startAD, the Abu Dhabi-based global accelerator powered by Tamkeen and anchored at NYU Abu Dhabi (NYUAD), along with the US Mission to the UAE, held a closing ceremony on May 10 at the NYUAD campus to mark the completion of the third UAE edition of the Academy of Women Entrepreneurs (AWE) UAE program.
AWE UAE is organized by the US Mission to the UAE, in partnership with startAD. It is designed for female-owned SMEs to fulfil their economic potential, creating conditions for increased stability, security, and prosperity for all. Over the last three years, AWE UAE businesses have become an integral part of the local economy, having cumulatively generated USD 41 million in revenue, raised USD 7.5 million in funding, and created 481 jobs.
This year’s cohort featured eight UAE businesses: that have advanced their ventures and secured more than 1,600 partnerships since the start of the program. The teams showcased their pitches with an action plan to thrive in rapidly evolving market conditions to members of the UAE innovation ecosystem. The AWE UAE businesses are:
- House of Pops: Offers 100 percent natural, clean label, vegan ice cream pops made from real fruits, with authentic taste.
- Fruitful Day: A health-based cafe offering fresh fruit and snacks delivered directly to customers across the UAE.
- BoHo: A hair salon focusing on bringing education about sustainable beauty to the forefront of the industry.
- Urban Circle: An online platform connecting parents with handpicked, vetted, and qualified kids related service providers in UAE.
- Spill the Bean: A coffee shop offering 100 percent organic and fair-trade specialty coffee, wholesome treats, and community meets.
- The Broth Lab: A healthy restaurant focusing on free range, hormone, and antibiotic-free, fresh, locally sourced products.
- Kinetic Brands: An independent brand and digital experience consultancy led by award-winning creative and strategic minds.
- GroCart: A smart B2B wholesale marketplace, transforming a centuries-old industry with incredible technology.
Robin Solomon, Public Affairs Counselor, U.S. Embassy Abu Dhabi, said: “We are proud to partner with startAD to bring the Academy of Women Entrepreneurs to the UAE. Since 2020, startAD has supported 64 women business owners and 29 businesses in the UAE through the AWE program. AWE gives enterprising women the knowledge, networks, and access they need to launch and scale successful businesses. We look forward to continuing to work with UAE-based organizations to promote women's economic opportunities.”
“Our third AWE program in partnership with the US Mission to the UAE has once again proved to be an inspiring and instructive experience for the startups and the regional business community. The program is actively narrowing the gender gap in the market, evident through the success the entrepreneurs have achieved already since participating in the program. These successes reflect a wider trend in the UAE, where female entrepreneurship has boomed, with a 68 percent growth in the number of women in the UAE starting their own businesses between 2019 and 2020. This is encouraging news, and we look forward to supporting this new generation of business owners in building a more inclusive future.”
Ola Sinno, business entrepreneur and Owner of Spill the Bean commented: “The AWE program allowed me to step away from day-to-day operations and to re-examine the business from a birds eye perspective. Upon doing so, I gained clarity and the courage to make the moves I have known for a while that I needed to make to take my business where it needs to go. More than anything, AWE provided me with the support, validation, and network that will ensure that my business is on the right track to reach the goals I have set for it and to exceed them.”
Banu Cetin Akca, Co-founder of the Urban Circle, said: “Our participation in the AWE program has been instrumental for our growth in the last quarter. We were able to make the right moves to scale up our business considerably and I can confidently say that this was the biggest catalyst in our startup journey. Starting from the validation of our value proposition and structuring our business perspectives to enriching our network and partnerships, accessing mentorship with industry gurus and enabling discussions with like-minded start-up owners, we received immense help whenever requested.”
The closing ceremony for AWE UAE featured a panel discussion moderated by Christina Struller, Vice President, Corporate Affairs, UPS on the topic of Leadership: from Zero to Infinity, where panellists discussed ways to build a strong team culture and how to help employees to advance and to retain top talent as well as the new trends, tools and resources that entrepreneurs can leverage to optimize current operations and help scale their business. Farah Al Mazrui, Head of Investments, Aliph Capital; Theresa Wernery, Founder and GM, Trident Trackway and AWE Alumnus; and Kate Midttun, Founder & CEO, Acorn Strategy were among the industry experts who shared their insights and expertise during the panel discussion. Program partners include Grow.ME International, and ItsHerWay.
The US State Department established AWE as an exchange program in 2019 to empower women with the knowledge, networks, and access they need to launch or scale successful businesses. Implemented in nearly 100 countries since 2019, AWE has empowered an estimated 25,000 women entrepreneurs around the world with the skills they need to reach their full economic potential.