|Women-able Demo Day|
June 2nd was a big day for 41 women business owners in Dubai. The Dubai Business Women Council hosted the first Demo Day for the ‘Promoting Women Entrepreneurs in the UAE’ program, powered by grow.Me under its Women-able banner, in association with the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women and generously funded by the JPMorgan Chase Foundation. Entrepreneurs in the program pitched their business ideas for the chance to be selected as one of the 25 finalists for the next phase.
The program launched in March 2016 to promote female entrepreneurship in the UAE. Modeled on the successful 2015 Ro’ya program held in collaboration with MasterCard and the Dubai Business Women Council, it has helped more than 58 women develop new business ideas or scale existing businesses over its three-month tenure. Unique in its methods to help entrepreneurs, the program offers training, mentorship, and support to help women entrepreneurs find customers and increase revenue and employment.
The June Demo Day offered more than the chance to secure a spot in the final phase. Nadine Halabi, Dubai Business Women Council’s Business Development Manager, demonstrated how the Council supports the business ambitions of its distinguished members. Sandy Rodgers Trueb, a graduate of the Ro’ya 2015 program and founder of Buzz-a-Selfie, offered an interactive photo box for fun photos and props to capture the moment. The Demo Day also served as an opportunity for the entrepreneurs to enhance their presentation skills, develop their self-confidence and overcome any fear of public speaking.
Finalists for the second phase of the program were selected based on the quality of their pitch, as well as their overall performance in the program. Criteria for making the top 25 included whether participants embraced the process for finding customers, how well they listened to alternative opinions and whether they assumed an action-oriented attitude toward their business.
The next phase will delve more deeply into the specifics of good business decision-making, and will include training on financial literacy, marketing, business services, and especially sales. Expert panel sessions and group work sessions will focus on helping the entrepreneurs create strategies, solve problems, and secure early wins.
The emphasis on business growth and employment, rather than providing direct funding, makes Women-able a unique initiative. According to Maria Pearson, CEO of Grow.Me and co-founder of Women-able, “The whole purpose of our programs is to enable women to become economically sustainable and make an impact in their community.” And to date, the program has managed to do just that, with several early successes. For example, Ro’ya 2015 graduate, Amira Awwad of MedsConnect, has been shortlisted for funding from the Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Fund, and Jennifer Neff of Elemental Software has secured a pilot project with a number of Health Authorities for a diabetes social medicine program. Current participants of the program have also seen early wins: one participant has received $50,000 in funding based on an idea developed during the program, and another has signed partnerships to develop her signature events for the Kazakhstan Business Women’s Association.
Kia Davis, start-up fairy godmother and co-facilitator of Women-able noted that it was “impressive to see the growth of the women in the program, especially the ones who already had businesses, because they were continuously looking for new business opportunities and ways to re-invent their value proposition.” Another aspect of the Women-able initiative that Davis appreciated is its customer-focused curriculum. “What really drew me to the program is the fact that it was all about developing female entrepreneurs create strong business models through customer discovery, skill-building and confidence-building in a safe community of supportive entrepreneurs.”
Community building played a key role in shaping support network within the program. A website, online social network, mentor network and WhatsApp group became the go-to areas for support. Commenting on the role of mentorship, Klaus Miserra, Director of Consulting at Grow.Me and Women-able mentor, said, “A main part of what I do is focused on developing a trusted space for our participants to grow, by enabling them to respect and engage in the collaborative learning process with our mentors and each other.”
Over the past several months, mentors have helped participants understand their customer service findings, define their business models and practice their Demo Day pitches. But according to Miserra, the true strength of the program is the fact that facilitators don’t just deliver content, they seek to help participants cultivate the necessary analytical and thinking skills needed to grow their businesses and promote innovation. “This program is important to me, because I believe that it is necessary for us to promote female entrepreneurship in the MENA region, so we can continue to enrich our regional business ecosystems and produce more robust global economies.”
While the mentor network has been critical to the entrepreneurs’ success, friendships between the women have helped them flourish as entrepreneurs and individuals. The tight peer group provides invaluable information, feedback and contacts to grow each other’s businesses, and offers moral support and advice on personal matters.
The Women-able team is very proud of the strong community it has built and would like to thank the 41 women who pitched during the Demo Day for their hard work and dedication during the first phase. The team would also like to congratulate the top 25 finalists for making it to the next round, and to wish them the best of luck as they continue their journey.
To see our Fabulous 25 and find out more about their businesses visit www.women-able.com.
For more information about the project or if you are interested in sponsorship please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.