Digital startups stars of this year’s edition
The winners of this year’s edition of the Femme Francophone Entrepreneure 2018 competition were named during the final of the competition, which aims since 2011 to support and promote woman entrepreneurship.
Held under the patronage of H.E. Mr. Saad Hariri represented by the Lebanese Minister of State for Women’s Rights, H.E. Mr. Jean Oghassapian, the Agence Universitaire de la Francophonie (AUF), Berytech, l’Orient-Le Jour and Commerce du Levant with this year’s sponsor SGBL, organized the final ceremony of the FFE competition on the Campus of Innovation and Sport of Saint Joseph University of Beirut (USJ).
Competition Winners 2018
Maya Bacha for Sidelick – an online platform linking pet owners with pet sitters and other pet-related services, and Marielle Khayat for Koullouna – a subscription box that aims to connect all Lebanon-lovers to the country, won the title Femme Francophone Entrepreneure 2018.
They won a grant totaling 20,000 euros from AUF, which will be used for their incubation with Berytech. Mr. Ramy Boujawdeh, Deputy General Manager of Berytech commented, “we are very proud to be partners of the AUF for the 7th year in a row. Every year, Berytech plays an active role in the planning and implementation of the Francophone Entrepreneur Competition. Each year, we welcome the winners in incubation for 6 months by offering them a workspace, free access to our training workshops, coaching sessions as well as the opportunity to participate in the programs of our community partners.”
Women Digital Entrepreneurs
Ninety (90) applications were received this year, 22 more than for the previous edition, which demonstrates the attractiveness of this French-speaking competition, unique in Lebanon. In this edition, 5 candidates – representing as many teams, competed in the final, including Yasmina Al Hakim Sinno for My Little Hub – an online platform for users to buy second-hand quality baby products, Aya Anani for CraveHome – an online platform allowing users to order homemade dishes, and Solène Le François for MyAftersCool – an online platform for reserving artistic, cultural and sports activities for children.
They each had 5 minutes to pitch before the jury and the public and try to convince them of the validity of their startups. The two winners were nominated by the jury composed this year of Maya Rahal – Director MIT Enterprise Pan Arab Forum, Nabila Haddad – Project Manager at the French Agency for Development, Lamia Moubayed – Director of the Basil Fuleihan Institute of Finance, Elie Aoun – Secretary General of RDCL World and Hady Khalaf – Digital Transformation Director of Bel Group Middle East and Africa.
“These women have found ways to balance their professional and personal lives, overcome incredible challenges, and compete with the toughest. Personally, I am reassured that my 4 daughters have role models to inspire them,” shared Boujawdeh.
Special guest speaker Ms. Caroline Fattal, Board Member of Fattal Group and Founder of Stand for Women, shared her experience as a woman entrepreneur and provided advice for a successful business creation: “For me, being a woman is to be free and independent, mistress of my choices of life and my destiny. It is being resilient, ready to reinvent myself, curious and especially generous with knowledge.”
A few words from the partners
Mr. Hervé Sabourin, regional director of AUF in the Middle East underlined that “the FFE competition has since its creation known a growing success, as much by the number of applications as by the quality of the projects submitted and by the dynamism and enthusiasm of the women. AUF’s commitment to this competition is threefold: our commitment to the emergence of talents, creativity and innovation in all its forms, and entrepreneurship is a perfect example; our commitment to women to highlight their creative genius and their sense of innovation; and our commitment finally to the liveliness and the modernity of our Francophone space.”
As for Mr. Michel Helou, executive director of L’Orient-Le Jour, he said that “in the situation in which we are – political crisis coupled with an economic crisis – there is a great need for women of this ilk and their tremendous spirit of initiative to straighten the country and regain hope. We are proud, in Orient-Le Jour and Commerce du Levant, to be partners of this contest, to commit to support innovation and the place of women in our society.”
For her part, Joanna Baloglou, head of corporate communication at SGBL, said that “as a socially responsible and committed bank, SGBL supports many social responsibility initiatives on a daily basis. Not to mention our continuous support in the creation of startups and our role of faithful support to the French-speaking activities of the country. In SGBL, we consider gender diversity as a key element: with 51% of women at SGBL and a significant number in management positions, this major challenge is part of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDG Goals) that we have adopted.”
In his words of welcome, Rector of USJ R.F. Dr. Salim G. Daccache, S.J., commented that “today university education in entrepreneurship in Lebanon concerns both women and men. We are happy to say that with the AUF, we have managed to create the status of the student entrepreneur. This concern for this particular training is part of the mission of the university especially in a world where the professions of yesterday and today may no longer be the professions of tomorrow.”