The economic crisis which has been plaguing the country for the past months and which was aggravated by the COVID 19 pandemic as well as the August 4 blast did not get the better of the Lebanese women spirit of resilience. Indeed, Sandra Berro, Gaëlle Fayad and Lina Al Khoury won the 2020 final of the “Femme Francophone Entrepreneure” (FFE) competition which took place at Berytech, Mar Roukoz.
A €20,000 grant will be given by AUF Middle East and split among the winning projects. This year’s three winners will thus benefit from the necessary accompaniment to create an enterprise, as well incubation support from Berytech.
This contest, which is organized by AUF Middle East and Berytech, in partnership with L’Orient-Le Jour, le Commerce du Levant and the Lebanese League for Women in Business, has been promoting women entrepreneurship in Lebanon for the past nine (9) years. The partners still believe in the potential of startups which are pursuing their investments despite the difficulties that are inherent to the Lebanese ecosystem with the management of two concurrent crises : “Femme Francophone Entrepreneure” is always here to help them and contribute to their resilience.
The call for applications was launched in June 2020. Ninety (90) submissions were received, thirty (30) of which were selected and referred for various types of training. This shows the attractiveness of this competition that pays tribute to the commitment of francophone women to the innovation and enterprise creation challenge. The submitted projects were assessed in light of criteria based on innovation, market study, viability and complementarity of the team members’ competencies.
Eight (8) candidates pitched in front of the jury during the final:
- Sandra Berro – Arabizon, cultural products and toys for children
- Gaëlle Fayad– Scriptofilm, an online market which connects scriptwriters and film directors to producers, investors and buyers
- Lina Al‐Khouri– Counsela, an anonymous and affordable online psychological counseling platform which aims at enabling individuals to better control their emotional health
- Alexandra Kodjabachi – PersEd Connect, a platform linking the country’s young talents to online training opportunities, as well as to a mutual support and coaching community
- Malak Bazzi– The Red Bee, a bracelet which detects bullying in Lebanese schools
- Stephanie Bassil – Spree VR, an application which broadcasts events live at 360 degrees where fans can experience full immersion using their VR headset
- Sandy Rihana– Teleppocrate, a professional medical follow-up through the development of care and educational services backed by medical technologies
- Nancy Nasr – Bacteria Protection, a solution limiting, through innovative ideas, the dissemination of airborne and cutaneous microorganisms
The participants had 5 minutes each to pitch before the jury members and try to convince them of the relevance of their projects. Following this presentation, the three winners were announced by the jury which included this year Jihad Bitar – director of Smart ESA, Lara Macaron – consultant and assistant professor of finance, and Patricia Kebbé – consultant in corporate marketing development, coach and mentor.
Mr. Jean-Noël Baléo, regional director of AUF Middle East, declared in his opening speech: “Given the current circumstances in Lebanon, this competition takes on a special symbolic meaning this year. First, its success, with nearly 90 participants despite the pandemic, despite the successive crises and despite adversity, constitutes a form of resistance to despondency. Last and above all, the francophone women entrepreneurs are showing us today, with flying colors, a conjunction of solutions and talents which the country is in dire need of and which fall under the headlines of creativity, expertise, energy, determination and faith in the future. This bears witness to the fact that, more often than not, women empowerment is the right solution.”
The Chairman and CEO of Berytech, Mr. Maroun N. Chammas asserted: “This year has been undeniably difficult for all of us, men and women. However, the finalists of the current edition of the FFE competition were ready to pitch their innovative and creative ideas before the members of the jury, thanks to the sound advice and to the intensive trainings they received since the beginning of summer. We support and encourage these 8 Lebanese startups which are led by ambitious, exceptional and talented women.”
Mr. Michel Helou, the executive director of L’Orient-Le Jour, declared: “Our women entrepreneurs are responding to daily life problems through well-thought-out and innovative solutions. As a matter of fact, this is what makes a good entrepreneur, i.e. the capacity to seek inspiration in everyday needs to create a concept, breathe life into it and then market it.”