When Eiman Al Hosani and Mouza Shabeeb had a chance discussion at work, they never dreamt that it would lead to where they are today: the brains behind a new initiative that aims to give Emirati businesswomen the knowledge and networking opportunities to help them grow or launch their companies, both here and globally.
Their light-bulb moment happened in March, when the young executives at Invest AD, the investment company backed by the Abu Dhabi Government, chatted about a newspaper story they'd both read.
"We saw an article in the newspaper and we were discussing it," says Ms Shabeeb, who is the assistant vice president of the internal audit department at Invest AD.
"It was about the challenges that women face in the business field. So we thought, 'Why don't we just speak with the management' and our CEO was very supportive."
Their idea was to provide a platform for Emirati businesswomen to network, build on their knowledge and learn from mentors and their experiences through a series of interactive seminars and workshops.
Called Jeda Al Jiouin, or moving towards excellence, they say the first seminar will be held before the end of the year.
A memorandum of understanding for the initiative, which will be spearheaded by the Emirates Business Women's Council (EBWC), was signed last month between Invest AD and the Federation of UAE Chambers of Commerce and Industry.
"We are excited and passionate about it," says Ms Shabeeb. "We didn't want anything to stop us."
The support of Invest AD was crucial for their plan to get off the ground. But Nazem Al Kudsi, the chief executive of Invest AD, says women are playing an increasingly critical role in the UAE's economy.
"Through this partnership to launch the Jeda Al Jiouin initiative, we hope to contribute to this development," he says.
According to Farida Abdulla Qambar Al Awadi, the deputy chairwoman of the EBWC, about a third of small-to-medium enterprises in the UAE are owned by women, while it is estimated that 70 per cent of university graduates are female. The EBWC says there are 13,000 businesswomen who own 20,000 companies in the Emirates.
However, Ms Al Awadi says it is difficult to say exactly how many Emirati businesswomen there are because some could be licence holders but not operating a company.
The workshops and seminars will address a range of topics that will help women to overcome issues such as how to seek finance and investment to expand their companies, or to help a fledgling entrepreneur to launch their business.
"Those workshops are actually going to have a focus topic that will help the needs of the ladies and some of the talks are related to finance or how to take their new business to the next level or grow that existing business," says Ms Al Hosani.
"Experienced people will be invited to be speakers ... [the ladies] will get to network, exchange experiences and ask questions that they have in regard to starting a business."
According to Ms Al Hosani, Invest AD's vice president of communications, Emirati businesswomen face a number of challenges, including lack of access to mentors or guidance from experts.
"What we want to give them is proper, reliable access to these mentors," she says.
That access will be provided by the EBWC, says Ms Al Awadi, who adds that businesswomen anywhere in the world face different challenges compared with their male counterparts.
"[But] I think here it is even more difficult because we are dealing with a multicultural community," she says. "So you are really in competition with all these different nationalities out there. It is very important for everyone to know how to be more competitive.
"There are so many successful Emirati businesswomen and they are great role models for any woman to launch something."
Both Ms Al Hosani and Ms Shabeeb say they will develop Jeda Al Jiouin through surveys and by asking women what they want to learn through the programme.
"From the result of the survey, we can [use that to] build up for the next session," says Ms Shabeeb. "They can tell us the problems, issues they are having with their business, the challenges so they can give us more ideas about what to talk about and how we can benefit them more."
As for the future, Ms Al Awadi says the plan is to help Emirati women become stronger business leaders.
"If we look at this within five years' time, I would like to see us look into having more, stronger businesswomen, more of them in the market, more complete because today anybody can have any type of business," she says.
"However, we want to make that much more into reality on a much bigger scale ... by giving more knowledge, by gaining more confidence, with more networking and so forth.
"It makes them stronger and grow in number on the side of their business as well. And, hopefully, we can extend that beyond the UAE and take it more on a global level."