It's Time We Support Our Communities Through Conscious Consumerism And Wise Investment Even during such troublesome times, we have the ability to work collectively together to negate the possibilities of our fellow community members becoming vulnerable.

By Kawthar Bin Sulayem

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

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As we find ourselves in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, many of us are in situations -social, mental, physical, or financial- that we've never experienced before. It can be daunting, especially if we find ourselves in a situation where individuals are only committed to helping themselves, which is only human nature, but rather unfortunate as well.

However, even during such troublesome times, we have the ability to work collectively together to negate the possibilities of our fellow community members becoming vulnerable. We now have the time to self-reflect and evaluate what we can do to not only improve our personal situation, but also how we can help strengthen our community during these difficult times.

It's abundantly clear that this pandemic has severely impacted global economies, adding financial stress to almost everyone's lives. Fiscal policies and government aid alone cannot give us back everything we've lost, or relieve us from this stress. As an owner of several small businesses, I have a serious responsibility to not only do my part to support the local economy, but also support my team and their family members. In times like these, we need to pull together as a community and do the utmost for those in need. We must not forget those who need us the most, our essential workers and highrisk individuals such as the elderly, the homeless, those with pre-existing conditions, and low-income households. However, sometimes in rare cases such as these, the only power we're left with is our consumer power. We can still dictate the market and help shape the economic landscape of our local economy. We can pull together and assist those that may be economically vulnerable. Small business owners, startups, tradespeople, and professionals in specialist sectors can lose everything in a short period of time. Small businesses may not be the first thing to spring to mind when evaluating vulnerability, but in the current economic climate, they certainly are.

Collectively, our consumerism holds so much power that when we cannot spend, these businesses cannot survive. With these economic implications, it's extremely important that we support local businesses. It's also very important in times like these to learn how to trust our SME sector. After all, look at the SMEs that are currently working extra hours to keep their business afloat and alive- they cannot afford to just stop working and wait the situation out like larger organizations can.

Related: Despair Not, Entrepreneurs, For The COVID-19 Crisis Is Just A Test Of Our Resolve

We need to appreciate the integral role that SMEs play, both socially and economically. They are part of the fabric of our society that contributes towards our thriving economic ecosystem and they help to -especially in these times- provide a sense of community. Even now there are many examples of small businesses, whether they be cafes, restaurants, or any other essential business, offering special discounts and free items to our medical personnel and essential workers.

This is a stark reminder that we cannot afford to not be conscious consumers. Now is the time to act strategically with your economic influence. Ensure your essential items are bought with thought. This is also the time for local and federal government entities to increase their support and collaboration with the SME sector.

Another element we must consider when trying to provide support for our most vulnerable people is wise investment into our most important asset, the healthcare sector. The COVID-19 pandemic has shown that sometimes unforeseen and unpredictable elements can heavily impact our day-to-day lives. This doesn't only mean investing only in the existing healthcare requirements, but all the new innovative and technological medical solutions that are being developed, or in the process of development, by our local SMEs and inventors.

I believe that a healthcare system that has been sufficiently invested into, and has been managed in a balance between the private and public sector, can be one of the most efficient ways to look after all communities, and in fact, stops potentially vulnerable people from becoming vulnerable.

Related: A COVID-19 Survival Kit For Entrepreneurs

When a society has readily available healthcare and a system in place where it can serve people in need, it truly protects people more than any service. It's clear that the most important thing that shapes economics and politics, especially in these times, is healthcare. It doesn't matter how enormous and strong your economy is, or what the politics of your nation is, in real times of need, we will be reliant on how much emphasis was put into the strengthening of our healthcare systems.

For example, in the UAE, the utmost has been done to ensure that the most vulnerable people have access to tests, supplies, and essential medical treatment. But this has only been possible due to the long-term investment of healthcare in the country. As per the UAE National Agenda, the country has been collaboratively working with stakeholders all over the world to make sure that our healthcare sector is as strong as any other thriving sector. Collaboration and transparency between the government, healthcare professionals, and the community itself is what has created the infrastructure needed for effectively battling this virus.

Furthermore, the UAE has exampled how this global pandemic should be combatted on all fronts of the globe; that means supporting other nations to help eliminate the worldwide threat. There's no benefit to isolated efforts and keeping the hardship internal. With this as their ethos, the UAE has sent supplies to over 20 different countries so far, with the objective of reducing the threat of the virus globally, and not just putting all the focus on themselves.

If a nation is in the position to optimally manage their resources, they can show true leadership by sharing their experiences, knowledge, and resources with other nations. This isn't just an act of noble humanitarian action, but a great example of real diplomacy and investments between nations.

Related: Four Tips To Align Your Businesses With A Post COVID-19 World

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Kawthar Bin Sulayem

Founder and CEO, KBS Communications

Kawthar Bin Sulayem is an expert strategic advisor and serial entrepreneur. In addition to her role as founder and CEO of KBS Communications, she is also an Ambassador and Co-Founder of Mestaria, Strategist at Nine17 Sport and Founder of Fashion Fever UAE.

With more than 15 years of experience in the PR and media industry, Kawthar has worked extensively between government and the private sector in the UAE and abroad. Her strategic mindset and business instincts have lead her to become one of the UAE’s most sought after advisors for organisations across diverse industries. 

Kawthar gained extensive experience during her time in the media industry, taking on significant roles from a young age. She began her endeavours in The Executive Office of the UAE Vice President, H.H. Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, where she assumed responsibilities for media, marketing, crisis communications and reputation management. Kawthar continued her exponential career growth by undertaking the monumental task of rebranding the Government of Dubai; this comprised of launching numerous government entities and projects, including Dubai SME, Emirates Nationals Development Program and the Knowledge and Human Development Authority.

Kawthar was later seconded by the Government of Abu Dhabi to facilitate media operations and communications at Yas Marina Circuit. Acting as Regional Media Manager, Kawthar was appointed as National Press Officer for the inaugural Formula 1 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, working in cohesion with Formula One Management and the Federation Internationale de l'Automobile while managing more than 600 media representatives present at the largest sporting event in the history of the UAE. Kawthar was instrumental in overseeing media operations during the Grand Prix, where she contributed to the official communications narrative of Abu Dhabi and the UAE; aiding in the development and circulation of the UAE’s key messages both regionally and internationally.

After gaining a wealth of experience, Kawthar established her own successful business ventures, starting with: KBS Communications, a strategic communications advisory agency with an exceedingly diverse client portfolio ranging from government entities, Fortune 500 companies, community organisations, and international luxury and lifestyle brands; Mestaria, a company dedicated to enhancing the art industry in the Middle East through art education programs, events and comprehensive artist representation; Nine17 Sport, a sports marketing and communications consultancy focused on motorsport and the Formula 1 World Championship; and Fashion Fever, a first-of-its-kind fashion show concept in the UAE.

Proving herself as an astute serial entrepreneur, a strategic advisor to members of the royal family in the GCC, and with a deep understanding of international and regional markets, Kawthar has been in frequent demand to consult as an advisor. This has lead to her sharing her strategic expertise to both senior executives of private industry organisations for high level business strategy, and to developing SMEs alike.

After moving on from her role in The Executive Office of the UAE Vice President, Kawthar received a personal mandate from H.H. Sheikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum to continue to serve her country through her profile and professional undertakings. Kawthar remains dedicated to this mandate, striving to help develop innovative, hard-working, ethical companies, regardless of their size; which leaves her constantly searching for new opportunities to bring the best to the UAE.

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