Social entrepreneur Nora Fitzgerald founded the Amal Center 12 years ago. The not-for-profit restaurant offers training and employment to women from disadvantaged backgrounds from its base in Marrakech, helping them to gain skills as well as a crucial foothold in the culinary industry.
What shape had your career taken prior to launching Amal?
I never saw myself becoming an entrepreneur, that just wasn’t what I thought my life was going to be like. But it turned out that it was the thing that was needed for the problem that I was trying to solve. I don’t have a background in business or in restaurants; I studied mathematics, I’m into languages and I worked as a translator for a long time. As an entrepreneur, there are two battles that you’re fighting. One is within yourself. What are your own inner limitations that you’re putting on yourself? Why do you lack belief in your own agency? There was a lot of that for me: the internal battle. Then there is the external battle that you’re fighting, trying to bring your idea into reality.
What are the values and characteristics that define entrepreneurship in Morocco for you?
You see a lot of entrepreneurship in Morocco at every level of the scale. Somebody who is making sandwiches and taking out a little cart and selling them? That’s a very entrepreneurial spirit. But we see it in those at the top of giant companies and conglomerates as well. Moroccans are super entrepreneurial by their nature – by necessity. We are hard workers. In the last few years, there have been government initiatives, like interest-free loans and seed money for entrepreneurs. There is this approach here: “If you have an idea and you have the drive, let’s do this.”
What advice would you give to prospective entrepreneurs looking to take the leap themselves?
There will never be a convenient time in your life to do something risky. Just be brave now. Trust the process. Iterate a lot and be open to the iterations.