In Jordan, the Sky is the Limit

By Stephan Bachenheimer - The shelves in the showroom of the Jordanian Juman Para Pharmaceuticals company are packed with cosmetics that would be the pride of any beauty retailer around the world: lotions, creams, dead-sea mud extracts - just about everything that will keep you young and good-looking. One floor above, Rasha Eid, an energetic entrepreneur and owner of "Juman", walks through her storage and shipping department and throws her arms in the air. "It takes us now two months to get deliveries into Iraq because trucks are not allowed to cross the border anymore." Then she points to the storage shelves: 90 percent of her production are labelled for delivery into Iraq.

Small- and medium-sized businesses all over Jordan face similar problems: instability in the Middle East is impacting their traditional export markets, jeopardizing investments and business prospects. Sharing borders with Iraq, Syria, Saudi Arabia and Israel, Jordan's economy needs to reinvent itself in the aftermath of the Arab Spring.

 

“I know how to create new formulas but I have no time and little knowledge about marketing," says Rasha, who has turned for advice to the "Accelerate with Jedco" program. Jedco, the Jordanian Enterprise Development Corporation, has established this program with the help of the MENA Transition Fund. Each of the 70 businesses that participate receive help from business coaches and develop new business plans.

The coaches are specifically trained, conduct detailed interviews with executives and provide a rigid analysis. Any advice and newly recommended strategy is tailor-made. "There is no one size fits all," says Hana Uraidi, CEO of the Jordan Enterprise Development Corporation.

Finding the right strategy is no easy task: some companies might be better off downsizing, other might be better advised to expand their business in order to reach new clients.

Take the Ayla Aviation Academy. This flight school, located in the Jordanian city of Aqaba, has built an excellent reputation for itself over the years. It owns and maintains a small fleet of aircrafts and pursues the highest training standards. It is very selective in admitting students into its training. But applications from traditional clients have dwindled. "We had students coming from Syria, from Yemen, from Libya, from Tunisia, and those students stopped coming to take flight training," says Ammar Yousef, President of the Ayla Aviation Company.

Ayla receives business advice through the Accelerate for Jedco program and is a perfect candidate for reinvention: It is situated in a geographic location that provides for perfect flying conditions and can therefore offer a more compressed education. With 10 percent of its cadets being female, it provides a more progressive environment than most other flight schools around the world.

Entering untapped markets has already shown new prospects for Ayla's business: "It might sound surprising, but we actually take part in a European license program, where a good portion of that program is done in Aqaba," says Ammar Yousef. And with a flight school summer camp that gives teenagers an insight into flying, Ayla already inspires a new generation of pilots and spreads a fitting message: the sky is the limit.