Interesting article from Knowledge @ Wharton highlighting one new venture in Jordan run by Laila Mohammad Manna and her family in the Jordanian coastal town of Aquaba. It should be noted that Manna participated in Goldman Sach’s 10,000 Women entrepreneurial training at the American University in Cairo. From Knowledge@Wharton:

Novel marketing strategies are all in a wet day’s work for Manna, a one-time emergency room nurse and a former employee with the local economic empowerment zone who decided eight years ago that she needed a career change. “In 2003, I worked in a government job, but wanted something that was more satisfying,” says Manna, 58. “At the time, my husband Roderick Abbotson and son Ashraf Al Sulaibi both taught diving at a hotel in Aqaba, so they had the knowledge and certification that would be necessary for the venture, while I had the administrative background.”

A few years later, Manna’s daughter Enas joined the family-owned business as a cashier and bookkeeper, then went on to become certified as an instructor. “I knew there were many competitors,” notes Manna, referring to the more than 20 diving schools listed on an Aqaba tourism website. “So we realized we would have to stand out.”

Manna implemented a multi-level strategy that made heavy use of the family’s expertise and reinforced it with some new offerings, including the underwater weddings. Dive Aqaba also works hard to attract entire families or other groups to the center by offering instruction and dives for young children and for individuals with special needs, including Down syndrome and autism. “Our goal is to reach a wide audience,” notes Manna. “For example, each year we get clients from the Handicapped Scuba Association, we have international clients and we service professional divers by offering training to instructor-level individuals. We use different gas mixes and specialized equipment to allow them to safely dive deeper.”

Diversifying the client base can give a business a competitive advantage, says Ahmed H. Tolba, an assistant marketing professor at American University in Cairo’s department of management. “When you offer services that others don’t, you can reach untapped markets and establish your own niche,” he says. “But it can be challenging to make people aware of your business — and some conservative-minded individuals in the Gulf region may still have trouble doing business with a company that’s owned by a woman.”

On the 2011 Global Entrepeneurship and Development Index, Jordan ranks #51. The country scores strongest on the entrepreneurial attitudes sub-index, but is much weaker on the entrepreneurial activities and entrepreneurial aspirations sub-indexes. So it means that there are firms like Manna’s, but few large concerns and few entrepreneurs partaking in high impact opportunities.  Any thoughts on Jordan’s entrepreneurial economy?

via Innovation under the Red Sea.