Businesswomen from the UAE have received a valuable introduction to British-run institutions through a trade mission to the trade mission conducted by Sharjah Business Women Council (SBWC), an affiliate of NAMA Women Advancement Establishment (NAMA). The mission aimed to inspire and motivate business women to scale up their own hobby or home-based operations to more professional and competitive activities.

Headed by H.E. Ameera BinKaram, Vice-Chairperson of NAMA and Chairperson of SBWC, the delegation comprised 16 SBWC and Irthi Contemporary Council’ s Azyame programme members, five panellists, members of UAE business women councils and beneficiaries of a sponsorship scheme under NAMA. The visit that took place in two of the UK’ s capital cities, London and Cardiff, saw participation of representatives in a number of initiatives designed to share knowledge and expand their business acumen.

“The purpose of the SBWC trade mission was to engage women who are either currently involved in commercial operations or who have a plan to establish their own business. We also want to show all those members who weren’ t able to join the mission that we are keen to provide platforms for all members of SBWC to expand their enterprises and share their entrepreneurial journeys,” said H.E. Ameera BinKaram, Vice-Chairperson of NAMA and Chairperson of SBWC.

“We developed the programme paying utmost attention to components such as uniqueness and opportunity. We wanted to offer a diverse array of experiences that would help develop entrepreneurial skills and expand capabilities in running a business. Our survey on the UK trade mission has shown an overall satisfaction rate of 93 per cent, which is wonderful. These results motivate us to continuously provide programmes that are rich in experiences and represent diverse sectors,” BinKaram added.

The first activity in the trade mission’ s programme was a visit to Smythson’ s museum, where the representatives were introduced to the heritage of Smythson, a British manufacturer of luxury stationery, leather goods, diaries and fashion products. The delegation enjoyed a tour viewing a collection of older written documents, calligraphy samplings and witnessing the company’ s production cycle.

The chance to meet Tony Kitous, Founder of the Lebanese dining chain ‘ Comptoir Libanais’ gave the representatives time to listen to the founders journeys in entrepreneurship, the challenges faced working in the industry and strategies for sustainability. They were also able to discuss similar issues during a visit to Jamie Oliver’ s famous ‘ Fifteen’ restaurant.

A tea tasting session at the famous East India Tea Company and the English establishment Fortnum and Mason enabled the tea lovers of the mission to learn about the art of tea tasting and the success story of the firms, while at the School for Social Entrepreneurs, the attendees were able to experience the day-to-day operations of various social entrepreneur businesses, examining the opportunities and pitfalls that this type of business field presents.

The trade mission’ s trip to Cardiff included a visit to Cardiff University’ s Innovation Centre, where the organisation’ s functions to foster industry partnerships and drive the development of an entrepreneurial culture were showcased. Also on the agenda at the Wales’ capital was a one-day workshop with Chris Griffiths, founder and CEO of OpenGenius and writer of numerous books addressing subjects, such as creativity and the application of effective solutions for business growth.

Additional activities on the trade mission’ s agenda during its visit to the UK were an update on the Azyame Fashion Entrepreneurs Programme, an initiative from Irthi Contemporary Crafts Council – an affiliate of NAMA. The delegates also participated in the launch of the ‘ One Stitch at a Time’ collection of premium leather handbags, the fruit of a partnership between luxury British brand Asprey and Irthi, and also had an exclusive preview of the Bidwa Tea Set. Designed by Sheikha Hind Majid Al Qassimi, founder of ‘ Designed by Hind,’ the set has been inspired by the patterns created by the Emirati art of Talli.

The mission concluded with a ‘ Service at Pret A Manger’ experience in collaboration with the Pret A Manger Foundation. The attendees spent a day behind the counter at the renowned casual dining restaurant, where they got to grips with important aspects of the food and beverage process chain, including customer service and quality control.

“The Pret A Manger initiative saw inspiring and ambitious women all working together to learn, grow and support each other. I am very thankful for this experience because I am opening a restaurant soon and working there for few hours has helped me to translate
these findings into my own concept,” said trade mission member Sara Al Madani, Fashion Designer and Founder of Rouge Couture.

‘ Pret A Manger was delighted to host 14 SBWC members for an experience day in sites across central London in early August. The members worked for a whole shift in some of the busiest Pret shops in our estate, learning how to make delicious natural food to exacting standards, serving our customers and making hundreds of coffees. Hopefully this gave them a useful insight into how a successful food business works and the many elements that go into making it a success,” said Nicki Fisher, Head of the Pret Foundation.

“SBWC’ s trade mission to London and Cardiff was the result of SBWC building and nurturing partnerships with bodies in the UK for over a year – we would like to thank everyone who contributed to making it such an informative and enjoyable excursion. The visit formed an integral part of SBWC and NAMA’ s agenda to provide enriching hands-on experiences that go a long way towards promoting women in business and advancing their role in international markets,” added BinKaram.

Accompanying HE Ameera BinKaram on SBWC’ s UK trade mission were Emirati business women: Dr Zanubia Shams, Co-chair at Zulekha Hospitals; Alia Al Mazrouie; Dr Amal Al Ali, founder and CEO of Cardiff Management Consultants; Sara Al Madani, Board Member at Sharjah Chamber of Commerce and Industry and Sheikha Hind Al Qassimi, founder of ‘ Designed by Hind.’ SBWC members included Mariam Al Mazroua, Hajar Ali, Ibtisam Jasim, Aisha Juma Al Ali, Naeema Al Ameeri, Noura Al Braiki and Sheikha Fatmeh Al Mualla. Participants of the Azyame programme were Megan Jonk; Alia Al Falasi; Sama BinKaram; Asma Abu Seem Fares; Faissal El Malak; Hessa Al Obaidli; Latifa Al Gurg, HE Alia Al Mazrouei, Co-Founder of Just Falafel and Member of the Abu Dhabi Business Women Council, and Amal Al Ali.