Women Entrepreneur Role Models in the Middle East

Women Entrepreneur Role Models in the Middle East

Beirut, Arábia SauditaLíbano
Year Founded:
2013
Organization type: 
for profit
Project Stage:
Idea
Budget: 
$50,000 - $100,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

We will launch a branded series of mini documentaries revealing advice from leading women entrepreneurs throughout the Arab region. By incorporating it into university curriculum and seeding an online "office hours" mentorship program, we hope to inspire a generation of women to found businesses.

WHAT IF - Inspiration: Write one sentence that describes a way that your project dares to ask, "WHAT IF?"

What if more women in the Arab world today were inspired to start companies, guided by worldclass role models?
About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

Based on research conducted by Wamda for Women, an initiative designed to support women entrepreneurs in the Arab world, the majority of women leading companies today do not have role models outside their own families. Most that do look to the region's leading businessmen. Women from Beirut to Manama to Riyadh have voiced their desire for more cohesive business communities, and more visibility for women who are succeeding as entrepreneurs today.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

To address the need for female role models in entrepreneurship in the Arab world, we plan to create a high quality, fully regional media series and network that will not only reveal the challenges and triumphs of women running successful businesses today, but will bring women entrepreneurs together to better support each other. Beyond the mini-docs, we will launch "office hours," an online forum through which leaders will answer questions from the crowd, while building an organic community on social media through which women can debate issues. Our media series, "office hours" series, and online communities will build upon the media and communities already built by Wamda for Women.
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

In Jeddah, a leading entrepreneur has found local success by launching a hip online magazine for youth. We would interview her and create a mini documentary- no longer than 5 minutes, for web- about her journey establishing the startup, focusing on major lessons learned and the tools she's used to improve her business and entrepreneurial mindset. We would then suggest that she sign up for an "office hours" session, during which we would ask her vetted questions from the crowd live on Google Hangout. The results would be shared with universities around the region, and published on our own social media channels as well as relevant global distribution channels that focus on content for women.

Impact: What is the impact of the work to date? Also describe the projected future impact for the coming years.

By deploying our media content locally in universities and globally via online channels, we plan to not just educate and connect women entrepreneurs, but to fundamentally boost economic growth in the Arab region. The World Bank estimates that 200 million jobs will need to be created before 2050, simply to maintain current unemployment rates, which are some of the highest in the world. 75% of those jobs will go to women. Because merely employing women leads to higher societal investment in education, in countries like Egypt, increasing the number of women in the workforce could boost GDP by up to 56%. We intend to inspire women not just to join the workforce but to create work cultures that are conducive to women, in order to ultimately generate more inclusive, prosperous societies. We believe that online media is the most powerful tool for reaching the maximum number of women.
Sustainability

Financial Sustainability Plan: What is this solution’s plan to ensure financial sustainability?

To finance this project, we plan on initially seeking sponsorship from corporations in the region that are looking to support women in the workforce and women entrepreneurs on a fully regional level- there are plenty. As we develop our communities, we will look to potentially market bundled content to telecom companies in the region, develop the series for TV, and/or run offline mini-conferences to take the discussion live.

Marketplace: Who else is addressing the problem outlined here? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

Others creating high quality content about women entrepreneurs include Layalina Media, which has produced a documentary on female founders in Yemen, as well as a TV series for OSN chronicling this year's Injaz competition. Layalina is a potential partner, as would be Wamda Media, which is already creating video interview content featuring leading women entrepreneurs in the region. MENA Businesswomen's Network has supported Wamda Media and launched offline conferences, but not entered the digital content space. Our solution uniquely merges high quality digital media with an online community.
Team

Founding Story

Rahilla Zafar and Nina Curley met at Arabnet, a conference focused on entrepreneurship in the MENA region, and shared an interest in reporting on the ability of women in the Middle East to lead change, not just in their own societies, but globally as women look to re-examine gender roles. Initially focused on a book project, the founders realized that video would be a much more powerful medium for directly reaching the audiences they hoped to unite. In her work at Wamda, Nina had launched Wamda for Women, an initiative that was featured in The Economist for its work to generate honest dialogues among women in the region. This project seems a natural next step, building on the momentum of W4W and delivering what its community was asking for.
About You
About You
First Name

Nina

Last Name

Curley

About Your Organization
Organization Name
Organization Country
Country where this project is creating social impact

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Project
Year founded

2013

Impact
Impact: What is the impact of the work to date?

By deploying our media content locally in universities and globally via online channels, we plan to not just educate and connect women entrepreneurs, but to fundamentally boost economic growth in the Arab region. The World Bank estimates that 200 million jobs will need to be created before 2050, simply to maintain current unemployment rates, which are some of the highest in the world. 75% of those jobs will go to women. Because merely employing women leads to higher societal investment in education, in countries like Egypt, increasing the number of women in the workforce could boost GDP by up to 56%. We intend to inspire women not just to join the workforce but to create work cultures that are conducive to women, in order to ultimately generate more inclusive, prosperous societies. We believe that online media is the most powerful tool for reaching the maximum number of women.

Barriers: What barriers might hinder the success of your project and how do you plan to overcome them?

Barriers could include difficulties marketing to television stations, but by finding interesting angles that defy typical entrepreneurship storylines, we hope to break through stereotypes about economic reporting.

Full Impact Potential: What are the main spread strategies moving forward? (Please consider geographic spread, policy reform, and independent replication/adoption of the idea or other mechanisms.)

We intend to disseminate our media materials not just in Saudi Arabia, where we'll start, but throughout the Arab world, in Arabic, with the intention of reaching a mass audience of men and women. Future deployment on regional TV stations will enhance the spread of the message beyond entrepreneurship-focused communities to a general regional audience, while videos will be created or subtitled in English to be deployed on channels focused on women's employment and entrepreneurship, in order to further contribute to the global movement towards gender equality in the workplace. Once this format (mini-doc segment, "office hours," and offline conference) is honed, it can be deployed in any market around the world.

Sustainability
Sustainability Plan: What is this solution’s plan to ensure financial sustainability?

We intend to monetize by seeking corporate sponsorship from multinational sponsors interested in promoting women's entrepreneurship, and, in the future, packaging the content for potential sale to television stations. Once we develop a community, we intend to launch an offline conference, based upon the format of our video interviews and Wamda for Women's offline roundtables, as another revenue stream.

Founding Story: Share a story about the "Aha!" moment that led the founder to get started and/or to see the potential for this to succeed.

Rahilla Zafar and Nina Curley met at Arabnet, a conference focused on entrepreneurship in the MENA region, and shared an interest in reporting on the ability of women in the Middle East to lead change, not just in their own societies, but globally as women look to re-examine gender roles. Initially focused on a book project, the founders realized that video would be a much more powerful medium for directly reaching the audiences they hoped to unite. In her work at Wamda, Nina had launched Wamda for Women, an initiative that was featured in The Economist for its work to generate honest dialogues among women in the region. This project seemed a natural next step, building on the momentum of Wamda for Women.

Partnerships: Tell us about your partnerships.

Dawn Deckle, President of the American University Iraq, would like to set up a screening of our content. Morphmoms, a website launched by Kathleen Smith, shows examples of women who've re-entered the workforce; we would show videos on the site. Kelly Peeler, the founder of NextGenVest, is currently working with 17 high schools globally including the American School Riyadh. She would use our content to show examples of female leaders.

Women Powering Work
Is your project targeted at solving any of the following challenges?

Building self-confidence and networks through role models, mentors, public campaigns, and more

Does your project utilize any of the strategies below?

Providing practical education or resources along with your main project, such as financial literacy, family planning, day-care, counseling, and more