10 Inspiring UAE Entrepreneurs You Should Follow in 2023
The UAE has emerged as a hotbed of entrepreneurial spirit and innovation, with a thriving business ecosystem that encourages creativity and growth. In 2023, a new wave of Emirati and Arab entrepreneurs has taken the country by storm, reshaping industries and inspiring others with their innovative ideas, perseverance, and success. In this article, we will introduce you to the top 10 Emirati entrepreneurs who are making a significant impact and serving as beacons of inspiration for the UAE.
Ahmed Ben Chaibah
Ahmed Ben Chaibah, an Emirati entrepreneur and holder of a Guinness World Record, is widely recognized as Aquaman, the proprietor of AquaFun, the largest inflatable aqua park globally. Ahmed stands out as one of the most inspirational and accomplished entrepreneurs in the Middle East.
Due to his relentless efforts, Ahmed has been bestowed with numerous accolades and designations, including Entrepreneur of the Year 21, Emirati Business of the Year 21, and CEO of the Year Business Arabia 17.
He serves as a living testament to the power of hard work and perseverance, having faced more than 600 rejections in the early stages of his career. Despite these challenges, he remained determined to push boundaries and create a highly successful business that has gained international renown.
Asim Al Qassim
Asim Al Qassim, the first certified Emirati perfumer, is a passionate advocate for representing his country and culture through various art forms, with perfumery being his particular passion. In 2014, at the age of 34, he founded Anfas by Asim Al Qassim, his private label as a perfumer, aiming to reflect the rich heritage of Emirati culture, particularly its deep-rooted hospitality. Arabian culture, renowned for its warm and welcoming nature, inspired Al Qassim to create perfume blends that celebrate cherished regional notes like oud, cardamom, and more, showcased in statuesque flacons.
Beyond perfumery, Al Qassim is an architect with a deep appreciation for the arts, which is evident in his exquisite creations. As an entrepreneur, he emphasizes the importance of staying well-informed about the requirements, regulations, and intricacies of each country where products are sold, highlighting the value of finding reliable partners to navigate diverse business landscapes.
One of Al Qassim's notable accomplishments is being selected as the main perfume amenity brand by the luxurious Four Seasons hotel in the UK. Despite the challenges posed by the pandemic, Anfas by Asim Al Qassim was minimally affected. Al Qassim advises having a crisis recovery plan in place to ensure business continuity during such situations.
Najila Al Midfa
Najila Al Midfa is a multi-talented individual who holds various prominent roles. As the CEO of Sharjah Entrepreneurship Center (Sheraa) and Vice Chairman of Young Arab Leaders, she plays a pivotal role in fostering entrepreneurship and empowering young leaders. In addition to these responsibilities, she is the founder of Khayarat, a platform aimed at connecting companies with Emirati talent, bridging the divide between them.
Najila Al Midfa brings a wealth of experience to her endeavors. She has worked with renowned organizations such as Google, Khalifa Fund for Enterprise Development, McKinsey and Company, PricewaterhouseCoopers, and Shell, among others. Her diverse professional background has equipped her with a broad perspective and a deep understanding of business and entrepreneurship.
Through her leadership roles and entrepreneurial initiatives, Najila Al Midfa continues to make significant contributions to the growth and development of the entrepreneurial ecosystem and talent pool in the UAE.
Khalifa A. AlJaziri
Khalifa Al-Jaziri, an Emirati entrepreneur, is recognized as a notable young business leader in the UAE. Forbes has ranked him as the number one inspiring business leader in the country. With a Master's Degree in Urban Planning from the American University of Sharjah, his background as an architect adds to his expertise. In 2003, he co-founded E-Home AUTOMATION alongside his brother, establishing one of the GCC region's pioneering home automation and networking companies. His company, renowned for its technical advancements, has received significant recognition.
Rasha Al Danhani
Rasha Al Danhani, the owner of the PappaRoti coffeehouse chain, acquired the Malaysian brand in 2009. Originally focused on bun and beverage production since its inception in 2003, Al Danhani transformed it into a thriving coffee shop chain centered around the coffee-coated bun as its distinctive offering.
The first PappaRoti store opened in 2009 as a small kiosk in Dubai Mall, with a modest staff of only five people. Within five years, the number of PappaRoti locations surpassed 200.
As of February 2020, PappaRoti boasts an extensive presence with over 400 stores and kiosks, predominantly situated across the Middle East and Eastern Asia. Furthermore, the brand has expanded its reach to encompass several countries, including the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, France, Brazil, and others.
Nahla Al Fahad
Nahla Al Fahad, a Director/Executive Producer from Dubai, United Arab Emirates, is widely recognized as one of the top talents in the fields of commercials, entertainment, documentaries, and music videos in both the UAE and the broader Middle East region. With a remarkable portfolio of commercially successful and critically acclaimed works, Nahla has established herself as an accomplished director, producer, and writer.
Nahla's passion for the art industry was instilled at a young age, with her parents playing a pivotal role in laying the groundwork for her artistic career. As the founder and CEO of "Beyond Studios FZ-LLC," a production company based in Dubai, Nahla leads a team dedicated to idea development, technical production, set construction, and more. Beyond Studios serves as a dynamic platform to bring creative visions to life.
Butheina Kazim, the creator of Cinema Akil, which is the inaugural art house cinema in Dubai, is known for her diverse achievements. Before her ventures in television and radio within the UAE, she pursued her studies in New York. Butheina has gained recognition for curating various cinema pop-ups on a global scale, participating as a jury member at prominent international film festivals, and producing the acclaimed short documentary "Letters to Palestine" in 2010. With a deep-seated passion for creativity in its myriad forms, she has received numerous awards acknowledging her remarkable contributions to the realms of arts and culture
Salem Al-Qassimi, a native of Sharjah, United Arab Emirates, is a graphic designer and an entrepreneur. Prior to establishing Fikra in 2006, a versatile design studio specializing in bilingual graphic design solutions in Arabic and English, Salem gained experience working for various companies in the UAE and abroad.
Fikra engages in a wide range of design mediums, including print and new media. Their expertise encompasses identity creation, book design, environmental graphics, data visualizations, interaction design, web design, and motion graphics. The studio's approach is deeply influenced by the exploration of how cultural Arabic and Islamic traditions intersect with contemporary lifestyles, as reflected in their design philosophy.
In addition to his professional work, Salem also shares his knowledge and expertise by teaching design studios at the College of Architecture, Art, and Design in the American University of Sharjah.
Mohammad Al Shamsi, a remarkable individual at the age of twenty-eight, is widely regarded as a pioneer of robotics in the UAE. Through his interactive workshops tailored for young enthusiasts of robotics, he offers aspiring Emirati inventors the invaluable opportunity to explore their creativity. As the visionary behind RoboHiTec, Mohammad continuously develops his own robotic designs, passionately engaging in projects aimed at benefiting people worldwide. He aspires to demonstrate to the government the potential of not only living but also creating exceptional innovations, striving to follow in the footsteps of the preceding generation and achieve excellence.
Hamad Khoory, an Emirati entrepreneur, established LOCI in 2012. This Dubai-based practice specializes in contemporary architecture, urban planning, interior architecture, and product design. LOCI is a culturally oriented and design-focused studio that places great value on context and recognizes the influential role of the locus in shaping its design process and architectural creations.
During his early years, Hamad Khoory cultivated a strong passion for art and sculpture. He successfully completed two visual arts programs and went on to earn his Bachelor's and Master's degrees in Architecture from the Wentworth Institute of Technology, spanning between Boston, USA, and Berlin, Germany. Throughout his career, he has gained valuable experience working with multinational companies such as W.S. Atkins, RMJM, and Ruy Ohtake Arquitetura e Urbanismo in Sao Paulo, Brazil.
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