She Rules! Emirati women reshaping the UAE’s business landscape

Abha Garyali Peer |

In recent years, the Middle East, especially the UAE, has seen a notable increase in entrepreneurial activity. Women entrepreneurs are becoming increasingly influential in driving innovation, economic growth, and social change in the region. These pioneering women are breaking barriers, challenging stereotypes, and reshaping the business landscape with their vision, determination, and leadership. Here, we highlight some of the most inspiring women entrepreneurs making their mark in the Emirates.

According to a report by Wamda and Digital Digest, startups in the MENA region secured a notable $3 billion in funding throughout 2022. In October alone, investments soared to $646 million. Among these figures, the UAE emerged as a significant recipient, garnering $460 million, while Egypt and Saudi Arabia secured $113 million and $70 million, respectively.

Despite the overall positive growth trajectory witnessed by businesses in the region, the scenario is starkly different for women-led startups. Shockingly, they only managed to secure a mere 0.06% of the total funding. In contrast, all-male-led companies received a staggering 99.47% of the overall investments, with startups boasting a blend of male and female founders capturing a meager 0.47% of the funding. This glaring gender disparity is reflective of broader global trends permeating all layers of the economic landscape.

In spite of this gender disparity, still prevalent worldwide, Emirati women have emerged as winners in entrepreneurship. Over the past decade, the UAE has seen the rise of many women leaders who have successfully started and run their businesses. Let's delve into the stories of a few of these successful women who are inspiring millions of others to follow. However, this listicle includes just a few of the many women leaders in the UAE.

 

Mona Ataya, founder, Mumzworld

Mona Ataya is the visionary founder behind Mumzworld, the largest e-commerce platform for mothers, babies, and children in the UAE. Recognizing the need for a one-stop-shop catering to the needs of mothers, Ataya launched Mumzworld in 2011, offering a wide range of products and services tailored to the region's parenting community. Under her leadership, Mumzworld has experienced exponential growth, revolutionizing the way mothers shop for their children's essentials. Ataya's innovative approach, coupled with her dedication to customer satisfaction, has propelled Mumzworld to great heights, earning her numerous accolades and recognition as a trailbSheikha lazing entrepreneur.

Noura Al Kaabi, CEO, Twofour54

Noura Al Kaabi, the dynamic CEO of Twofour54, has been instrumental in transforming Abu Dhabi into a prominent media and entertainment hub. Twofour54 provides a supportive ecosystem for content creators, offering state-of-the-art facilities, training programmes, and funding initiatives. Under Al Kaabi's leadership, Twofour54 has attracted international productions and fostered local talent, contributing to the UAE's burgeoning media industry.

Sima Ved, co-founder and chairperson, Apparel Group

Sima Ved is the co-founder and chairperson of the Apparel Group, one of the largest retail conglomerates in the Middle East. Established in 1999, the company boasts a diverse portfolio of over 75 international brands across various sectors, including apparel, footwear, and accessories. Ved's visionary leadership and business acumen have been instrumental in steering the Apparel Group towards sustained growth and expansion across the region.

Raja Al Gurg, Managing Director, Easa Saleh Al Gurg Group

Raja Al Gurg is the Managing Director of the Easa Saleh Al Gurg Group, a multi-billion-dollar conglomerate with interests in construction, retail, and manufacturing. Al Gurg has played a pivotal role in diversifying the group's business portfolio and driving innovation across its various divisions. As a prominent advocate for women's empowerment, she has also championed initiatives aimed at fostering female leadership within the organization and the wider community. A leading business woman in her own right, Dr Al Gurg has carved a unique niche for herself in the region due to her support and encouragement of Arab women entrepreneurs. She is the Founder of the Dubai Businesswomen Council and Member of the Board of Directors of Dubai Chambers. She is also a Board Member of Dubai Chamber of Trade and Dubai Women’s Association.

Sana Al Maktoum, Fine Jewellery

The eponymous brand created by Her Highness Sheikha Sana Al Maktoum debuted in 2020 with its inaugural collection, titled ‘My Treasure’, as a tribute to her late grandmother, the esteemed elder Sheikha Sana. Building upon the legacy of the formidable female leadership within her family, Sheikha Sana Al Maktoum draws inspiration from her supportive mother and industrious grandmother. Determined to chart her own course in the world, she sought to align her journey with her distinct passions and interests. Since its inception, the brand has continuously flourished, guided by the belief that each piece of jewelry carries a unique narrative, capable of marking significant moments in an individual's life.

Maryam & Muna Saeed, founders, Al Mraikn

Maryam & Muna Saeed, two exceptionally gifted Emirati sisters, have successfully accomplished this feat with their esteemed abaya brand, Al Mraikn. Since its inception in 2011, Al Mraikn has emerged as a beacon of empowerment for the contemporary Arab woman, seamlessly blending feminine grace with functional design. Through their unwavering dedication and distinctive artistic flair, Maryam & Muna Saeed have curated a winning formula that captivates a devoted clientele and garners admiration from women worldwide.

What sets Al Mraikn apart is the sisters’ innovative approach to abaya design. They have skillfully blended traditional craftsmanship with contemporary elements, resulting in unique and captivating pieces. Intricate embroideries, exquisite fabrics, and unexpected embellishments are woven into each design, breathing life into the abayas and adding an element of surprise.

Rumana Nazim, founder, The Edit

In 2018, Rumana Nazim embarked on a remarkable journey by launching The Edit, a distinctive concept store and gallery situated in Dubai. Transitioning from her successful career as a lawyer, Rumana courageously embraced entrepreneurship to pursue her passion project. The Edit stands as a refreshing departure from conventional mall experiences, offering a curated selection of fashion, clothing, art, beauty, jewelry, and home decor sourced from a diverse range of emerging and established brands. With a keen eye for harmonizing disparate elements, Rumana ingeniously amalgamated these offerings to create a refined edit tailored for the modern, discerning woman. The Edit serves as a gateway to boutique brands predominantly hailing from fashion capitals like London and New York, renowned for their devoted followings. However, The Edit extends beyond mere retail, serving as a platform for burgeoning contemporary artists to showcase their creativity and talent, enriching the cultural landscape of the community it serves.

Sara, Nora and Dana Al-Ramadhan, founders, Apotheca Beauty

Apotheca Beauty, operating across the UAE and Kuwait, stands as the quintessential destination for luxury beauty in the GCC region. Spearheaded by the visionary trio of Kuwaiti sisters—Sara, Nora, and Dana Al-Ramadhan—Apotheca Beauty has emerged as a transformative force in the industry. Since its establishment in 2013, the brand has undergone a remarkable evolution, solidifying its position as a premier platform showcasing coveted brands revered by insiders. With an unparalleled portfolio featuring luminaries such as Anastasia Beverly Hills, Dr. Barbara Sturm, Hourglass Cosmetics, Sarah Chapman, and Skinceuticals, the Al-Ramadhan sisters have meticulously curated a selection that epitomizes luxury in the beauty realm.

Asma Hilal Lootah, founder, The Hundred Wellness Centre

Asma Hilal Lootah has been a trailblazer in the wellness sector in the UAE since she introduced the nation's first fully certified health clinic and wellness center, The Hundred Wellness Centre, in 2008. Driven by a genuine passion for wellness and pilates, Asma embarked on this journey nine years ago, propelled by her entrepreneurial spirit.

Since its inception, The Hundred has evolved into a comprehensive wellness hub, offering a diverse range of services under the wellness umbrella. From rehabilitation and homeopathy to chiropractic therapies, emotional therapies, and life coaching, the center has expanded its offerings to cater to various aspects of holistic well-being. Asma's dedication to promoting wellness has not only transformed lives but has also established The Hundred Wellness Centre as a beacon of health and vitality in the UAE.

 

Angana Maheshwari, founder Veganologie

Born in Kolkata and later residing in Dubai in 2019, Angana's quest for a high-quality sustainable bag led her to recognize a gap in the market. She wanted a product that balanced environmental consciousness with durability and style, without compromising on quality. This realization inspired her to launch Veganologie in 2022, with a mission to provide consumers with sustainable accessories crafted from recycled materials. Veganologie sets itself apart by exclusively utilizing vegan, recycled, or sustainable materials in its products. Under the guidance of its founder, Angana Maheshwari, Veganologie continues to pave the way for ethical and sustainable accessory options in the fashion industry.

These exemplary women-owned businesses exemplify the drive, ambition, and innovation that characterize the UAE's thriving entrepreneurial ecosystem. As trailblazers and role models, they continue to inspire future generations of women to pursue their dreams and make their mark in the world of business.