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THE BICESTER COLLECTION CELEBRATES WOMEN’S SOCIAL ENTREPRENEURSHIP IN MENA AND THE ACHIEVEMENTS OF THE INAUGURAL UNLOCK HER FUTURE PRIZE WINNERS

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The Bicester Collection Celebrates Women’s Social Entrepreneurship in MENA and the Achievements of the Inaugural Unlock Her Future Prize Winners

One year following the announcement of the winners of the inaugural Unlock Her Future Prize, The Bicester Collection hosted a celebration in Dubai on Tuesday 30th April 2024 to honour the achievements of the four women founders who received the 2023 Prize. The event involved an in conversation with the outstanding winners, moderated by Zeina Soufan, and showcased the talent and impact of women’s social entrepreneurship in the Middle East and North Africa.

A cornerstone of its global philanthropic programme, DO GOOD with The Bicester Collection, the Unlock Her Future Prize aims to identify and empower women firsttime founder social-impact entrepreneurs from a different region of the world each year. The inaugural edition focused on MENA, four outstanding talents were announced as winners on International Women’s Day, 8th March 2023: Noor Jaber, founder of NAWAT HealthSara Llalla, founder of EcoCentric Fella Bouti, founder of EcoTashira and Nuhayr Zein, founder of Leukeather.

Open to women of any age with inspiring, early-stage start-up ideas (less than three years in operation) that drive positive social, cultural, or environmental impact and aligned with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, the inaugural edition championed women across the Middle East and North Africa.

From an exceptional talent pool of 850 applicants, on 8 March 2023, International Women’s Day, four incredible talents were announced as the winners of the Unlock Her Future Prize 2023 MENA Edition:

• Noor Jaber, founder of NAWAT Health (Lebanon) – enhancing women’s sexual and reproductive health through a safe and accessible digital space in Arabic, offering confidentiality, privacy, and convenience.

• Sara Llalla, founder of EcoCentric (Iraq/UAE) – an online marketplace and circular economy system designed to mitigate microplastic food contamination and eliminate plastic waste.

• Fella Bouti, founder of EcoTashira (Algeria) – providing ecological construction and homogeneous, economical, and integrated irrigation solutions to improve large cities’ air quality and urban temperature.

• Nuhayr Zein, founder of Leukeather (UAE) – a sustainable and ethical vegetal material alternative to exotic leathers made from dried plant pods, and a by-product of existing agriculture which minimises its carbon footprint and provides an additional source of income for farming communities.

The Bicester Collection awarded each winner a grant of up to US$100,000 to launch and scale their start-up, a bespoke education programme and residency with regional partner New York University Abu Dhabi and impact guidance from partner Ashoka Arab World, plus expert mentorship and accelerator opportunities.

One year on, each of the winners has shared the impact of the Unlock Her Future Prize on the launch of their start-ups:

Fella Bouti, EcoTashira:

“The initial funding provided essential capital for our business, enabling us to transition from an idea to a fully operational entity. This allowed us to establish infrastructure, hire and train staff, develop our products, and invest in marketing efforts…significantly impacting our ability to establish a strong foundation, attract customers and set the stage for future growth and success.”

BICESTER

Noor Jaber, founder of NAWAT Health:

“I am a public health expert by education. I did not have the right and adequate business, financial and entrepreneurial literacy. The partnership with The Bicester Collection has been instrumental in fostering…my understanding of effective business strategies, social entrepreneurship and sustainable practices, contributing to [NAWAT Health’s] long-term viability.”

Nuhayr Zein, Leukeather:

“This partnership has immensely supported my business in many ways such as access to experts, leadership courses, funding, international events, local and international PR and most importantly a network of business experts…. [as well as] an opportunity to exhibit at the first Egypt Fashion Week.”

Sara Llalla, EcoCentric:
“The partnership with The Bicester Collection has been a game-changer for us! This collaboration validated our idea, giving us the confidence to make a more significant impact in the sustainable marketplace…. EcoCentric’s setup cost is quite significant and the prize enabled us to build without going for high-rate loans. It means that we will be able to raise SEED funds, at a higher valuation, once we gain traction after launch.”

At the celebratory gathering in Dubai, keynote remarks from Chantal Khoueiry, Chief Culture Officer of The Bicester Collection were followed by a panel of renowned speakers including Dr. Iman Bibars, Founder of Ashoka Arab World, Anisa Shyti, Assistant Professor of Accounting and Control at IE University in Madrid, Spain, and Visiting Assistant Professor of Economics at NYU Abu Dhabi, and Desirée Bollier, Chair and Global Chief Merchant of The Bicester Collection. Recognising the funding gap faced by women worldwide, among the topics discussed was the call for more support for women entrepreneurs in the region.

Speaking at the event, Chantal Khoueiry, Chief Culture Officer, The Bicester Collection said, “We must create a future where women have an equal opportunity to fulfil their potential in life and business…Imagine what could happen if we unlock the full potential of aspiring women entrepreneurs. Through our global philanthropic programme, DO GOOD, we’re committed to unlocking futures for women, and children – In 2022, we pledged to use our platform to empower women, empower ideas, and empower innovation around the globe… The Unlock Her Future Prize is all about taking action now.”

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