DUBAI // Young entrepreneurs in the Middle East are increasingly encouraged to follow their passion and build their own businesses - and investment companies are giving them that extra push, in the way of funding, to bring their ideas to life.
Yahya Stapic, an entrepreneur in the UAE, is a prime example. Last year, he entered The Big Start, a competition sponsored by Al Tamimi Investments (ATI) that rewards a student entrepreneur by financing his or her idea. And he won.
"The Big Start has been the best competition so far," Mr Stapic said. "It tells you from the get-go what you get, tells you to form a business plan, and helps you launch it. So when I look at The Big Start now, I definitely look at it as an opportunity to realise your dream."
The 21-year-old Bosnian has been developing his business idea - a store that identifies, supports and promotes UAE-based fashion designers.
"We're out there to give back to the community, and the way we do it is we elevate fashion designers to greater heights," he said.
Since he won Big Start last year, he has launched United Designers and is working on bringing the retail concept to life. "The most important thing is that we are looking at designers. So we are inviting all UAE-based designers to reach out to us, and we are looking to launch 20 to 30 designers early next year, when the store opens," he said.
Mr Stapic has not yet decided on a venue for his venture, but he said it will likely be housed in one of Dubai's high-end malls.
Rachel Wunsch, the general manager of Al Tamim, praised Mr Stapic's ambition and enthusiasm.
"He's been fantastic," she said. "He's actually hit the ground running since he's joined with us and has been very actively working with my venture team, my finance team and my marketing team, so we're on track moving ahead," she said.
Al Tamim's annual contest is a career opportunity for any final-year university student who hopes to catch a break.
"One of the messages we try to give the students is that it's not just a competition, it's actually a career choice," Ms Wunsch said. "It's a long-term relationship, so what we're looking for is basically entrants like Yahya, somebody's who's got drive and who's got the ability to really put their head down and substantiate their business concept."
Students may apply for this year's competition by submitting an application at www.thebigstart.ae before December 23.