Against the backdrop of an International Finance Corporation (IFC) report, which states that women-owned SMEs represent only 34 percent of the sector globally, of which 70 percent are undeserved by financial institutions creating a credit gap of USD 287 billion, NAMA Women Advancement Establishment (NAMA) is creating a new opportunity for women-owned early stage start-ups in the UAE to scale up their businesses.
NAMA is calling on women entrepreneurs to send in their applications to qualify for it’s ‘Opportunity to Grow’ start-up pitch session, which will be held on December 11, 2019, during the two-day Women’s Economic Empowerment Global Summit (WEEGS 2019), organised in Sharjah by NAMA in collaboration with UN Women. Up to seven selected finalists will have the opportunity to present their start-up businesses to a leading jury comprising industry experts, influential mentors and potential VC and angel investors.
NAMA requires that there be at least one female founder of the early-stage start-up, who is also on the management team. The organisation is receiving applications online at https://weegsummit.com/opportunity-to-grow/, until November 21.
By presenting an opportunity like this, NAMA seeks to address the challenges women entrepreneurs face in growing their businesses, which are major bottlenecks to not just their own growth and development, but to the whole economy. The initiative also aligns with one of the four discussion pillars identified for WEEGS 2019: Access to Finance.
Reem BinKaram, Director of NAMA, said WEEGS seeks to further consolidate women's position in the economy by holding action-oriented dialogues and discussions on how the thrust towards creating equitable opportunities for female entrepreneurs and business owners, both locally and globally, can be enhanced.
“A significant way of doing this is by strengthening access to finance for women-owned SMEs by connecting investors and venture capitalists to women-led enterprises, so they can scale up operations and continue to grow in the marketplace. This is the essence of the ‘Opportunity to Grow’ session we have designed to take place during WEEGS. The event also champions the ‘access to finance’ pillar identified by WEEGS 2019 for its discussions. The first edition of this pitch session was hugely successful in bringing some remarkable women-led start-ups to the notice of potential investors in 2017.”
BinKaram continued: “This unique event has a dual advantage. For those pitching their business, this is a platform to hear from top experts and investors, benefit from the exposure their enterprises will get and attract the funding they need to grow and scale up. For the jury on the other hand, it is an opportunity to learn about the amazing innovations women are bringing to the SME sector – arguably the regional economy’s backbone – building a case for why more efforts need to be made to expand the ability of women entrepreneurs to pursue economic opportunities, invest additional capital, hire more employees, and grow their businesses.”
Eligibility criteria – quick glance
In order to qualify for the selection process, the start-up must be founded or co-founded by a woman who is also on the management team. The enterprise should be based in the UAE, already operational and looking for visibility and scale up opportunities. Applicants must have a trade license and a ready business plan (pitch deck) including financial projections.
To apply, businesses need to send a 1-minute video pitch, a pitch deck, and the company’s financial projections including an introduction to the team’s members and an explanation about what makes their business competitive, their potential for viability, sustainability, actualisation and profitability.
In addition to exposure, potential investment and networking opportunities, the top three businesses will receive recognition from WEEGS.
Held under the patronage of Her Highness Sheikha Jawaher bint Mohammed Al Qasimi, wife of His Highness the Ruler of Sharjah and Chairperson of NAMA, WEEGS 2019 will be held under the theme, ‘Drivers of Change’, on December 10 – 11, at the Al Jawaher Reception and Convention Centre (JRCC).
More than 1,000 people will come together to learn, exchange experiences, and network with high-profile officials and thought leaders on women’s empowerment, gender equity advocates, governmental, non-governmental and private sector representatives, and academics, who can influence global policies, inform grassroot actions, boost women's career prospects in all fields and advocate the formation of inclusive work ecosystems.