Her Own Boss #BossesGiveBack Edition:
Dr. Alma Abdul-Hadi Jadallah is President of Kommon Denominator, Inc., an award-winning woman-owned organization pioneering in the field of science and art conflict prevention, as well as transformation & peacebuilding. This organization advises on and works on strategic projects related to conflict prevention and mitigation, training and education, and capacity building on the national and international levels.
What motivated you to start your business?
After being a stay home Mom for more than a decade, starting my own business was one way of gaining entry into the market place, it served as a platform. More importantly, I was very excited to share what I had learned about how to resolve conflict in peaceful ways and to serve as a third party and mediator in different settings. I truly believed that this knowledge is important to individuals, groups, and communities both on the national and international level.
What is the greatest barrier you faced in launching your business and how did you overcome it?
I had limited work experience and was a stay home Mom for more than 12 years when I went back to graduate school, after which I started thinking about starting my own business. I was also a recent immigrant to the US so I did not have the social capital that someone who grew up here had, nor the startup capital.
Stereotypes of Arab women were sometimes a barrier as some people had preset notions about my abilities to perform in this culture. The glass ceiling is also true for women and perhaps more complicated for recent immigrants.
Thanks to the support of two close friends – Bruce Engelbert and Cynthia Irmer, they gave me their unconditional support and we started Kommon Denominator in 2005. Together, we wrote the mission and vision and the values that we wanted to bring to our work. Over time, I also reached out the Small Business Administration’s (SBA) office at George Mason University – my Alma Mater and consulted with them on marketing and financial issues.
I also volunteered in the community and served on several boards which allowed me to gain additional experience. More importantly, I felt empowered by my education and completion of my doctorate in conflict analysis and resolution and this motivated me to continue to grow my business and share my knowledge in a field that I truly believed in.
Do you have a mentor? How did you find him/her?
Several individuals played a key role in mentoring me. My husband, Sami is an entrepreneur so he was always supporting my efforts in small and big ways. I would also argue that my clients were indirectly mentoring me by sharing with me their experiences.
If you could go back in time to when you were first starting, what would you tell yourself, with the intention of avoiding mistakes and heart ache?
In the line of business that I am in – conflict prevention and mitigation – it was very important that I understood the context in which I was working in to provide valuable and meaningful services. In my work, it is not about making mistakes but rather about not doing harm. The fact is that when you serve as an intervener in conflict, it is very important that you are very much aware of your ethical and moral compass and that you commit to the principle of “do no harm.”
What resources have been most helpful to you?
Research and online-platforms providing best practice research and lessons learned.
What does success look like for you?
Since my work encompasses prevention, intervention and evaluation, I feel successful when I transfer my knowledge to the individuals and groups that I work with so they are able to use it independently, i.e. I do not create dependency.
What do you do to recharge?
I teach graduate courses in conflict resolution theory and practice, and love the interaction with my students. It feels great to share my experiences with them and to learn from them. Teaching for me is a rewarding and fulfilling experience that allows me to recharge my energy and knowledge. I also enjoy listening to music, reading and socializing.
What’s your advice for a young woman that’s considering starting her own business?
Though there is a lot of creativity and excitement in starting one’s business, young female professionals need to:
- Know that it can be quite a lonely journey unless you have business partners who are working with you;
- You need to make sure that in you are aware of the financial responsibilities it takes to run your own business;
- You are aware and leverage all the resources available to you through the Small Business Administration or organizations like the National Women Business Council to mention a few
- Pace yourself . . . it can be a 24 hours job unless you put a routine that will allow you time to reflect and recharge.
- Finally, do not hesitate to bring your whole self to your work. Your business can also be very much a way to express your identity and values; this approach can be a source of strength and distinguish you from others.
To learn more about Kommon Denominator, Inc. and the work of Dr. Alma Abdul-Hadi Jadallah, check out her website at: www.kommondenominator.com and connect with Kommon Denominator, Inc. on Twitter at @kdenominator.