Anyone who is familiar with Lebanon will tell you that it is a vibrant, diverse and resilient country. Anyone who has visited or lived there most certainly experienced Lebanon’s distinctive lifestyle and culture— modern yet rooted in tradition. Anyone who has interacted with the Lebanese people will certainly concede the array of general knowledge they hold, their entrepreneurial spirit and their business acumen.
The Lebanese people are business-savvy and entrepreneurial indeed. While the entrepreneurship scene has been on the rise in the last couple of years, however, it remains largely male-dominated. Lebanese women still face hurdles to conducting business in the country on an equal basis with men. This is unsurprising, given that Lebanon still scores low in terms of women’s rights and women’s access to equal opportunities. According to the World Economic Forum’s latest Global Gender Gap Report, Lebanon ranks 138 out of 145 countries.
However, perhaps out of resilience, perhaps out of wanting to do better and more, women entrepreneurs are slowly but surely emerging with innovative concepts, business ideas and successful ventures.
In the hopes of inspiring the many other brilliant women Lebanon holds, here’s a list of notable women entrepreneurs who made it big locally and internationally.
Aya Bdeir – Founder and CEO of littleBits
littleBits is a platform of easy-to-use electronic building blocks that is empowering everyone to create inventions, large and small. Her company is among the leaders in the open source hardware field. An alumna of the MIT Media Lab, Bdeir was listed as one of Business Insider’s 26 Most Powerful Women Engineers and figured in Inc. Magazine’s 35 Under 35, in NY Business Journal’s Women of Influence, in CNBC Next List and in Entrepreneur’s 10 Leaders to Watch, among others.
Christine Sfeir – CEO of Meeting Point (Dunkin’ Donuts) and Treats Holding (Semsom, Green Falafel).
Sfeir is one of the pioneers of the food franchising business in Lebanon. At the age of 22, she persuaded Dunkin’ Donuts to hand over the company’s Lebanese franchise to her. “It was a huge risk because I was 22, I was female and the idea of American coffee and doughnuts was the last thing on people’s minds”, says Sfeir. Today, Dunkin’ Donuts has more than 30 branches in Lebanon, and Semsom is established in Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman, and the US. Sfeir is an active member of the Lebanese League for Women in Business. She was selected as one of the 19th most powerful Arab women by Forbes. She was also recognized as one of the most 100 powerful women for three consecutive years (2012, 2013 and 2014).
Delphine Edde – Co-founder and publishing director of Diwanee
Diwanee is a digital media company that creates contents and distributes it through its several Arab websites, including 3a2ilati.com, Yasmina.com and Mashaherri.com. Diwanee was featured in Executive Magazine’s Lebanon’s top 20 entrepreneurs 2013.
Hala Labaki – CEO and co-founder of Shahiya
Shahiya is the first cooking website in the Arab world and the largest Arabic language digital library with more than 2 million visitors per month and 15,000 published recipes. Labaki, an AUB and HEC Paris alumna, worked for several years in France in consulting, finance and marketing before launching Shahiya.
Hind Hobeika – Founder of Instabeat
Hobeika is the mastermind behind Instabeat, a pair of goggles that monitors swimmers’ heart rate. At only 21 years old, Hind won the 3rd prize in the Qatari Reality TV Show ‘Stars of Science’. She also won 1st prize in the MIT Enterprise Forum Pan Arab Business Plan competition, which gathered over 4,500 applicants. Furthermore, Hobeika was selected as Endeavor Entrepreneur, and Instabeat was rated first in the ranking of the Best of Wearable Technology in 2014. She is currently trying to develop her product in San Francisco.
Louise Doumet is the co-founder of Lebelik,
Lebelik is an online shopping website with the aim of showcasing Lebanese creations and designers to the world. She came up with the Lebelik idea when she was approached by random women in the streets of New York asking her about her clothes and accessories— which happened to be of Lebanese designs. Doumit quickly realized that there was a need to export Lebanese fashion to the world. The website delivers items to the US, Russia and the Middle East.
Maya Karanouh – CEO and co-founder of TAGbrands
TAGbrands is a branding agency that aligns business strategies to communication objectives. TAGbrands clients include Bank Audi, L’Oréal, British Council and the World Sports Group among others. TAGbrands’ work is not limited to Lebanon; it is also present in the Gulf countries. Karanouh has won several awards and distinctions; she was selected as the “Rising Talent” by the Women’s Forum for the Economy and Society in France, and was part of the World Business Magazine‘s “35 under 35 Global Women Entrepreneurs”. She is also the founding member of the Lebanese League for Women in Business.
Rana Chmaitelly – Founder of The Little Engineer
The Little Engineer was launched by Chmaitelly in 2009 as a company that enables youth to engage in science through workshops. Today, she has centers in Lebanon, Qatar and Libya. Chmaitelly was selected as one of the most promising entrepreneurs by the MIT in 2009. In 2010, she won the ‘Coup de Coeur Femme’ by Medventures for the Mediterranean in 2010. She was also awarded the Cartier prize for best pioneer woman in 2011 and the Green Mind Award in 2012.