Business also has a responsibility to aid local entrepreneurs

To achieve the dream of becoming an entrepreneur basic tools are needed such as capital, a marketing strategy and legal advice, writes Manar Al Hinai

Sumayya al Suwaidi designs clothing for women and sells her products in her Grafika boutique in Abu Dhabi. Sammy Dallal / The National
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Almost every Emirati in my social circle dreams of becoming an entrepreneur, a world renowned business guru, or the chief executive of a company with its name heavily embossed on top of a huge tower.

To achieve that dream basic tools are needed such as capital, a marketing strategy and legal advice.

We all know how costly that is, a fact that has discouraged many around the globe from achieving their goals.

However, that is not the case for young Emiratis such as Mohammed Saeed Harib, the creator of the Emirati animated series Freej, who is not only the mastermind behind one of the most popular television shows in Ramadan, but is also behind a successful toy and stationery franchise.

Government funding is one of the reasons for his success, and that of other Emiratis.

An exhibition of 33 small businesses financed by the Khalifa Fund For Enterprise Development recently took place at Abu Dhabi's National Exhibition Centre.

I was proud when I read about the various innovative creations by young Emiratis in the fields of agriculture, construction, heritage, and tourism.

We are more than lucky to be living in a country that provides its nationals with several platforms on which to establish their small businesses and contribute to the economy, as well as encouraging them to reach their goals.

The Khalifa Fund was founded in 2007 and encourages young Emiratis to pursue their entrepreneurial dreams by providing them with capital, consultation services, legal support and a marketing team.

Does it get any better? It does.

Even if an Emirati is uncertain of what kind of business to pursue, the consultants at the fund will pitch in with ideas of what the market needs.

The Khalifa Fund is not unique.

Every Emirate has a similar fund that operates to encourage Emiratis to reach their full potential. In Dubai small and medium-sized Emirati businesses are provided with financial help and are given an option to acquire international franchises.

Given all that, we are very proud of the Government's efforts in aiding Emiratis to pursue their dreams, contribute to the economy and preserve our traditional products.

I wonder, however, for how long will the Government be the main supporter of funding, marketing, and sustaining Emirati small businesses?

I believe it is about time large businesses and investors in the country took responsibility and backed the Government in its initiatives.

The UAE has opened the door for numerous investors and aspiring entrepreneurs who made fortunes and profited from the tax-free business environment.

The least these investors could do to return the favour or give back to society is to help Emiratis sponsored by the funds to achieve their own business goals.

One way of doing that is to provide them with workshops on how to run a business, deal with clients and meet business challenges.

Another option is for shopping malls and retail outlets to dedicate an area where young entrepreneurs financed by government funds could display their products and meet clients, perhaps using kiosks or stalls.

There is something for the retailers as well; these displays would attract more shoppers to the malls.

Stores could also collaborate with Emiratis by providing discount vouchers to customers.

Dubai Mall dedicated a space for this year's Young Entrepreneurs Competition exhibition - where students displayed their products and honed their entrepreneurial skills. The turnout was huge and people attended the event from all the different emirates.

Another great entrepreneur role model is Sumayya Al Suwaidi, an Emirati who owns a multi-branded boutique that displays fashion and lifestyle products made by Emirati and regional designers.

Sumayya provides entrepreneurs with a free platform in the very busy Al Wahda Mall in Abu Dhabi.

Her initiative has encouraged many Emiratis to establish their small businesses, make a decent living and make their mark on the fashion map.

However, we need more of these initiatives that cater to the needs of small-business owners in all of the emirates, and provide them with the encouragement and facilities needed.

In Abu Dhabi recent developments such as those on Al Reem Island, Yas Island and Al Raha Beach would be a great platforms to feature Emirati small businesses.

These destinations could target thousands of tourists thanks to their prominent location and leisure activities. They are the perfect spot to display Emirati innovations and introduce visitors to Emirati talent.

To achieve that, a few retail spaces should be dedicated to small Emirati businesses and leased for nominal fees.

This is where the Government should step in by creating collaboration between the various funds and retailers and providing investors and companies with incentives such as discounts on fees, or achievement awards to increase the number of Emirati small businesses.

The UAE's future relies on its youth, and it is about time businesses helped the government to promote Emirati businesses.

Manar Al Hinai is a fashion designer and writer. You can follow her on Twitter@manar_alhinai