One Story At A Time: In Observance of World Entrepreneurs' Day
Ahmed Flex Omar, Co-Founder and Deputy Director for MALA
Today we celebrate World Entrepreneurs’ Day in an effort to bring awareness and appreciation for entrepreneurship, innovation and leadership throughout the world.
Social entrepreneurship is a responsibility. Coming from a corporate and finance background, I realized that entrepreneurship is not just about simply taking risks or calculating rewards. It’s about preparing and creating pathways that positively influence an outcome.
In Muslim American Leadership Alliance’s (MALA) case, it took me five years of grassroots cultivation to build a brand on a national scale that has come to mean so much to thousands of people. Utilizing our strategic partnerships in non-for-profit, tech, and business we have been able to build bridges between individuals through a respectful exchange of ideas.
Our value proposition is simple: we are shifting the narrative from religion and politics to humanity by focusing on storytelling as a tool to inspire current and future generations. Story-telling is a powerful tool. Combined with technology, social media, and a need for global discourse and dialogue, MALA has been able to emerge as a powerful start-up platform to represent diverse voices.
In a globally connected society, we are apt to become aware of the very need for diverse voices and inclusivity. Technology and media has a tremendous impact in how people have their voices heard and identity represented. I knew that starting MALA was going to be a challenging task.
What started out as a digital story-telling project in an effort to celebrate, record, and preserve the self-told narratives of Muslims in America has now expanded into a nationally-recognized, dynamic a platform for Muslims across the country to discuss heritage, struggles, triumphs, histories, and identity on their own terms. Since its inauguration, our oral history project has recorded and archived hundreds of unique stories told by Muslim Americans from all walks of life.
My biggest lesson learned in social entrepreneurship is that it begins with a vision of sustainability. With my team, we collaboratively started an organization with a strong program model for future expansion. It took tenacity, empowerment, and creativity to leave a footprint in the social impact sector. This collaborative leadership is what helped us get to where we are at now.
Build. Measure. Learn. With those on those core principles of the lean startup, as we developed our non-for-profit we relied on strategic management and measurable benchmarks to ensure the sustainability of our organization year after year.
Our future goal is to increase our philanthropic capacity to continue delivering platforms for the next generation, including our Young Leaders Program and Scholarship Program.
Admittedly, social entrepreneurship is not an easy feat yet offers the most profound reward: seeing the impact of our mission. There are hundreds of stories that MALA has collected and archived into the National Library of Congress for future generations to come. Our cultural heritage programs and events have garnered thousands of attendees. To maintain our sustainability the MALA team continues to cultivate our network of leaders to provide mentorship and build a base of positive identity for Muslim Americans.
As we celebrate the entrepreneurial spirit that drives individuals to contribute to the ongoing growth and development of our country’s social cohesion, I look forward to celebrating many more milestones with MALA.
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About the Author: Ahmed Flex Omar is co-founder and Deputy Director of Muslim American Leadership Alliance (MALA), a civic and community organization committed to promoting individual freedom and diversity, and to celebrating Muslim American heritage, founded in 2015.
Omar is passionate about mentoring Women, Millennials and Generation Z through internships, arts & culture, scholarships, and fellowship programs to engage them. Furthermore, he has created a series of events such as Muslims in Tech, Mompreneur, and Introduction to Islamic Art to help working professionals build soft skills such as Public Speaking, Personal Branding and learning how to negotiate.
Equally passionate about the social and economic inequality in Chicago and America, Omar is working with large scale corporations such as Envestnet and Yodlee to create workshops for financial literacy.
Omar was the recipient of the Presidential Service Award, bestowed by President Barack Obama in November 2016. He was a delegate at the 2015 United Nations NGO conference and has been a UN-CSW (United Nations’ Commission on the Status of Women) speaker for four consecutive years to raise awareness on gender-based violence. In 2019, Omar was a speaker at Fund Conference on Diversity and Inclusion and he is currently is an active member of the Chicago Leadership Alliance.
Previously, Omar has worked at UBS Wealth Management Group, American Express, RSM Mcgladrey and Deloitte before founding “Global Eventz,” an event marketing company that has organized over 500 corporate, nightlife and charity events.