x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 January 2018

Women with firm plans for world

Five Emirati girls have plans to turn their businesses into global empires with the Emirati stamp.

From left, Jamila Al Suweidi, Ghada Al Amiri, Meytha Al Mutawaa, Amna Ali Abdullah and Ohood Omar Abdullah at the Dubai Outlet Management Office. Satish Kumar / The National
From left, Jamila Al Suweidi, Ghada Al Amiri, Meytha Al Mutawaa, Amna Ali Abdullah and Ohood Omar Abdullah at the Dubai Outlet Management Office. Satish Kumar / The National

DUBAI // Five young Emirati women are now firmly in the business of transforming their ideas for companies into international brands.

Meytha Al Mutawaa, Amna Ali Abdullah, Ghada Al Amiri, Jamila Al Suweidi and Ohood Omar Abdullah all took part in a two-week entrepreneurship programme in Lebanon last month in an attempt to broaden their business horizons.

The Global Business Opportunities programme introduced the girls, all in their 20s, to 10 Colombian and eight Lebanese entrepreneurs to team up and create a business idea. Over the summer, the programme will move to London and South Africa. The overall winner will get US$20,000 (Dh73,000), as well as network support from the organisers.

"Emiratis really want to be their own boss," Ms Al Mutawaa said. "My parents missed out on so many business opportunities and I always ask why?"

She plans on starting a coffee shop, where speakers can give talks to inspire other entrepreneurs and expand their business network.

"I looked at what the UAE was missing and what I wanted to introduce," she said, "and the programme really taught me how to choose a partner and how to work under pressure." After setting up in Dubai, her team plans to expand to Beirut and Bogota.

Ms Al Suweidi, a civil engineer from the American University of Sharjah, hopes to help save the world's environment.

"I want to improve the environment through my business of recycling material from Colombia as I know they have a lot, and I can do it thanks to my Colombian team member," she said.

The course taught her how to look for investors and learn from her co-workers' cultures.

"You learn a lot more by mixing cultures," she said.

"Emirati girls should be more exposed to other cultures, it's rare because it's not traditional. But I want to make a difference in the world and put the Emirati stamp on it."

Along with business classes, the girls took part in physical activities such as hiking, to understand the concept of teamwork.

"It taught me to depend on myself and that no matter how different our cultures are, you can always work together," said Ms Al Suweidi.

Ms Al Amiri, a graduate in computer systems from Zayed University in Abu Dhabi, studied leadership in Canada, which she said helped her understand how to lead in a government-based company.

"That's not what I want to do though," she said. "I want to lead in my own business once I establish it and the programme has taught me that."

Independence is of the utmost importance, she said. Securing a job is no longer enough, especially for a woman.

"Owning a business will secure you for life - and for us young Emirati women, it will empower us."

Her objective is to create an interactive advertising company by involving the public. She has already created a website in order to communicate with her Colombian and Lebanese counterparts.

With her first company up and running, Ms Al Amiri plans to follow it with a second, in jewellery design.

"The most important thing is to build a network - knowledge is good but networking is crucial to allow your business to grow," she said.

Ms Abdullah's background in art has not stopped her from joining the programme either. After graduating in fine arts from the American University of Sharjah, she worked at the Sharjah Biennial and now plans to open an arts-related company.

"I wanted a backbone to create my own business in arts and this really showed me how to look at arts from a business point of view," she said.

And Ms Abdullah hopes this is just the start. More young Emirati women need to catch the entrepreneurial bug and take a step away from traditional thinking, she said.

"In this day and age, Emirati women are moving towards independent mindsets and the younger we start doing this, the better it is for the next generation."