Penelope Shihab’s journey from Palestine to Wyoming, and her mission to inspire entrepreneurship in the state
Wyoming may not be known as a hub for celebrities, but it has recently gained a new resident who is making waves in the entrepreneurial world. Penelope Shihab, an international biotech entrepreneur, has chosen to live and work in Laramie, Wyoming, rather than the more popular celebrity destination of Jackson. With a successful career in the Middle East and international recognition for her work, Shihab is now leading entrepreneurial efforts at the University of Wyoming, inspiring students to build new businesses in the state.
Palestine and Jordan:
Shihab’s journey to Wyoming began in Bethlehem, Palestine, where she was born, and Ramallah, where she was raised. Growing up in a region marked by military conflict, Shihab felt the limitations of living in an unstable and uncomfortable environment. At the age of 18, she had the opportunity to continue her education in Jordan, a decision influenced by customs and heritage. Although she initially wanted to be a journalist and showcase the happiness and innovation of her region, her family encouraged her to pursue a career in medicine. Despite this change in plans, Shihab excelled in her studies and eventually worked for an international biotech company based in Denmark.
Entrepreneurship in the Middle East:
In her 30s, Shihab realized that she wanted to start something similar to her previous company in the Arab region. With an MBA from the London Institute and a passion for cancer and tumor marker research, she embarked on a risky and ambitious journey to create a successful research and development company in Jordan. Facing numerous challenges, including a lack of regulations and initial research setbacks, Shihab persevered and sought help from a renowned scientist at the University of Cambridge. With this collaboration and the unique use of camels to produce antibodies, her company, MonoJo Biotech, began to thrive. The company ultimately found success in the skincare industry, and Shihab gained international recognition for her work.
Coming to Wyoming:
In 2020, Shihab’s world was turned upside down when her father developed cancer. She resigned from her company to care for him, and after his passing, she learned about an opportunity in Wyoming through her connection with University of Wyoming President Ed Seidel. Intrigued by the vision to bolster entrepreneurship at the university, Shihab decided to take on the role of directing the University of Wyoming Center of Entrepreneurship and Innovation. Despite initial uncertainties, Shihab now works tirelessly to promote entrepreneurship among students, faculty, and Wyoming business owners. She aims to inspire the next generation of entrepreneurs and create a better business ecosystem in Wyoming.
Penelope Shihab’s journey from Palestine to Wyoming is a testament to her drive, ambition, and passion for entrepreneurship. From her humble beginnings in the Middle East to her international recognition as a biotech entrepreneur, Shihab has overcome numerous challenges to make a difference in the world. Now, in Wyoming, she is using her expertise and experience to inspire students and strengthen the entrepreneurial spirit in the state. With her leadership, the University of Wyoming Center of Entrepreneurship and Innovation is poised to make a significant impact on the business landscape of Wyoming. As Shihab continues to drive economic development and inspire innovation, her story serves as a reminder that anyone can achieve their dreams with determination and a willingness to take risks.