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AUS’ StartupSBA fostering next generation of UAE’s entrepreneurs
Ambitious young entrepreneurs are being given the opportunity to hone their skills and benefit from the advice of established business people through StartupSBA, a student initiative within American University of Sharjah’s (AUS) School of Business Administration (SBA).
StartupSBA is the first chapter in the region of the Collegiate Entrepreneurs Organization, a network with over 250 chapters in North America and across the world. It aims to inform, inspire and support student entrepreneurship and have students seek opportunity through enterprise creation. AUS’ chapter is celebrating its first anniversary, with a number of impressive achievements being realized over the first 12 months of its existence.
StartupSBA’s members, which include students from across the university, are able to make their entrepreneurial aspirations a reality by connecting with successful business professionals and start-up founders. Students are invited to take part in the events hosted by StartupSBA, which include fireside chats where panels of professionals, academics and entrepreneurs discuss issues pertinent to young entrepreneurs, such as Blockchain and “hustle culture.” Workshops are also held throughout the semester, taking students’ entrepreneurial visions through from the ideation stage and development to product launch. To date, workshops have been conducted by Be My Eyes’ founder Hans Wiberg, and Magnitt’s community manager Noor Salama. Students also benefit from StartupSBA’s podcast series, starring youth entrepreneurs such as Elnaz Tabei, founder of arTabEl.dxb; Latifa BinHaide, co-founder of Mentalhealthae; and Diala Daoud, founder of Launch DXB.
AUS’ budding entrepreneurs can also benefit from StartupSBA’s mentoring sessions, which help students prepare for entrepreneurship competitions, including the well-known Hult Prize and the Pitch Competition of the Collegiate Entrepreneurs Organization (CEO). One beneficiary is AUS student Aaron James Arquero, who was recently named as a top 100 competitor in CEO’s 2020 Virtual Global Pitch competition. Arquero’s startup Formflair is a peer-to-peer sustainable fashion marketplace that allows stylish youth within the UAE to make affordable, quality purchases while helping the environment by giving used clothes a new home. The start-up capitalizes on the growing social acceptance of thrifting in the UAE and the trend among youth to reject fast fashion. Arquero says of StartupSBA’s role in his reaching the top 100:
“StartupSBA has been a real asset in helping me secure a place in the Pitch Competition. Not only did they provide information and direct contact with the organizers, they made sure to offer support—specifically, covering the costs of entering the competition as well as critiquing and reviewing my current business model. I am in the running to win up to $10,000 worth of seed money, and this competition also exposes my business to a wider audience—allowing me to get a plethora of feedback. I am confident my business will come out of this competition, which is led by industry experts, more refined and competitive, ready to launch!”
Also making it into CEO’s top 100 competitor list is AUS student Sreeparvathy Sunil, achieving recognition for her idea to create a home bakery selling healthy desserts by substituting common ingredients, such as sugar, with healthier alternatives. She says of StartupSBA’s role in her achievement:
“The members of StartupSBA have been the most helpful and wonderful people to have alongside in this journey. From giving me advice to communicating with the event managers, the members of StartupSBA have made me feel like I’m not in this competition alone. With their constant help and support I know we will be able to make it to the top."