Celebrating the top 10 female leaders and entrepreneurs of the region
1. Najla Al-Midfa, CEO at Sheraa: As the CEO of Sheraa (Sharjah Entrepreneurship Center), a government entity that aims to inspire the next generation of entrepreneurs and provide them ground for success, Najla has inspired many entrepreneurs especially in the Northern Emirates as she coaxes and cajoles and brings out the entrepreneur in all of us. Najla is the founder of Khayarat, a platform that enables young Emiratis to make informed career choices. She is a member of the Board of Directors, and Risk Committee; Chairman of the Audit Committee at United Arab Bank; Vice-Chairman at Young Arab Leaders; a founding board member of Education for Employment UAE, and Women Corporate Directors GCC.
2. Areije Al Shakar, Director & Fund Manager, Al Waha Venture Capital Fund of Funds: Areiji has been creating opportunities for Bahraini investors with her recent announcements of funds and she aims to make Al Waha a key venture capital funding platform and community in MENA by creating added value opportunities for its portfolio of fund managers and its network partners, stakeholders, and start-ups. She has over 15 years of experience in banking and entrepreneurship domains, having worked with Bahrain Development Bank where she takes on coaching, mentorship, startup seed funding, and entrepreneur development.
Also read: Inspiring women entrepreneurs around the world
3. Mashal Waqar, Co-founder & COO at The Tempest: Having won 2019 Forbes Middle East 30 Under 30, 2019 Entrepreneur Middle East's Achieving Women, 19th WIL Economic Forum Young Leader of the Year, RIT Dubai President's Cup, Mashal set up and is running a global women-focused media company that has gained a lot of exposure in the past three years. A media entrepreneur, start-up mentor, and an accessibility advocate, Mashal believes, passionately, in remote scaling, building effective content experiences and in sustainable operations. She recently collaborated on The Possibilities Project sharing her personal experience with students.
4. Rama Chakaki, Co-Founder at Mint+Laurel: Rama Chakaki is a social entrepreneur in more ways than one. In addition to found Mint+Laurel, she also founded Edseed to help fund education for refugees. Rama uses her 25 years of technical and communications experience towards social development for Arab youth. She runs the VIP.fund, and also serves the board of the Syrian International Business Association. She is the founding member of Arab Women in Computing and MENA’s first regional Women Angel Investment Network (WAIN). She has also served on the board of TechWadi, PCRF, PACES, The Impact HUB; Challenge to Change and Nakhweh.
5. Sonia Weymuller, Founding Partner, VentureSouq: Sonia co-founded VentureSouq in 2013 to help early-stage technology companies both regionally and globally. Venture Souq is a network of over 1000 angel and institutional investors as well as develops educational content and organises a number of programs for startups across MENA. Sonia is a board member at e7 Daughters of the Emirates which is a year-long program that brings together young women ages 18-25 of UAE to develop and implement team projects that benefit their communities. She is also a Board Member and runs the TiE Hustle program to serve the underserved entrepreneurial ecosystem and provide access to information and resources.
6. Muna Al Gurg, Director of retail, Easa Saleh Al Gurg Group: An active member of Dubai’s business and non-profit community, Muna is currently the Director of Retail and responsible for strategy and operational development for Easa Saleh Al Gurg Group (ESAG)’s international and local retail brands. She is a founding board member of Hub Dubai as well as Endeavor UAE. Muna Al Gurg makes her vision of bringing more women into top leadership positions a reality. Driving changes from within ESAG, she introduced 3 month maternity leave for her employees. She joined the 30% Club board to amplify the case for gender diversity which evidences that diverse teams make better decisions and have 50% higher profitability. She has also pledged to mentor, promote women to boards within the UAE, help them network and make ESAG more inclusive as an organisation.
7. Katharine Budd, Co-Founder, Now Money: Katharine Budd set up the first “bank” for those that could not have accounts. Founded four years ago, Now Money adopted the latest financial and regulatory technology to create a solution that not only provides accounts to those previously excluded but is also free from fraud and makes money transfer cost effective, quick and simple. Now Money opens up financial services for the low-income workers in the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council: labourers, taxi drivers, cleaners and hotel staff who arrive largely from south Asia and Africa.
8. Ambareen Musa, CEO of Souqalmal.com: One of the Top 50 most influential women in the Arab World by Arabian Business, I remember when Ambareen started her company – she had enthusiasm and passion (still does today) and the drive to make it the force it is today. It led to a few copycat sites but Souqalmal (in my opinion) is still the one that everyone goes to for information around banks and financial services. Souqalmal.com made it to the Top 10 most promising UAE start up by Forbes Middle East after winning the online business of the year from Gulf Capital Meed award committee. The business has also been listed as one of the Top 100 most promising SMEs by the Dubai government entity, Dubai SME.
9. Sarah Jones, Founder & CEO, Sprii: Founded in 2014 as Mini Exchange by Sarah Jones, the startup rebranded as Sprii in 2017. From strollers to diapers and maternity wear to nursery furniture and decor, Sprii’s web and mobile-based marketplace, as the startup claims, sells everything for mums. The company started in UAE had expanded to Saudi Arabia earlier this year and is also available in Kuwait, Oman, and Bahrain. Sprii has raised $13million so far to expand her business and reach more mums around the region. Started with two employees, the company now operates a multi-million dollar business with a team over 100 employees.
10. Butheina Kazim, Co-Founder & Managing Director, Cinema Akil: Butheina co-Founded the first and only independent arthouse cinema in the GCC region. Cinema Akil is brings quality films and cinema to audiences in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. By showcasing directors and filmmakers that cross the world, decades, techniques and genres, Cinema Akil hopes to create a platform dedicated to the celebration and exhibition of cinematic arts.