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Muslim Entrepreneurship Conference

Sheikh Hussein Halawa, Imam of the Clonskeagh Mosque, and US Ambassador Daniel M Rooney

US Ambassador Daniel M Rooney and Tayyibah Taylor, Founder, Azizah Magazine

U.S. Ambassador and Imam Share Views at Muslim Entrepreneurship Conference

Key findings from survey on Muslim Entrepreneurship in Ireland

• 48% are sole owners
• 68% of businesses are less than 4 years old
• 74% employ  zero or less than 5 people
• 46% are either in food or retailing
• 52% serve market within 30kms
• 42% have turnover less than €50k; 71% less than €100k
• 78% did not previously own a firm
• 76% said securing finance is the biggest challenge
• 48% said obtaining support from Enterprise Agencies was a challenge
• Lack of business contacts was also seen as significant challenge
• Largest source of finance is ‘own savings’ and  ‘family and friends’
• 90% said there is a need for Sharia Law compliant financial products
• 53% held business management qualification
• 63% had prior managerial experience
• 35% experienced discrimination from Customers

On October 6th 2010, a major conference on Muslim entrepreneurship in Ireland was held at the DIT Institute for Minority Entrepreneurship (IME). Sponsored by the US Embassy in Dublin, the event was part of the wider President Obama 'Muslim entrepreneurship initiative' to build ties with Muslim communities around the world, and featured speakers from the United States of America, England and Ireland.

In his speech to the conference, Ambassador Daniel M. Rooney spoke of the Department of State’s strong support for the Embassy’s sponsorship and, as a gesture of goodwill, offered a gift of President Obama’s autobiographies to Sk. Hussain Halawa, Imam of the Irish Islamic Cultural Centre. The Imam highlighted that the primary objective of Islam is to avoid all transactions that lead to disharmony and that morality was an important component of Islamic trading.

The focus of the conference was to identify ways in which greater entrepreneurial activity can be generated within the Muslim community in Ireland.  According to Dr. Thomas Cooney, Academic Director of IME, one of the key findings from a recent survey of Muslim entrepreneurs was their lack of willingness to use mainstream business support agencies, often relying instead on self-help and informal sources of assistance, including financial assistance.  Another key finding of the research was that the needs of ethnic businesses are frequently found to be quite distinctive as compared with those of other Irish firms.
"Although many of the needs of Muslim businesses are shared with their majority counterparts in Ireland, there are also specific issues they must contend with.  These include language, religious practice, age, and gender aspects, and an understanding of these is necessary if business support is to be delivered and to be effective. There are also issues relating to the availability of Muslim banking products in Ireland. The Muslim community has a broad network of international contacts and we should tap into this substantial community if we wish to build Ireland’s export activity."

Attended by over 130 participants, including entrepreneurs, non-entrepreneurs, support agency personnel and policy makers, as well as high-level Embassy officials from Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Morocco, among others. The event will be followed by a series of workshops across the island of Ireland in the coming months. Dr. Cooney feels the conference will help both entrepreneurs and the support agencies to better understand one another's roles.

See "Ireland’s Second Miracle" Entrepreneurship Policy Forum Blog