Thursday 01 June 2023 - 9:41:22 am

Sheraa, Alef Group launch fourth edition of Access Sharjah Challenge

SHARJAH, 25th January, 2022 (WAM) -- The Sharjah Entrepreneurship Centre (Sheraa) in partnership with Alef Group, one of the top property developers in Sharjah, have announced the launch of ‘Access Sharjah Challenge – Al Mamsha’ to foster innovation in the region and attract the best startup talent from across the GCC with a focus on the retail and food and beverage (F&B) sectors.

Held in partnership with the Ministry of Culture and Youth, the launch marks the fourth edition of Sheraa’s Access Sharjah Challenge, a platform that aims to connect startups across a wide spectrum of industries to relevant public and private entities in Sharjah, and across the UAE. The goal is to facilitate the entry of winning startups into one of the fastest-developing markets in the MENA region to realise the full potential of their businesses.

The new edition of the competition will see Sheraa extend support to creative startups in the retail and F&B sectors and stimulate innovation in the vibrant entrepreneurship ecosystem in Sharjah. In addition to a range of support services and benefits, the top four winners in each category will be able to open retail spaces at the Food Hall and Concept Store locations at Sharjah’s Al Mamsha, a premier mixed-use development by Alef Group.

The ‘Access Sharjah Challenge – Al Mamsha’, offers a generous cash prize pool of AED 500,000 with one-year rent-free spaces at Al Mamsha Food Hall and Concept Store, in addition to the prize, Alef and Sheraa will offer AED 2.5 million worth of technical support and fit-out packages. Winners will also receive business set up support and gain access to networking opportunities with potential investors. Winners of the ‘Access Sharjah Challenge – Al Mamsha’ will commit to a 10% revenue share after the first year of operations.

Applicants in the F&B sector must be a first-time homegrown local brand or an established F&B entity with a new dining concept and winners will each receive AED 100,000 in cash to complete their fit-out; waiver of one-year rent from the start date of operation; technical support with industry experts to develop a PoC, business and operational plans; and facilitation of business registration and granting of approvals. Alef Group will enhance the winner’s spaces with facilities for closed kitchen area, an open counter area, and seating area and winners can avail the opportunity to operate at Al Mamsha for a minimum period of 5 years.

Applicants in the retail categories must be homegrown brands and designers with unique product lines or concepts in a wide range of merchandises. Preference will be given to retail brands that first established their presence in Sharjah. Winners will each receive AED 25,000 in cash to complete their fit-out. Alef Group will provide a designated retail island, truss frame for ceilings, separate lighting, and eye-catching digital display totem, amongst others, and winners can choose to operate at Al Mamsha for a minimum period of 2 years.

Commenting on the Access Sharjah Challenge Al Mamsha 2022, Noura bint Mohammed Al Kaabi, Minister of Culture and Youth, said, "Following the success of our collaboration with Sheraa to support the cultural and creative industries in the UAE, the Ministry of Culture and Youth is keen to extend support to innovative, creative, and tech-savvy startups from across the GCC in retail and F&B sectors. Through this initiative, we hope to unlock opportunities to expand the regional ecosystem for these sectors and set them onto a sustainable growth path."

She added, "The UAE’s long history of trading has made retail critical to the country’s DNA while the exceptionally dynamic food and beverage industry is a key contributor to the nation’s economy. The ‘Access Sharjah Challenge - Al Mamsha’ builds on the symbiotic relationship between retail and F&B and the UAE’s strong culture of stimulating innovation to provide aspiring entrepreneurs a conducive framework to bring their ideas to fruition."

Najla Al Midfa, CEO of Sheraa, said, "The new edition of Sheraa’s Access Sharjah Challenge is an enabling platform for innovative homegrown startups to enter the Sharjah market and positively contribute to two of the fastest growing sectors in the region. The AED 3 million worth support and prize pool including connections to key stakeholders will help fulfil the ambitious goals of young entrepreneurs in the region, and help them bring their creative ideas to fruition."

The Sheraa CEO added, "Nurturing homegrown talent is a core value at Sheraa, and the ‘Access Sharjah Challenge – Al Mamsha’ will test innovative and scalable business ideas in retail and F&B sectors and provide a tangible platform for winners to grow their brands. Our partnership with Alef Group builds on our shared vision of empowering the future generations of entrepreneurs by providing guidance and necessary support to thrive and succeed in globally competitive markets."

Issa Ataya, CEO of Alef Group, confirmed, "The entrepreneurship sector is an engine to increase the diversity and integration of the economy and raise its competitiveness. This prompted the Alef Group to strengthen its cooperation with Sheraa to support entrepreneurs and owners of distinguished projects and provide them with the necessary facilities to establish, expand and develop their businesses within the group’s projects to benefit from the competitive advantages of the emirate of Sharjah in this field.

"Supporting young entrepreneurial talents is a priority for Alef Group as cooperating with these pioneers not only allows it to benefit from their talents and capabilities in opening high-quality outlets, especially in the retail and food and beverage sectors, but also ensures the provision of a better shopping experience through talented Emiratis and UAE residents. We aim to motivate entrepreneurs to continue launching innovative ideas and projects that enhance the attraction and quality of life in the emirate."

Applications for ‘Access Sharjah Challenge – Al Mamsha’ close on 20th February. Following a process of internal shortlisting, around 10-15 of the most promising startups in each sector will be provided technical support from 7th-24th March to finalise their pitches and concepts. The Pitch Day, later in March, will see shortlisted applicants pitch their unique ideas to a judging committee. Winners will be announced in April.

WAM/Amjad Saleh