change.

We live in an era where entrepreneurship has evolved as an accessible career path for people from all age groups and walks of life. For its part, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia continues to provide opportunities for entrepreneurs such as incubators, accelerators, co-working spaces, and funding; there is a space for socially conscious entrepreneurs.

With Saudi Arabia and the world experiencing an upward curve on the entrepreneurship scale as it has the potential to bolster the economy, entrepreneurs must be provided opportunities that support their mental well-being. In 2022, the World Economic Forum ranked the Kingdom the fourth best country for entrepreneurs. With the foundations being laid and the necessary support to venture into the world of entrepreneurship provided, it is critical that identifying the daily struggles associated with entrepreneurs and uncovering ways to ensure a stable state of mind will minimize losses, both financial and health-wise, without hindering business growth.

Let us start the conversation by acknowledging that entrepreneurs need a support system, not only when they are experiencing struggles, but also success. Building a strong support network, and fostering an open narrative will only catalyze a positive dialogue, one that recognizes the importance of mental wellbeing, and actively promotes it. This will reap dividends in nurturing a generation of entrepreneurs who positively contribute to the Kingdom's growth, without cost to their mental welfare.

Related: Leadership Redefined: Tariq Chauhan, Group CEO, EFS Facilities Services Group

Mohammed Abdul Ghaffar is the General Manager of Entrepreneurship and Social Initiatives at Community Jameel Saudi. Abdul Ghaffar is responsible for innovating and propelling new initiatives that are not only aligned with Community Jameel Saudi’s strategy, but also supporting the objectives of Saudi Vision 2030.

With over 10 years of experience in entrepreneurship, program development, and education, Abdul Ghaffar is a leader who works diligently towards objectives he feels passionately about. Abdul Ghaffar leads Community Jameel Saudi in organizing and managing entrepreneurial and social programs supporting the development of the Saudi entrepreneurship landscape. He plays a key role in driving projects and leading the way in program advisory and development. With his supervision and direction, Abdul Ghaffar ensures the project milestones are met, and that the results and impact of the initiatives are measured and evaluated. His leadership and mentoring skills are instrumental in contributing to landmark projects including the MIT Enterprise Forum startup competition, and the Tanweer Orphan Program.

Previously, Abdul Ghaffar served as MBA Program Manager at Prince Mohammed Bin Salman College of Business and Entrepreneurship, and as a Lecturer at the Royal Commission for Jubail and Yanbu. He is also a member of the Board of Directors for Balqees Saudi Construction Est. He holds a master’s degree in the science of entrepreneurship from the University of Florida.

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