Sheraa (Sharjah Entrepreneurship Centre), launched under the patronage of Sheikha Bodour bint Sultan Al Qasimi, Chairperson of the Sharjah Investment and Development Authority (Shurooq), Chairperson of Sheraa (Sharjah Entrepreneurship Center), has laid the foundations for a thriving community of young entrepreneurs who will contribute to the growth of the United Arab Emirates and the region. The centre, which commenced operations in January 2016, is located in the American University of Sharjah (AUS) campus.
Speaking on the inspiration behind Sheraa, Sheikha Bodour bint Sultan Al Qasimi explained: “The Emirate of Sharjah seeks to provide an attractive environment which supports entrepreneurs of all nationalities, with a special focus on young Emirati women and men. Our aim with this initiative is to allow these aspiring business professionals to utilise their creative ideas and turn them into projects that achieve tangible benefits to the community and generate positive financial rewards that enhance the economic development of the UAE and the region.”
Sheikha Bodour Al Qasimi stressed that Sheraa Centre empowers dynamic youths to launch highly competitive sustainable ventures and supports them by following up and developing their projects to ensure they meet the needs of the community. She highlighted that Sheraa paves the way for talented young Emiratis to build business networks that contribute to excellence and leadership in many vital economic, trade and service sectors.
Sheraa’s initiatives, which help sustain and grow new businesses, are important especially as self-employment amongst the region’s youth gains popularity. A 2015 survey titled ‘Fresh Graduates in the MENA’ reported that 80% of the millennial respondents ‘considered setting up their own businesses in the future, with 39% considering it actively.’ Considering the competitive environment of new businesses, Sheraa’s community space and initiatives set a student on the path of endless opportunities and success.
The accelerator program is Sheraa’s flagship offering, and the first in the UAE to be housed within a university. The impactful three-month curriculum is mentorship-driven, and provides young entrepreneurs with business connections and attractive perks and benefits. This hands-on idea-to-startup journey, completed under the guidance of seasoned entrepreneurs and Sheraa’s network of corporate partners and investors, gives students and graduates the confidence required to jumpstart their entrepreneurial ambition and helps position their venture’s long-term success.
Najla Al-Midfa, General Manager of Sheraa, explains that the accelerator program is open to students and aspiring entrepreneurs of all educational backgrounds and nationalities where they sift through the most promising ideas. She further adds: “Sheraa will help turn concepts into business propositions, and will provide the business with seed-funding, free license, office space, mentorship, market access, focus group tests, and real time customer engagement. The accelerator is a transformative experience, molding young graduates into successful entrepreneurs with a commitment towards building sustainable and scalable enterprises with a positive social impact.”
In addition to the accelerator, Sheraa has also established an academy that aims to tackle the skills gap by providing students with the most in-demand 21st century skills. The workshops cover a host of topics, ranging from digital and technology through to interpersonal and critical thinking skills. This offering is in line with the challenge of acquiring the right talent for start-ups, evidenced by a report that explores the trends and challenges in key regional markets. According to the research, a staggering 68% of UAE companies agreed that ‘finding talent was a challenge.’
With its state-of-the-art 650 square metre facility due for launch in October 2016, Sheraa is a valuable component of the UAE’s growing ecosystem. By committing resources to infusing a positive entrepreneurial spirit in today’s youth and supporting them to create viable ventures, Sheraa is investing in the future of tomorrow’s leaders in the UAE and across the region.