The concept of coworking is not entirely new to Western culture and the word ‘entrepreneur’ is on the brink of overuse. There is another world, though where these concepts have only just appeared on the horizon. In the country of Lebanon – which is roughly the size of Connecticut – there are two young women transforming a culture set in its ways by introducing entrepreneurship as a calculated and necessary risk.
Lebanese culture is deeply rooted in family values and emphasizes the importance for higher education. There is no question why these values are integral in survival when you acknowledge the country’s past struggles and current hardships. Lebanon endured a seventeen-year civil war in its recent history and is now directly affected by the Syrian Refugee Crisis. The resident generation is understandably risk averse, which has made searching outside of the country for a career a logical choice for the educated, millennial workforce.
Anna Medearis – American-born – lived in Lebanon for the majority of her childhood. She returned to the states for high school and college, always knowing she would go back to Lebanon one day. Tracking with the major economic and cultural shifts in the Middle East, Anna made her return sooner than anticipated. Her original plan involved educating and empowering the Syrian refugees by teaching a trade such as photography to the masses.
Upon her arrival she realized there was an abundance of aid for the refugees while the Lebanese natives were left neglected by the crisis. With hints of a startup scene on the rise paired with her curiosity in shared work spaces, Anna thought the best way to empower the Lebanese was to offer a space for learning, for dreaming and most importantly, for harboring community. Thus, the idea for The Olive Grove was born.
Angela Arnaout, Lebanese born and raised left her country in her early twenties just like her peers did, in search of job security. Successful, established and newly married, Anna thought Angela would never want to return to Lebanon. Fortunately, Angela shared her dear friend’s passion for innovation and renewal and eagerly jumped on board to build The Olive Grove.
Anna and Angela met in grade school and were fast friends. They were constantly feeding their creative minds and searching for ways to help others. Around the time the Iraq War started, Anna recalls making magnets with Angela, which the pair would sell to their classmates. They would use their earnings to purchases goodie bags for the children in their community.
Lifelong friends to successful colleagues, Angela Arnaout and Anna Medearis have infiltrated their community with the aptly named “Olive Grove Beirut.” After months of planning and major renovations, The Olive Grove Beirut opened its doors in November 2017. Their success continues as the space fills and the work never stops, but the dynamic duo is optimistic for the future with big plans in their midst.