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Dubai’s women-owned small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) now have the opportunity to compete for a $50,000 grant, along with mentorship opportunities, thanks to a combined effort by Visa and the Abu Dhabi bank FAB. This ‘She’s Next’ initiative is receiving applications until June 23, with the plan to alleviate some of the funding challenges women entrepreneurs in the region face. As per the data, roughly half of women entrepreneurs in the UAE have struggled with gaining adequate access to funding, causing 8 out of 10 to utilize personal savings to finance their businesses.

The Perks of She’s Next: Beyond Just Funding

The She’s Next program offers more than just financial assistance. The victorious entrepreneur will receive a tailored training program and access to a dynamic community of entrepreneurs. This is part of Visa’s campaign to encourage digitalization in women-owned businesses, as reflected in their new ‘Women SMB Digitalization Index’.

This Index scores businesses on five factors: online presence, digital payments acceptance, payment security awareness, customer engagement, and customer retention. Women-owned businesses in the UAE have proven their strength in digital marketing, online presence, and customer engagement, according to the Index.

Challenges Women Entrepreneurs Face

Accepting digital payments was cited as the top challenge by 76% of respondents. Other challenges included lack of family support (75%) and balancing work with family duties (73%). Almost half of the surveyed individuals still grapple with the issue of raising capital. The funding for digitalization is seen as a significant problem by 60% of the respondents, due to high costs and a lack of investor understanding. Stereotyping also emerged as a problem, with 53% of women entrepreneurs feeling that it resulted in them being perceived as ‘less capable of making tough decisions and leading teams (40%) and being more emotional and less able to separate personal and business matters (38%)’.

Despite these challenges, a significant proportion of women entrepreneurs in the UAE have turned to online platforms, with 56% stating online sales as their primary channel.

Saudi Arabia’s Leap to Support Women Entrepreneurs

Visa has launched the second edition of the She’s Next initiative in Saudi Arabia, working in collaboration with the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology, Monsha’at (the Small and Medium Enterprises General Authority), and the Arab National Bank. This global advocacy program aims to foster the digitalization of women-owned businesses and features the launch of Visa’s first digitalization index for women-owned SMEs.

According to a survey by Visa, seven out of 10 women business owners have relied on their personal savings to start their businesses. If they had access to additional funding, they would invest in staff expansion, new technologies, and increased security measures.

Saudi Arabian women entrepreneurs from all industries can apply for the program until June 23. The winner will receive a $50,000 grant, a customized program, and access to She’s Next Club resources.

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