Local entrepreneurs attending the fifth annual Sharjah Entrepreneurship Festival (SEF 2021) paid tribute to the opportunities and support system offered by the emirate for establishing and conducting business, with a special upvote made by female entrepreneurs.
As part of a panel discussion ‘Coming home: Why Sharjah is the right startup hub for long-term thinking entrepreneurs’, held on Tuesday Sarmad Al Zadjali, founder of adventure travel platform Mughamer; Maryam bin Al Shaikh, acting manager of Sharjah Business Women Council (SBWC); and Fatema Showaiter, founder of Ark Café in Sharjah, spoke to moderator Najla Al Ansari, founder of the Not a Space community initiative, about how Sharjah’s ecosystem and community aids their ventures.
“It is good to venture into entrepreneurship in what is essentially our backyard – Sharjah”, said Al Zadjali.
“With Mughamer, we wanted to bring the adventure experience to the end user with ease, and offer both local and international experiences as quickly as possible. The magic of setting up a business in Sharjah is that getting your trade licence literally takes two hours and the market is very accessible – boasts a lot of purchasing power and is not yet saturated with players. It is a very good place to tweak or change your product or service even while you are operating it.”
“At the Sharjah Business Women Council, we are creating a supportive and sustainable environment for female entrepreneurs by giving them new opportunities and catering to their needs, making the right changes wherever necessary and offering them an exclusive space to grow and prosper. SBWC is a safe and learning hub for them where they meet fellow members and entrepreneurs. The Council, which boats a 2,000+ membership, caters to women of all nationalities as they all contribute to our economy. We want to show the people in Sharjah and outside what the women in the UAE are capable of,” said Al Shaikh.
“We are also particularly supportive of young women who may have the passion of wanting to create something but don’t have the experience. We want to encourage women even in non-traditional sectors such as technology, farming and sustainability, as we look forward to new trends and solutions to be led by talented young women,” she added.
Showaiter, a proud SBWC alumni, said that Sharjah offers a very safe space for women entrepreneurs.
“In any business, you invest a lot of your time, money and effort, while tackling insecurities as well as taking away time from your other interests and relationships, but the business environment in Sharjah and the support offered by SBWC to aspiring female entrepreneurs makes it worth the trade-off,” she added.
Real sustainability talk by sea experts
In another panel talk ‘Making change happen’, Ali Tabrizi, filmmaker and conservationist behind the hit Netflix documentary ‘Seaspiracy’, which questions the idea of sustainable fishing; and Sean Dennis, cofounder and CEO of Seafood Souq, a UAE-based digital ecosystem that aims to bring transparency, traceability and sustainability to the global seafood industry, went head-to-head on the topic.
“Using technology, we can eradicate the bad actors in the seafood supply chain who occupy the space to carry out poor or harmful practices,” said Dennis. “There has also been a change in conscious behaviour among end consumers, who are the most powerful driving forces of change.”
Tabrizi, whose documentary made ripples globally, questioned the changes we think we need to make to manage the destruction of the oceans. “There are unintended consequences of taking so much fish out of the ocean. While the usual ‘sustainability’ talk focuses, for example, on not overfishing beyond a certain limit, it ignores the rest of the underwater ecosystem that is dependent on the fish being taken out. We need to challenge the lies that we believe and have therefore launched a petition to protect 30% of the world’s oceans from fishing.”
The fifth edition of the Sharjah Entrepreneurship Festival (SEF), one of the largest events for entrepreneurs in the region, organised by the Sharjah Entrepreneurship Center (Sheraa), witnessed the participation of 55 speakers, including influential regional and global entrepreneurs, industry titans, and young creatives from social, cultural and sports sectors, and more. The two-day event brought together more than 4,000 entrepreneurs and founders of startups across sectors on one platform, who discussed ways to make a meaningful impact and promote positive change in the local and regional entrepreneurship sectors.
SEF 2021 was organised in partnership with the ICT Fund – an initiative of the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority and the Digital Government of the United Arab Emirates, Sharjah Media City (Shams), Alef Group, and the Sharjah Commerce and Tourism Development Authority.