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Over 100 Students Asked Veteran Panel of Entrepreneurs How They can make Their Business Dreams a Reality; Panel Answered Questions and then Held Competition for Best Business Plan

Dubai youths feel that the country and their schools are not doing enough to encourage their leadership and entrepreneurial skills. As a result, AIESEC, the leading international student organization and longest standing NGO, set up a one-day seminar to cater to this need and demand.

The seminar was held at the American University in Dubai on Saturday, May 26th, from 8:30 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. Entry fee was 25 Dirhams.

Honored guests and key note speakers imparted their knowledge on what it takes to become a successful entrepreneur. All of the panelists agreed that all successful business plans have sprung from just an idea. However, this idea must present an old idea in a new way or be completely original. Panelists stressed the importance of having original ideas so as to encourage the students to think in innovative ways and not intimidate them with the technicalities of making a business plan.

Another key point stressed was the presentation of this idea. Dr. Dwayne Banks, business dean of AUD, exemplified presentation by telling a story of how a coat vendor in the U.S. had begun to sell quality coats for merely $15. Within a few weeks of opening his coat business, this vendor noticed no one was buying his coats. Confused as to why people wouldn’t buy a quality product for such a reasonable price, the vendor sought the consultation of a friend. His friend told him to increase the price of the product, because people associate quality with price. Heeding his friend’s advice, the vendor priced the coats at over $100. In just a week the coats began to sell out.

“You need to think like your customers,” said Dr. Banks in explaining the importance of psychology when starting a business.

The panelists divulged other knowledgeable tidbits such as: exude confidence and be organized, tenacious, and intrepid, take risks and do not be afraid of failure.

During the Q & A session student hands pointedly sprung up. The main questions revolved around funding and where they can get help to finance their entrepreneurial dreams. Dr. Banks assured the students that although such concerns are valid, they should not be discouraged if they do not have the finances to start a business. He said many people and businesses in Dubai are able to finance and thirsty for such entrepreneurial projects. The only downfall, Dr. Banks explained, is that there are not enough people quenching this thirst or taking the initiative to start their own businesses.

The moderator, Alexander Mc Nabb from Spot On, suggested the lack of entrepreneurial spirit in the UAE stems from a culture which does not nurture leadership projects. He explained that in the United States young children entertain themselves by holding lemonade stands in their neighborhoods. These lemonade stands are prepared by the children and also priced at the children’s discretion. Thus, teaching youths how to run a business and the skills needed to do so in the future. He said such activities are needed in Dubai.

In an attempt to nurture and foster an entrepreneurial environment, the students were asked to divide into nine separate working groups of their interest. In these working groups the students read case studies on the topic of entrepreneurship and then drafted their own business plan.

The working groupings were divided into nine such categories: Environment, Women, Youth, Culture, Economy, Arts, Family, etc.

The competition was so fierce and projects so intriguing that the panel of judges could not decide on one winner. As a result, two groups took home the winning title. The prize given was a 13-week entrepreneurship course awarded by INJAZ. This course will guide students and give them the resources to start their own business.

Shareena Mubarak from Abu Dhabi Women’s college said of the seminar, “Thank you AIESEC for the seminar. I had great day and met many interesting people. I am looking forward more opportunities like this in the future.”

Stella Grancheva, Vice President of AIESEC in the UAE said of the seminar, “It was amazing to see students from Dubai and Abu Dhabi coming on a weekend day to interact with Academia, business and NGOs and to develop business ideas...There is so much entrepreneurship spirit in this country, it only needs a bit of support from all of us.”

Moderator Alexander Mc Nabb posted on his blog (fakeplasticsouks.blogspot.com):
“…the student groups attending the event not only listened politely to the presentations and the panel session, but asked the panellists questions that reflected evident interest in the whole thing before they went off and worked together, never having met each other before, coming out of the two-hour workshop having worked effectively as teams to produce presentations that had ideas behind them and that were presented creatively. I’ve worked with teams of PR people that have had 3-5 years of practical work experience that couldn’t do that.”

Names of honored guests: Dr. Dwayne Banks, Business Dean of AUD; Mr. Krishna Murthy, General Manager of Acer Computers; and Mr. Abdulhussain Tejani, Human Resources senior director for TNS Middle East & Africa.

Names of guest panelists:
Academia Representatives:
a. Dr Kenneth J Preiss, Zayed University, Abu Dhabi
b. Dr Monica Gallant, Dubai Women's College - NGO Representative
a. Sulaf Al-Zu'bi, Executive Director, INJAZ - UAE Business Representatives
a. Sherif Abaza, Sundance events
b. Abdul Tejani, TNS

Names of Judges:
Dr Kenneth J Preiss, Zayed University, Abu Dhabi; Sulaf Al-Zu'bi, Executive Director, INJAZ UAE; Sherif Abaza, Sundance events; Rahul Mohnani, President of AIESEC in Dubai; J.Trivikram, Human Resources Manager, Acer Computer (M.E.) Ltd.

Audra Pakalnyte
Telephone: +971 4 390 0335
Email: audrone.pakalnyte@aiesec.net



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