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The girls who formed Karak 2 Go at the Injaz competition are looking forward to expanding their business. Satish Kumar / The National
The girls who formed Karak 2 Go at the Injaz competition are looking forward to expanding their business. Satish Kumar / The National

Laying foundations for UAE's entrepreneurs of tomorrow

Emirati students learn how to start up a company in 15-week programme.

DUBAI // Mariam Al Marzooqi tells busy customers her company will deliver anything under the sun.

If the customer demanded a cloud when their groceries and laundry were dropped off then "we will make one out of cardboard and cotton and hand it to them".

The delivery service, created by six Emirati students at Sharjah Women's College, was among the business plans at this year's Injaz Company Programme Competition.

The 15-week programme, run by Injaz-UAE, a non-profit organisation that was part of Junior Achievement Worldwide, teaches young Emiratis the fundamentals of a start-up and entrepreneurial skills.

Though Ms Al Marzooqi's idea for a company did not win the judges' votes this week, her team returned with some valuable lessons for setting up Done Service, which runs errands for time-poor families, and the skills to get the business going.

"People are so busy nowadays that they need to outsource their daily personal work as well," said Ms Al Marzooqi, 20, the chief executive. "So we do it for them, anything they need. We are environmentally conscious and use paper bags."

This year, 19 teams took part with students from Fujairah and Al Ain joining for the first time. During the course, professionals volunteer to mentor students and guide them through the finance, marketing, public relations, licensing and legalities of starting a business.

Najwan Al Midfa, the associate projects manager at the Ministry of Cabinet Affairs, was assisting Done Service in the competition.

"The girls are passionate about what they want to do," Ms Al Midfa said. "They wanted to combine something that would bring them a profit but also raise awareness about being eco-friendly."

Ms Al Midfa said it was necessary to encourage the aspirations of young people and spark innovation through such programmes.

"Sheikh Mohammed has always spoken about engaging the youth and filling their time with productive work and making a path for themselves," she said.

Sulaf Al Zubi, chief executive of Injaz-UAE, said there had been a 20 per cent success rate for start-ups formed for the competition. "They go through the entire cycle and end up with a company," she said. "We received the highest feedback this year, with 33 teams participating."

Baader, a company set up by a team from Abu Dhabi Women's College to encourage recycling and resale of old toys, won Best Student Company and will receive financial aid from the Khalifa Fund.

Daari, a group from Zayed University (ZU) in Abu Dhabi that produced an English guidebook, won the Best Marketing Plan category. The book, Hoad O' Heda an Arabic greeting between a host and guest gives a snapshot of the country, its culture and traditions, and a list of general dos and don'ts.

Maha Al Hosani, 20, a business student at ZU, who heads the company, said they were taught how to overcome their biggest hurdle fear of rejection. "When we first discussed the idea with organisations, we were rejected," she said. "We did not expect that.

"But then we were given an understanding of developing a financial plan, approaching clients, how to package our product."

Ms Al Hosani's team is working with the tourism authority and others to distribute the material and have it translated into German and French. "We will be setting up an online version as well," she said.

Omar Al Busaidy, a senior tourism and corporate planning analyst at Abu Dhabi Tourism and Culture Authority, was mentoring Karak 2 Go, a travelling cafe started by students at Dubai's Zayed University. He said the competition was a great exercise in team building.

"Without that, business plans fall flat," he said. "The students grew significantly and by the last day could confidently pitch their business to the judges."

Hurra Al Hameli, chief executive of Karak 2 Go, said it was a dream to become an entrepreneur. "The programme has made it a reality by showing us how to be flexible and accommodating during challenges. We have become so popular in Abu Dhabi now because we have catered at events. Our next stop is to target people on the Corniche."

aahmed@thenational.ae

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