Tying the knot with investors was the easy part, says Arabia Weddings founder

But now Samar Shawareb is struggling to convince small businesses to market their services on her wedding website.

Christa Case Bryant/The Christian Science Monitor
Founder Samar Shawareb (r.) and her team are working to build Arabia Weddings into the premier wedding site in the Middle East, September 2, 2013, in Amman Jordan. Hi-tech start-ups are booming across the Middle East.

Samar Shawareb had an MBA and a successful event-planning company when she began a boot camp for aspiring entrepreneurs at Oasis500 in Amman, Jordan, so she went into the intensive session with low expectations.

“But it was very, very useful – it touched on aspects that were totally new to me,” says Ms. Shawareb, who was in the fifth of 23 waves of entrepreneurs that the Oasis500 accelerator has fostered so far.

Of the 600 who applied for a spot in that wave, about 300 were interviewed and 60 were invited to the boot camp. Shawareb’s start-up, Arabia Weddings, was one of eight selected for a three-month incubation period.

“Basically I was pitching a project idea, because I had no [Web] traffic, I had no revenue,” she recalls.

She has since received significant investment and has five other employees working full time, and three part-timers. But the small-scale wedding planners, photographers, and florists whom she is targeting have been slow to grasp the potential of online marketing, though they are coming around, says Shawareb, who wants her arabiaweddings.com site to become the No. 1 wedding website in the region. 

While she is determined and optimistic, she says the company is still "on the runway."

“I am nervous, because I thought that by this stage I would have probably broken even but that’s not happening,” she says, adding that political upheaval in the region has made the economic environment difficult. “Money is becoming tighter with venture capitalists and angel investors.”

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