Entrepreneurs in the UAE, through a programme called Tamakkan, can attend free monthly seminars that share tips on developing new ventures and encourage networking. Sana Bagersh, who founded Tamakkan and also runs her own advertising agency called BrandMoxie, discusses how entrepreneurship competitions aim to help budding business owners.
There are numerous contests here already, including one Tamakkan launched this month with Boston University in Brussels. Do you think there is a danger of having too many?
Entrepreneurship competitions are becoming more "fashionable" for companies and organisations to hold, often as part of their CSR [corporate social responsibility] commitments. But I think they serve a good purpose. There is greater recognition worldwide of the role of entrepreneurship in expanding economic and social growth, and the impact of SMEs [small to medium enterprises] in the empowerment of people. There are many contests already in place, but I see them as a way to promote entrepreneurship and expand opportunities of participation to larger numbers of people.
What purpose do these kinds of contests serve?
I believe that many contests serve, at minimum, as idea springboards. Some ideas germinate in competitions, and evolve over time as they are adapted to actual market realities. For many students their entry into the contest is like a validation that their ideas have merit. I think if a contest is able to awaken something in the individual - like a spark of motivation - then it has worked.
How, exactly, do these kinds of contests help build the necessary skills for students and other future entrepreneurs?
A good contest is one that will challenge the potential entrepreneur to think in new ways, and to structure their ideas into implementable plans and bankable ideas. The competition should challenge and provide inspiration. Usually they also prepare the student for the real deal later on after they leave university.