Women on the lead

Aspiring to empower and support Dubai’s business and professional women, Dubai Business Women Council (DBWC) is on a mission to connect women through a wide networking platform and a set of initiatives. In collaboration with MasterCard, DBWC will soon host the second Ro’Ya workshop, an initiative aimed at driving entrepreneurship amongst women in the UAE.

In this exclusive interview, Nadine Halabi, Manager, Business Development, DBWC shares with us details about women entrepreneurs in the GCC and the role Ro’Ya is playing to encourage women to participate in the economic sector by realizing their entrepreneurial ventures.

 

How do you asses the entrepreneurial environment for women in the GCC?

 

Women entrepreneurs in the GCC overall are growing in number but relatively occupy a small percentage of the business arena. In Dubai, the number of women entrepreneurs is slowly growing thanks to various networks and organizations that encourage, empower and financially support them. Throughout the GCC, countries like Qatar, Kuwait, Oman and Bahrain have been quite active over the years with events and development programs that encourage more women to venture into entrepreneurship.

 

What is the main idea behind Ro’ya?

 

Inspired by the vision of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, UAE Vice President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, to encourage entrepreneurship in the country, Ro’Ya is an initiative by the Dubai Business Women Council (DBWC) that is aimed at driving entrepreneurship amongst women in the UAE. Along with offering financial support to female entrepreneurs through a competition, the initiative provides participants with the opportunity to meet and learn about the fundamentals of starting a business from a range of industry experts.

 

Ro'Ya, which means ‘vision’ in Arabic, aims to empower women in the UAE by offering, mentoring and coaching to existing and aspiring entrepreneurs who are keen to set up new businesses in the UAE. The initiative also rewards the top three winners with funds to be used towards their initial start-up costs. The top prize winner will receive the equivalent of USD 50,000, with second and third prize winners taking home the equivalent of USD 30,000 and USD 20,000 respectively.

 

What makes Ro’Ya unique is its series of coaching and training sessions for participants aimed at sharing insights into how to successfully start-up and manage a business which provide for great networking opportunities and the opportunity to meet likeminded passionate female entrepreneurs.

 

Based on last year’s success, what do you expect from the event this year?

 

Following the success of the first year of the Ro’Ya initiative, launched in January 2014, MasterCard and the Dubai Business Women Council (DBWC) are continuing their joint focus on driving entrepreneurship in the UAE by welcoming applications for a second year.

 

DBWC has collaborated and partnered with 3 main Think Tank partners for this year, who have helped develop a custom made program for its workshop series. The Think Tank Partners on board for Ro’Ya 2015 are: grow.ME, ActionCOACH and VentureFin. The workshops are tailor made with the help of social entrepreneurs, serial entrepreneurs, venture capitalists and owners of companies who have done it themselves and know the challenges.

 

What is your plan for the winners?

 

The 3 winners will have 50K, 30K and 20K as monetary prizes as well as a 6 week accelerator program that will be offered to them by one of the Ro’ya 2015 Think Tank Partners, VentureFin. The Ro’ya team will also follow up on the winners and will highlight heir developments in the media as well as social media platforms, just as we did with the 2014 winners last year, who we are very proud of.

 

What is your message to entrepreneurs trying to establish their own businesses in this part of the world?

 

I have realized that there is a large number of women in Dubai and throughout the UAE who have great ideas for businesses, but unfortunately do venture into entrepreneurship. When asked why, these women share the same answers: fear of failure, limited and restricted access to financial support and finally, lack of knowledge and experience.

 

I would encourage every female entrepreneur who is trying to establish her own business to join a professional business network or council such as the Dubai Business Women Council in order to gain experience and build or improve her skills. Belonging to a network will not only expose them to a wide array of information but also to a wide and diverse network of business women who represent varied industries.

 

Open to all budding female entrepreneurs who are citizens or residents of the UAE, Ro’Ya will reward three winners with funds to be used towards their initial start-up costs.

 

Submitted entries undergo a thorough screening process by a panel of experts from MasterCard and DBWC. Shortlisted candidates will then be invited to present their ideas to judges at a closing gala event.

 

The Judges

 

1. Eyad Al Kourdi, Senior Vice President & General Manager – UAE, MasterCard                                                                                                                                        

 

What do you expect from participants in Ro’Ya this year?

One of Ro’Ya’s unique attributes is the opportunity to interact with like-minded individuals, experienced entrepreneurs who started up business of their own and top corporate executives. Our interactive workshops have been carefully designed to provide insight and expertise on the essential tools required to run a successful business. As such, we seek energetic, passionate and mostly importantly determined participants that are ready to soak up all the information they can! We strongly believe that participants who put the most into the program will be the ones that get the most out of it.

 

What are the criteria for participation?       

                                               

We welcome all residents of the UAE with any unique business idea. Naturally, these ideas should have strong potential to become a profitable SME. In particular, we are looking out for innovative and unique business ideas with a distinguished edge that makes it stand out in the competitive UAE market. We also place great importance on a solid business plan and a clear, mapped-out strategy – Ro’Ya’s coaching and training workshops guide participants to ensure that they are prepared with all the necessary tools and information to develop these for their own business.

 

2. Clare Woodcraft-Scott, Chief Executive Officer, Emirates Foundation

          

What do you expect from participants in Ro’Ya this year?

 

As a judge, what I am looking for is a business idea or start up that is distinct from the competition, responds to a specific gap in the market and is potentially commercially viable and scalable.

 

What are the criteria for participation?   

                                                   

There are specific judging parameters. However, broadly I am looking at the entrepreneurial skills and competences of the founder. A unique idea that can compete effectively and sufficient commercial acumen to be able to put together a viable business plan that has financial projections in addition to broad based plans around marketing, distribution and product development.

 

3. Maryam Al Noori, Managing Director, Worood Intraflora LLC

 

What do you expect from participants in Ro’Ya this year?

 

I expect that participants will focus on innovation and creation of new concepts that will be both beneficial to the young entrepreneurs and to the end users. I would also like them to be able to empower and inspire fellow young entrepreneurs and come up with fresh ideas.

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