When the course ended, Dr. Lamees presented her loan application to Wa'ed's screening committee. She said a Wa'ed loan would certainly help her business. But even if the committee didn’t give her one, she would reach her goal another way.
Wa’ed gave Dr. Lamees a loan to renovate a 780 square-meter space for her dental clinic along King Abdulaziz Road and 16th Street in Al Khobar, where she is today.
Over seven years, amid economic ups and downs, geopolitical strife and COVID-19, Dr. Lamees repaid her loan.
When she turned in the last payment in March, she became the first Saudi woman to repay a start-up loan to Wa’ed, which has loaned about $45 million to more than 100 entrepreneurs since 2011.
In April, as she oversaw renovations to her practice, where she employs three dentists and an orthodontist – two of them women -- she reflected on her journey.
These days, most patients trust Saudi female dentists in private practice, Dr. Lamees said. As dental practitioners and practice owners, women are no longer a rarity. Dr. Lamees has helped other women get their start, also in Al Khobar.
But she doesn't like to dwell on breaking barriers. She wasn’t the first Saudi woman dentist, she notes, and Saudi women have come a long way since she started. She simply mastered a set of managerial skills to own and run her own practice.
Repaying the business loan to Wa'ed means alot to her.
“Considering my lack of business knowledge and familiarity with governmental permits and other issues, it was like a circus when I started out,” she said.
Her perserverance carried her, she said, and today, reality has caught up.
“Saudi Arabia has changed greatly,” Dr. Lamees said. “Now you can do everything. The government is encouraging entrepreneurs and showing greater support to businesswomen, in dentistry and in every profession. Women’s empowerment these days is huge, and everyone knows it.”
That’s also the case at home, where her children, now mostly grown, cannot imagine the barriers their mother had to overcome. Their father makes sure they understand: “You should be proud of your mother,” he tells them. “She’s accomplished a lot.”