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Meet the 8 Migrant Entrepreneurs Who Rocked at Cairo's "Women On The Move"

Startups Without Borders has just launched "Women On The Move" at the Greek Campus, where Egypt's migrant entrepreneurs from Africa and the Arab world met some of the most inspiring investors and mentors, and pitched their business ideas. Here's the valiant ladybosses who took to the stage.

Staff Writer

"Women are now rising in powerful ways to solve very major problems in the Middle East - this is a conglomeration of that," US entrepreneur and author of Startup Rising Christopher Schroeder tells Startup Scene at Startup Without Borders' "Women on the Move" event. Kicking off on March 30th at the heart of Cairo's The Greek Campus, the event connected migrant entrepreneurs with trainers, investors, and fellow businesspeople. Women from Syria, Yemen, Jordan, Palestine, Iraq, Eritrea, Sudan, and South Sudan took to the Cairene tech hub, thirst for knowledge and advice to take a leap in their careers and provide job opportunities to hundreds of women - if not thousands

"If the entrepreneur is not touching the problem he is trying to solve precisely, he will not be able to continue," says Vested Summit's Co-Founder Salma El-Hariry in the first panel explaining why entrepreneurship is not a one-size-fits-all journey. "For any entrepreneur, my advice is to start something new. To start a business itself is a huge thing, therefore you have to have competitive advantages whether in the local or international market." 

The second panel featured the two ladies behind "The Doodle Factory," a startup that helps children in need by buying their designs and printing them on notebooks, laptop sleeves, cases and more. "When we started and people were still confused about us, they used to ask us: is your goal helping people or making money? We always insisted that we want to do both," says co-founder Farah El-Masry.  

Organised in partnership with Fard FoundationEntreprenelleThe GrEEK Campus, Syrian network Khatwa, and UNHCR, the event aimed not only at connecting the startup world with the migrant entrepreneurs bootstrapping their success, but also give them access to mentorship and training. The third panel, just before Entreprenelle's ideation and pitching workshop, featured Rasha Tantawy from Egypt's TIEC, andFlat6Labs' CIO Dina El-Shenoufy, who illustrated what would make them interested in a business idea for incubation. "We need to define what it is to get started: Having an idea is getting started, building a team is getting started... you will not need investment from day one; you can get started, have a prototype and continue without necessarily having an investment," says El-Shenoufy. "We always say that an idea alone has no value, it is the team which can build this idea that is valuable, no matter how great the idea is." 

As a cherry on top, Women On The Move ended with a pitching competition, where eight women from eight different backgrounds took to the stage and gave a presentation illustrating their ideas in five minutes before a jury. From steering idea-stage startups to running businesses, these are the eight valiant women who pitched their businesses at the event:

1. Organic Soap 

Samah Kheir El-Zein from Syria has already started a small business which makes medicinal soap and shampoo out of natural ingredients on her own and seeks help from girls in the neighbourhood, family and friends, while packaging her items when she's showcasing her products at a market. 

2. "Haramlek Free Zone"

At the idea stage, 39-year-old Tahani Yabroudi from Syria wants to launch a co-working space for women, which she aims to call "Haramlek Free Zone" after she found in a survey she has conducted in 6 October City, where she lives, that so many women are more comfortable to be in spaces exclusive to women. "What encouraged me even more was that this project was so successful in Turkey that they're even starting a second branch," Yabroudi tells Startup Scene. "So even in a secular, more open-minded society like Turkey, women still feel more comfortable around their own sex." Haramlek Free Zone will provide professional training, consultancy, as well as support for mothers. The co-working space will act as a bridge for women between stay-at-home periods and working.

3. The Flower Mobileshop

Yemeni entrepreneur Sama Ameen wants to start a mobile flower shop, navigating on a truck to sell flowers all across the city. The "Flower Mobileshop" aims to share the concept that "everything in this world us alive as long as it moves." She also looks to maximise the profit by selling more than just flowers, selling chocolates with bouquets as well integrating electronic services to reach out to a more diverse clientele. 

4. "Balqeiss"

Yemeni entrepreneur Fatima Ali, from Yemen has already kick-started her project, called "Balqeiss," though she confesses struggling to find a source of revenue. Named after a queen from ancient times, the project focuses on teaching Yemeni women on how to grow ideas into businesses and run them. So far Balqeiss has helped creating many businesses, one of which is a project to produce edible flowers. 

5. Helia's Mixed Shop

Being a mother of kids who crave Nutella and Peanut Butter all the time, Helianor "Helia" Rafat from Jordan has started her "Mixed Shop" beside her freelance catering business to cook food products completely out of fresh ingredients. 

6. Bent El-Shalabeyeh

Syrian entrepreneur Nahla El-Emam had seen many women looking for jobs, so she brainstormed for a common ground that unites them all: cooking! She gathered these women and created a catering company servicing authentic Syrian cuisine at first then expanded into providing Egyptian and Sudanese, adding even more jobs into the market. 

6. A Women Empowering Club  

Working at the Arab Organization for Human Rights has inspired Palestinian-Syrian entrepreneur Latifa Doghman, 47, to start a women empowering club in her neighbourhood to discuss contemporary issues, arming them with training and knowledge to help them work and earn a living independently. 

8. The E-Learning Art Project

Using technology to propel women's education, Fardous Salem from Yemen is an interior architect with a dream to pass on her passion for art to girls through WhatsApp, Telegram, and a website that is still under construction. With that project, the 28-year-old wants to push the concept of open education into the mainstream and prove its continuity and success.   

The winning pitches, by Helia Rafat and Samah Kheir El-Zein, took home a EGP 15,000 worth incubation provided by TIEC at their female-focused incubator "Heyya Ra'eda" starting off this week. In tears of joy, Helia held a giant certificate with one hand, and her baby boy with the other, as she also received a marketing and communications training, provided by USAID's Seed programme. 

Two other entrepreneurs, Yemeni Fardous Salem, and the Syrian founder of Bent El-Shalabeyeh Nahla El-Emam also took home Seed's marketing workshop award, while The Greek Campus decided to award El-Emam with with a 50 percent discount for office space in campus. 

The startups also won tickets to, the Vested Summit, Egypt's first conscious technology summit taking place in Gouna this May, as well as Entreprenelle's upcoming She Can event. "Don’t think that because you left your country to another one, or even if you are still going to leave, your success is crippled," RiseUp Summit's Dalia Kamar says at the event. "That is something that will increase your success. People always want to invest in humans, not ideas."

Photography: @MO4Network's #MO4Productions.


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