Incubating Next Gen Leaders

With Ms. Shatha Rashid Al Jalahma, Senior Manager at Riyadat Mall, first women’s business incubator

If you are a Bahraini woman with a unique idea to kick off a business, Riyadat is the place to be. Located at A’Ali is the brand new joint venture from Supreme Council for Women, Bahrain Development Bank (BDB) and Tamkeen, an incubator to make exceptional dreams come true. Riyadat Mall opened on 27 November 2013, which currently houses 58 different shops, each diverse from the other, is the child born from the vision of HRH Princess Sabeeka bint Ibrahim Al Khalifa to empower women of the Kingdom. Ms. Shatha Rashid Al Jalahma, Senior Manager at Riyadat was kind enough to spend some time from her busy schedule with Bahrain This Week, sharing the secret recipe behind the success of this venture.

“As we speak, this is the first of its kind of idea in the region, to have a business incubator exclusively for the ladies. We are indeed lucky to have highly talented Bahraini women and unfortunately many of them are not able to live the dream due to many reasons including shortfall of funding. At Riyadat, with the support of BDB and Tamkeen we make sure that our incubatees get the facilities at highly subsidized rates unlikely to be found outside.”Ms. Al Jalahma explained.

“Our process is to incubate them for a period of 3 – 4 years where in which we support them with situations they are getting exposed to for the first time, like keeping their financials intact or keeping track of their business, support with the marketing and managing it in total. After the incubation period, they can fly off from their nest and make it on their own as strong entrepreneurs in the society.” said Ms. Al Jalahma with a touch of motherly care. One of the special features BTW found at her office was the glass doors that always remained open. “I want my girls always feel free to approach us. There should be nothing to stop them from taking the next big step.”

Sharing with us the initial days of Riyadat, she said, “When we started off, we couldn’t find previous patterns, experiences or records available anywhere in the world to check how to run space like ours. We went over 100s of applications and shortlisted those ideas which were inimitable and ingenious at the same time. It was the most difficult task as we also had to make sure that no two shops worked on the same thought process.”

“At present we have quite a long waiting list and the process is in progress. We are really happy that we receive compliments on the revelation with which Riyadat has been built, all the way from Singapore and Malaysia. ” She adds proudly.

When we mentioned to Ms. Al Jalahma the puzzle created by the woman’s business incubator tag, she laughed and said “Oh! We do get calls from confused husbands as they drop their wives and kids at the mall, if they also could come inside. Our answer to such queries is: Yes! You are most welcome to be here and have good time with your family. We have both anchor tenants and incubatees sharing the space to give you a wholesome shopping experience. It’s only the business that is run by our girls and the public’s support is greatly appreciated.”

Riyadat is one of the proud participating malls of nation’s first shopping festival, Bahrain Noor El Ain. With numerous events and competitions running as part of the same, the place also hosts a wonderful weekend carnival with over 40 entrepreneur stalls and fun activities for kids. “All are welcome to enjoy and be a part of our weekend carnival that would last until Feb. 14th. The activities are organized during the evening times and it’s a one stop place where you will be able to find many exceptional talents in Bahrain and enjoy some fine hours with your children.”

Ms. Al Jalahma who carries with her the experience of working in various domains for more than a decade, had great visions for the mall. “Riyadat Mall is our humble venture to give back to the society to which we all belong to. In coming years we want to make sure that our mall goes from being an inspiration to our current locality to all over Bahrain.

Riyadat when translated to English means Leadership and Riyadat Mall is the place where the next generation of business leaders are being nurtured and prepared to lead the developments to achieve Bahrain’s dreams.