x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Aspiring entrepreneurs explore Emirati heritage

Students across the country take part in an annual business competition in Dubai.

Aspiring businesswomen Muna Walid, left, and Noor Askar display their offerings.
Aspiring businesswomen Muna Walid, left, and Noor Askar display their offerings.

DUBAI // More than 800 aspiring young business people took part in a contest to showcase ideas and dreams that they hope will make them tomorrow's leaders.

Most of the projects were aimed at boosting the image of the nation and included UAE-shaped puzzles, custom-made T-shirts emblazoned with quotes from the country's rulers, and board games.

The week-long Young Entrepreneur Competition, sponsored by the Department of Economic Development (DED), encouraged young people aged between 15 and 25 to start a business.

To prepare for the challenge, each student took part last weekend in a two-hour workshop on product marketing and store operation in either Arabic or English at the DED's office in Business Village.

Muna Walid, a 21-year-old Emirati graduate of Ras al Khaimah Women's College, said the experience improved her communication skills.

"I used to be very shy but I can communicate with people now - men, foreigners. And I also speak a bit of Hindi, so that's improved too," she said.

Ms Walid and her business partner, Noor Askar, a 25-year-old Emirati, made traditional Arabic dresses called Jellabiya as well as hair clips, dresses and frocks for children.

"We make it ourselves, from the designs to the stitching," said Ms Askar, who hopes to expand her business into a small company.

"It's a fun hobby but I want to contribute to society, because as locals it's important to have our own business that can improve the community in the UAE."

Sultan al Aqili, an 18-year-old Emirati student at Al Ittihad Private School Jumeirah in Dubai, sells notebooks on which he prints educational quotes, in Arabic and English, by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai.

The books are adorned with quotes such as: "We should always be practical, realistic and optimistic" and "To dream of the future is one of the most beautiful things in life".

"When I walked into a grocery store once, I noticed kids going toward Spider-Man and Superman notebooks, but they can't learn anything from them," he said.

"It's all about education and the future, so children can learn from these notebooks, and I sold a lot of them during the first day of the exhibition."

Through his company, The Notebook, Mr al Aqili donates Dh1 for every notebook bought to Dubai Cares, a charity that provides children with access to primary education. "It's really important for less fortunate kids to be able to get education."

Nisrin Mohammed Safar, the general co-ordinator of the competition, said this year's projects focused on special needs and charities, adding that she believed the initiative could allow the students to become tomorrow's leaders by empowering them.

The top 10 projects will be announced in April and the winners will receive trophies and certificates.

cmalek@thenational.ae