At 25, this tech-preneur is employing 6 but had to disguise her age to earn respect
Samah Ayyad is a determined entrepreneur who co-founded Sook.ps, an e-commerce marketplace with an innovative approach. Despite being a woman entrepreneur in a male-dominated industry, Samah’s perseverance and innovation have earned her admiration and success.
When 25-year-old, Palestinian-born, Samah Ayyad, speaks about her work as the Co-founder and CEO of Sook.ps, her infectious energy and unwavering dedication becomes clear. Despite the challenges of doing business in the Palestinian territories; the dependency of the Palestinian economy on the occupation, gender inequality in the workplace and the bureaucratic process of starting a business under Palestinian policies, through her digital business, Samah is navigating the obstacles and accessing global markets. Her deep commitment to making a positive impact on the world shines and she is a leader by nature. “I am just a human with many goals and aspirations. I’m always running towards them with everything I’ve got,” says Samah.
Sook.ps, a complete entertainment e-commerce marketplace, was established in 2021 to help stores, vendors, and online businesses expand their market share through advanced technological solutions. Sook.ps stands out from other e-commerce platforms due to its inventive approach, integrating gamification and incentives to provide customers with a captivating and profitable shopping experience.
Through bootstrapping, Sook.ps has earned an impressive revenue of $55,000 since its launch in 2021, which founder Samah considers both small and substantial. The company has invested $10k to generate $55k, a remarkable achievement. With a solid foundation and innovative business approach, Samah and her team are set for continuous growth and success in the years ahead.
If at first you don’t succeed, try again
Sook.ps is not Samah’s first startup; it is her third. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, around 20% of small businesses fail within their first year, and another 30% in their second. “You need to keep trying because the first time won’t always work, and that’s okay,” says Samah, who learnt the foundations of business from her first startup, and her second venture was chosen to go to the UN as part of the Hult Prize Accelerator in London. These experiences – both the good and the bad – helped Samah understand the business world in a more thorough way, which led to the achievements she has today.
After returning from London and closely studying the demands of the Palestinian market, Samah and her co-founders started working on Sook.ps with the determination to succeed. “With my baby face, I was able to convince 23 factories and two franchises to work with! However, this came with its challenges.”
Overcoming adversity, ageism and sexism
From ageism to sexism, Samah’s journey as an entrepreneur has not been easy. “For years, I had to tell people that I was 28 instead of my real age,” says Samah. As a young woman in her early twenties, Samah felt that she was not taken seriously by potential investors and partner because of her age. She would wear makeup, dress in certain ways, and even style her hijab as a turban to appear more mature. Despite these challenges, Samah remains resolute in her determination to succeed, stating, “It’s unfortunate that appearance matters so much in the business world, but I have learned to adapt and present myself in a way that commands respect and be taken seriously.”
As part of SPARK’s UPTIME programme, financed by Google.org, Samah tookpart in the Startups on the Move competition, which helped her refine her business through coaching sessions with Startups Without Borders. In 2022, she was selected as one of ten founders to pitch her business during SPARK’s annual IGNITE conference in Amsterdam for the chance to win up to $10,000.
She took to the stage alongside other entrepreneurs from across the Palestinian territories Lebanon and Iraq. Despite not winning, she says the experience of networking with international investors and potential partners helped her to grow her networks and boost her confidence.
Samah’s perseverance has allowed her to achieve great success in her entrepreneurial journey. Her most significant success, she believes, is her ability to provide employment opportunities for others, especially the youth. Her commitment to having a positive impact through her work has earned her admiration, respect and a social media following that describes her as the “Ambassador of Happiness”.
Samah and her motivated team are a force to be reckoned with in the e-commerce industry, their next step with sook.ps is developing a new SAS service system to be sold in the MENA region, which promises to be yet another innovative solution to market needs.