After months of competition, three Dubai entrepreneurs emerged victorious in season 3 of the Hadafi Women’s Entrepreneurship Program, founded by Potential.com, the leading provider of blended learning solutions across the Middle East and North Africa.
The winners were chosen from a shortlist of 14 projects by an independent judging panel following individual pitching and Q&A sessions during the Hadafi Final Awards Ceremony and Gala Dinner held at the Windsor Ballroom in the Grosvenor House on February 28th.
The third season of the program was the biggest yet in terms of reach and participants, with over 50,000 women enrolling in Hadafi’s free online business and entrepreneurship training phase, and over 1,000 of those entrepreneurs submitting their business plans for consideration in the final challenge, including 600+ submissions from the UAE alone.
Her Excellency Sheikha Dr. Hind Al Qassimi, Chairwoman of BPW Middle East Company and BPW Emirates Club, was in attendance during the Hadafi final gala dinner and presided over this season’s awards to the top three Hadafi finalists.
The first-place winner, Izil by Mouna Abassy, is a sustainably sourced line of health and beauty products designed to meet the needs of women across the Middle East and Africa. The second-place winner, Rozan Designs by twin sisters Rawan and Suzan Al Sadi, is a fashion forward design house founded on the philosophy of providing fashionable and trendy hijabs that push the boundaries of traditional wear. The third-place winner, Mezza by Jihyun Kim, is a social dining platform that aims to solve the two major challenges of an urban population: to become more engaged with the community, and to learn new languages.
The top 3 winners received a significant boost to grow their businesses in the form of cash prizes and rewards, as well as ongoing incubation and mentoring for their ventures, with a value totalling more than $50,000.
The panel of 10 judges who selected the three winners from a field of 14 finalists included Noha Hefny, Director of Corporate Affairs PepsiCo, Middle East and Africa; Nizar Cheniour- Director of Enterprise Development, Khalifa Fund for Enterprise Development; Randa Bessiso, Founding Director, Middle East at Manchester Business School Worldwide; Ms. Chantalle Dumonceaux, Managing Partner at WOMENA; Ms. Sana Odeh, Clinical Professor of Computer Science at NYU; and Ms. Shaima Ghafoor- Managing Director of Girls in Tech UAE.
Speaking for the Hadafi program, Shadi Banna, Managing Partner of Potential.com, said: “In a region where new sources of growth and jobs are urgently needed, women entrepreneurs remain a major untapped resource. Since its inception, the Hadafi program has attracted an outstanding diversity of applications, showcasing an incredibly strong entrepreneurial spirit among women in the region” adding that “With the incredible support of our partners such as PepsiCo, who have enabled us to provide this program for free to all, we have made great strides in highlighting, scaling and commercializing promising new ventures from women entrepreneurs, and we are extremely pleased with the success of the 3rd wave of entrepreneurs who have completed our Program.”
Launched in 2013 and available free of charge to all women across the Middle East and North Africa over the age of 18, Hadafi is a free development program and competition that guides existing or aspiring women entrepreneurs through the process of turning an idea or passion in to a successful business venture.
Noha Hefny, Director of Corporate Affairs for Middle East & Africa at PepsiCo added “We are proud to be associated with the Hadafi program from Potential as it gives us a great opportunity to partner with a committed team and organization in supporting and empowering women entrepreneurs in the UAE and across the region. Programs such as Hadafi are exceptional and much needed in our region. The program brings close focus on women entrepreneurs, their challenges and opportunities and fully addresses their needs. We hope to see many more companies supporting the program in the future and joining us to make a difference in the lives of so many ambitious and inspiring women”
Past Hadafi winners have gone on to create many successful companies such as Wardat Store, an innovative e-commerce initiative based in Taif, Saudi Arabia that supports the surrounding community by working with local craftsmen, shops, and families in order to bring to market high quality products made from the world renowned Taif Rose; as well as MICEit.co, the first MICE (Meetings, Incentives, Conventions & Exhibitions) events booking and management platform in the region that combines all event related services in to a one stop shop platform. The dates for the next season of Hadafi will be announced in early April. More details are available on the Potential website.