The Sharjah Entrepreneurship Center (Sheraa) supports and empowers entrepreneurs to give shape to their innovative ideas, turning them into business propositions.
The general awareness around entrepreneurship has increased manifold, feels Najla Al-Midfa, CEO of Sheraa. “The driving force has been some highly successful local stories – like Anghami, Careem, Dubizzle, PropertyFinder and SOUQ.com – which have become the local role models. An ecosystem has been built, but sustaining is a continuous process.”
Continuing, Al-Midfa adds, “Twenty years ago, Sharjah’s ruler, His Highness Sheikh Dr Sultan bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, established the University City with a vision to develop the emirate as a hub for art, culture and education. Now the area houses over ten universities, with thousands of students studying there. A lot of these students would look for jobs in the public sector, and some would be keen to start their own business. But there was lack of a platform to support them. We decided to build Sheraa a couple of years ago, which is now facilitating start-ups and entrepreneurs build meaningful contacts to scale their businesses.”
While the UAE encourages young minds to take risks and test new ideas, there is still a fear of failure. “We don’t expect the youth to graduate from the university, start their first business and build it into a unicorn. The important thing is to develop skills, and eventually, they will succeed,” Al-Midfa states.
Of course, there are many challenges that entrepreneurs and start-ups face. “Cost is a huge factor; it is relatively expensive to start a business here,” points out Al-Midfa. “We do many things to correct this – like working with the free zone Shams in Sharjah that issues subsidised licenses, but hidden issues still crop up. Something as simple as opening a bank account could be challenging for an SME sometimes. The policymakers are aware and are addressing the challenges.”
The full story has been published in our May edition