Supermodel-turned-businesswoman Tyra Banks picked Abu Dhabi as the first international market for her premium ice cream brand, Smize Cream.
“I picked Abu Dhabi for my brand’s global expansion because I am inspired by what the UAE has achieved in the past 50 years,” the businesswoman told the Access Abu Dhabi event in the capital on Thursday.
“It has evolved from the sand to the Moon. The country’s beauty and warmth touch me. Also, its progress on female empowerment.”
Ms Banks headlined the inaugural session of the Access Granted talk series, an initiative powered by the Abu Dhabi Investment Office (Adio) and Maven Global that aims to help US companies led by women and minority entrepreneurs to expand in Abu Dhabi and serve as a gateway for the wider Middle East market.
The programme is part of the emirate's strategy to attract global companies to set up their regional bases in Abu Dhabi.
Ms Banks, a former fashion model, is now a media and business pioneer whose portfolio includes the production company, Bankable Productions, which has made shows such as The Tyra Banks Show and America’s Next Top Model.
She is part of the Women of Web3 delegation, a team of female US technology entrepreneurs who shared their insights and are exploring Abu Dhabi as a gateway for global expansion of their companies.
“We will have ice cream scoop shops in Abu Dhabi, while B2B will contribute the bulk of our revenue. We will sell in bulk to the transportation sector, airlines, cruises, stadiums and arenas. We just closed a big deal,” Ms Banks said.
Smize Cream will also be launched in the metaverse in Los Angeles within a month, she said.
“It will be a luxurious, decadent digital experience. You can sign up now and get on the waiting list to get a non-fungible token. I want to make NFTs and the metaverse accessible,” she said.
"You can penetrate the market if you can be innovative. It’s all about working hard to attain your dreams," Ms Banks told the audience of entrepreneurs and businesswomen.
“I’m attracted to taking risk and bringing in revenue. I want to break down the doors now so people at a later date don’t get any bumps or bruises. Young people come up to me and tell me they don’t feel the pain because I’ve made it easier for them. This makes me wake up every day.
“Don’t be ashamed, do your cold calls and cold emails. The four most important words are ‘Who do you know?’ to connect me with to take me to the next level,” she advised entrepreneurs.
Meanwhile, Abu Dhabi wants to celebrate entrepreneurs, build support structures for them and create a navigable path free of any hurdles, according to Abdulla Al Shamsi, acting director general of the Abu Dhabi Investment Office.
“There has been a significant drive within the UAE government to support opportunities for women. About 66 per cent of our public sector employees are women,” he said.
“Opportunities shall be driven through innovation, creativity and challenging the status quo. We are here to remove hurdles, change regulations when necessary and learn from the business community. We are heading towards a knowledge-based economy.”
As part of the Access Abu Dhabi initiative, the Adio will help expose businesses to the emirate’s enabling ecosystem, find them a location and source funding equity, he said.
“We are creating a platform for people to thrive. People are the backbone of our knowledge-based economy,” Mr Al Shamsi said.
As part of the Access Abu Dhabi programme, delegations of notable Americans will gain an insider's experience of Abu Dhabi’s advanced infrastructure, hyper connectivity, competitive talent pool, lifestyle and business opportunities.
These groups will help to spread the word of the emirate’s advantages among their respective communities back home, Adio said.
The UAE and US have enjoyed strong ties for decades. The Emirates has been the top export market for US goods in the entire Mena region since 2009, with a value of $14.75 billion, the UAE embassy in Washington has said.