To mark its tenth anniversary in the service of woman entrepreneurship, the Agence Universitaire de la Francophonies (AUF) aimed to increase the level of visibility, impact, and support for its Femme Francophone Entrepreneure (FFE) competition, in order to create more sustainable jobs. The economic crisis has not overcome the spirit of this competition that has become, since its launch, a yealry tradition.
On September 20, 2021, six candidates pitched in front of a jury panel to build their case around the relevance and viability of their projects. Three winners were chosen by the jury composed this year of Aline Kamakian – entrepreneur and founder of Armenian restaurants Mayrig and Batchig, Samer Toutounji – entrepreneur and founder of Eshmoon, and Corine Kiamé – Director of the investments in IM Capital.
The 3 winners received a total of €42,000 in grant money in addition to business support at Berytech:
- Sandra Sarkis, first place winner got awarded €18,000 in grant – Start Leb – Local production of lactic ferments from new strains of lactic acid bacteria isolated from traditional Lebanese products.
- Nayla Madi, second place winner got awarded €14,000 in grant – Wall creation – Custom wallpaper for unique interiors with a digital platform that renews the concept of wall decoration, from creation to execution and installation.
- Sabine Skayem, third place winner got awarded €10,000 in grant – Yakin – The design line of eclectic and refined furniture, with a kit concept, ecological and ethical, to make the “good design” accessible to all.
In addition to the winners, three additional teams presented their business:
- Juliana Salhab – Asala Art – Archiving platform designed to collect, protect, and connect works of art and collectibles in the Arab world and beyond, in a smart and efficient way.
- Leila Khalife – Gudtolli Pasta – Fresh Lebanese pasta, which offers the local production of this specialty by combining the Culture Lebanese with the traditional Italian taste.
- Amira Zaarour – Pop-up stool – Production of small furniture in recyclable honeycomb cardboard, pratique, trendy, light but can support more than 150kg.
The FFE Competition
This competition, organized by AUF Middle East and Berytech, in partnership with L’Orient-Le Jour, has been promoting female entrepreneurship in Lebanon for a decade. The partners continue to believe in the potential of startups despite the specific difficulties of the Lebanese ecosystem, going through the worst economic crisis in the history of the country, and “Femme Francophone Entrepreneure” is still here to support them.
The call for applications was launched in June 2021. More than 80 applications were received, 30 were selected and followed various trainings, demonstrating the attractiveness of this competition which celebrates the commitment of French-speaking women in the challenge of innovation and business creation. The projects submitted were evaluated according to criteria of innovation, market research, viability, and complementarity skills of the team.
The Tenth Edition
For its tenth edition, the AUF increased the grant to 42,000 euros (more than double what was offered in previous years), distributed among the winning projects. The winners will also benefit from Berytech’s incubation program to receive the support needed to grow their startup.
Jean-Noël Baléo, Regional Director of AUF Middle East, stressed in his opening words that “the Femme Francophone Entrepreneure Competition shows us once again with brilliance the combination of solutions and talents that the country needs so much to get back on track, which are creativity, expertise, value creation, energy, determination and faith in the future in Lebanon.”
The Deputy Director of Berytech Ramy Boujawdeh assured that “at Berytech, we integrate the learning of specific and relevant skills to start and manage a business. The importance of supporting women entrepreneurs, empowering them to establish themselves in the business world in Lebanon and grow in the region has been part of Berytech’s DNA for several years and we are proud of it.”
Michel Helou, Executive Director of L’Orient-Le Jour, confided that “despite the deteriorating situation, we continue to see women who take risks, who start businesses, and undertake challenges with ambition. What could be a stronger message to give us hope. L’Orient-Le Jour is proud to support these women for the sixth consecutive year, to show that Lebanon is not only a place of crises but also the country of creation and private initiative.”
Finally, Caroline Fattal, president of the Stand for Women foundation, said that “this year is doubly symbolic, due to being the 10th edition of the competition, but it is also one of the most difficult years for the Lebanese economy. These talented young women entrepreneurs bring immense hope in our youth and their ability to resist and bounce back.”