Doubling its member base to 2,246 in just a span of five years, the Sharjah Business Women Council (SBWC), an affiliate of NAMA Women Advancement Establishment, has charted an impressive story of development and growth, achieving major milestones in recent years.
Staying true to its vision of creating a nurturing and stimulating environment for businesswomen and entrepreneurs, the organisation has taken the lead in conducting workshops, exhibitions, conferences, trade missions and business trips, in addition to active participation in several economic activities at the local, regional and international levels. This slew of diverse support programmes has helped nurture an entrepreneurship culture and led to a spurt in sustainable women-led projects in Sharjah.
SBWC’s overarching vision to be an effective partner in the comprehensive economic development of the country has seen the council provide technical assistance to women keen on launching their businesses, and opportunities to participate in local and international conferences and exhibitions. They have also aided women entrepreneurs in forging partnerships with entities in the public and private sectors both within the UAE and across the globe.
Doubling of members
Sheikha Hind Bint Majid Al Qassimi, Chairperson of SBWC, has noted that in the period from April 2016 to April 2020, SBWC has doubled its membership rates to touch 2,246, of which 60 percent are UAE nationals. In 2016, total membership of the organisation was 1,248.
The current membership base is composed of 46 percent businesswomen, 49 percent professionals, and 5 percent students.
The members, she added, fall under five categories: business owners, professionals, professional women, students, and individuals. SBWC membership includes businesswomen from 21 sectors including real estate, legal consultancy, education, management, arts and crafts, information technology, software development, etc.
Promoting women in technology, innovation and digital businesses
According to Al Qasimi, fashion, clothing, food and beverage, are the dominant sectors that SBWC members are engaged in. However, there is a greater thrust given to promote ventures in Technology, Innovation and Digital Businesses. To underline some of the dynamics of this sector and promote the emergence of a significant number of startups, SBWC conducted more than 65 workshops, conferences, exhibitions, trade missions and business trips over the course of the past 5 years.
The SBWC Chairperson noted that in 2017, the organisation had set up an exclusive one-stop-shop service to streamline applications made by female entrepreneurs, and fast-track permits, visas, and licenses from Sharjah Economic Development Department. In the same year, it also launched the SBWC Mobile App. Several partnerships were signed with a host of government entities in 2018 while 2019 marked the launch of SBWC Talk Series, SBWC Tours and Outreach University.
Encouraging women to excel in business
The Council’s mission to promote Sharjah as a business-friendly destination for female entrepreneurs and business owners, and to empower women professionally and economically by fostering entrepreneurship, SBWC has been providing various forms of economic support to enable the growth and prosperity of female-owned businesses, said the Chairperson. Addressing the chief constraints facing women entrepreneurs which often undermine their potential to contribute positively in the economic domain, SBWC has taken the initiative to enable them to learn the tools and techniques of preparing their business for growth and building social capital through networking and mentoring support.
SBWC rises to meet challenges imposed by global pandemic
In the wake of the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, and in adherence to the precautionary health safety regulations imposed by the UAE government, SBWC launched five new initiatives to help its members continue expanding their business knowledge and to stay connected with businesswomen across Sharjah and beyond. Accordingly, harnessing the power of technology, SBWC’s new initiatives were launched on a virtual platform. These include: #SBWCTours, #SBWCEntrepreneursTips, #SBWCReads, #SBWCDictionary, and ‘SBWC Mentors’.
SBWC also organised virtual workshops for its members spanning diverse interests and sectors, namely The Use of Colour, E-commerce, and Digital Marketing.
Five-year journey of continuous achievements
In 2016, SBWC organised five workshops that explored relevant strategies to cultivate competencies in growing one’s business, products, or services. These included: Breakfast Networking Session with Dr. Amal Al Ali of Cardiff Management Consultant; Marketing and Communication PR Workshop with Sat Sandhu; Elevate your Brand Marketing and Communication with Tanita Sandhu, and a focus group session with Charney Magri. Members of SBWC also participated in the Step Conference and GITEX Future Stars, Arabian Business Women Forum, the launch of Badiri Programme, IIFMENA, and went on a trade mission to London.
In 2017, SBWC held four workshops: Set a Table, 15 sec Art, Strategies for 10x Success, and hosted a series of lectures on "Your health is the key to your success". The members also networked and participated in the Step Conference, GITEX Future Stars, Sharjah EF, Women's Economic Empowerment Global Summit (WEEGS), and Sharjah International Book Fair. The SBWC Mobile App was also launched this year. A trade mission was organised to Malaysia, while an Egyptian trade delegation was welcomed to Sharjah. SBWC also hosted the annual Suhoor for its members.
Continuing their onward march in 2018, SBWC organised six hands-on workshops that included: The Use of Colour, Passion for Future, Creative Robotics with Coding, Marketing Excellence, 360 Degrees, and Business Plan for Strategic Growth. Members also participated in the 2018 Annual Investment Meeting, Step Conference, Sharjah Bridal Fair, Women SME, Global WIL Economic Forum, and GITEX Future Stars. SBWC signed partnerships with Sharjah Economic Development Department (SEDD), Sharjah City Municipality, and Sharjah Electricity and Water Authority (SEWA). Members went on business trips and trade missions to Italy, Kuwait, Sweden, Pakistan, Brazil, and Thailand.
To enable its members learn new business strategies and knowledge, and discover smart, real-world strategies to improve business efficiency, SBWC organised seven workshops in 2019. These include: ‘Business Startup’, ‘How to use Social Network to improve your business’, ‘Grow your Business with E-Commerce’, ‘Economic Analysis for Small Business’, ‘Successful Pitching of your idea is key to Business Success’, ‘Women In Innovation’, and ‘Successful Entrepreneurs know how to get innovative ideas’. SBWC also organised a series of #SBWCTalks and SBWC Tech Talk #ThinkFuture sessions.
In 2019, SBWC participated in several exhibitions and conferences including Women's Economic Empowerment Global Summit (WEEGS), had a pitching session at GITEX with Khalifa Fund and Ruwad, and attended Azyan 2019, and GITEX Future Stars. Trade missions and business trips were organised to Thailand, Egypt, Morocco, and Pakistan, and it received delegations from Japan, Kazakhstan, Brazil, and Egypt.
In the past decade, SBWC has organised more than 120 workshops, exhibitions and forums, trade missions and business trips.