Building a unique place in Amman
"There are no secrets to success, although one must be ready to work hard and learn from the mistakes of the past".
Many of us aspire to succeed financially and accomplish the goals we set ourselves when we were younger. However, a worrying number of entrepreneurs and hard workers find themselves experiencing the opposite, turning away from projects when pitfalls and failures present themselves. The most inspirational entrepreneurs in Jordan are not immune to the same pitfalls and failures, but distinguish themselves in the way they handle adversity, taking wisdom and experience from situations that may have seemed fatal to their business.
Mahmoud Kharouf was one of the determined ones. Having already enjoyed several years of experimenting with entrepreneurial ideas, Mahmoud had long been designing a truly exciting project with two business partners. The three friends had the distinctive idea of opening a new cultural café in the Jabal Amman district of Amman, one that shunned Jordanian café staples like shisha, playing cards and football broadcasts in favour of art exhibitions and foreign beverages. Although all three partners had committed vast personal sums to launch their new project, they were still short of the amount needed to buy their equipment and furniture.
Worryingly, this money was not exactly forthcoming. Almost as soon as their idea was suggested, it was met with scepticism by potential investors and self-appointed advisors. A café without shisha and football? Many thought that Jordanians wouldn’t come. However, Mahmoud had faith in the uniqueness of his project, and the demand for an arts space in a city rife with poets, musicians, and artists. Risking their savings and their pride, Mahmoud and his friends continued to appeal for the necessary funds, patiently waiting for the breakthrough they hoped would come.
That important breakthrough would eventually emerge thanks to the vision of JOHUD’s SBU. After conducting a visibility study and verifying the business skills of Mahmoud and his friends, SBU staff approved a loan that would cover the necessary costs. Our analysts believed that the business was likely to be profitable on the basis of its distinctive and unique identity, a finding that was initially surprising to Mahmoud; what was once described as the project’s drawback had now become its biggest asset!
After nearly a year, Mahmoud’s hard work and business acumen has helped repay the faith of SBU investors. The new café (named ‘Makan’) has become wildly popular, regularly operating at capacity on evenings and weekends and attracting 8000 fans on Facebook in just 10 months. For artists, ‘Makan’ is perhaps one of the most prominent landmarks in Amman, a useful place with which to meet likeminded people in a friendly and quiet social setting, and share stand-up comedy, poetry, music and art on special event evenings. Prices are mid-ranged, and the beverages are always exotic and interesting, with specially prepared Italian coffees and English teas available upon request.
Mahmoud is quite philosophical about the potential for others to achieve with the support of projects like the SBU. “I believe everyone can be a success; it just takes hard work and a belief that you can create something unique”, he offered. Vitally, it also helps to have the belief and support of a discerning financier, making it particularly important that JOHUD and others continue to enable and realise the visions of Jordan’s brightest minds.