By Tayiba Ahmed
Earlier this year, American University of Sharjah signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Sheraa, the Sharjah Entrepreneurship Center, which aimed to further boost economic development in the Emirate of Sharjah. The center’s goal is to create the next wave of entrepreneurs. And today, Sheraa is launching its new hub at American University of Sharjah (AUS).
When Sheraa started in January, it was headquartered in a small space in the American University of Sharjah Library Building. After a short while it was clear that more space was needed to help Sheraa accomplish its goals. Plans were made and during the summer, Sheraa’s space was expanded to create a more innovative, relaxing and comfortable environment that would aid in the flow of ideas. With this new, bigger and specially designed collaborative co-working space, Sheraa invites members of the AUS, Sharjah and the UAE communities to visit the center and see how they can turn their ideas and dreams into realities.
Sheraa’s main aim is to help inspire and support aspiring entrepreneurs in starting their own businesses. The reason they chose to open their headquarters at American University of Sharjah was due to the university's position as one of the top educational institutions in the country and the region. The AUS campus is a fertile ground for instilling a culture of entrepreneurship among the youth. The center welcomes students from all majors and fields of study to learn about the opportunities it provides, because regardless of whether you plan to start your own business yet or not, you will find something at Sheraa that may be of interest to you.
There are four main “pillars” that make up Sheraa: Inspire, Learn, the Accelerator program and Grow. The first pillar, Inspire, is for students who are unsure about entrepreneurship and about how they can start their own businesses. For this stage, Sheraa invites inspirational entrepreneurs to speak about their own journeys and experiences, so that those considering entrepreneurship can see that it’s not necessary to begin with a foolproof idea, and that with the center’s help, one can generate new ideas that can turn into breakthrough solutions and lucrative businesses.
Sheraa’s second pillar, Learn, offers various workshops to students where they can learn both soft skills and hard skills. Soft skills are skills such as time management or pitching ideas to investors. Examples of hard skills are coding or web development. The timings of the workshops are also flexible, which fits with a busy student schedule.
The Accelerator program, the center’s third pillar, is for students who have some ideas regarding their startup. There are two stages to this program: the pre-accelerator and the accelerator. Pre-accelerator is for students who have a basic idea of what they plan to do. During this stage, support staff at Sheraa will help out by “poking holes” in these ideas and helping to fix the holes in order to improve the ideas. This allows the students to identify the problems with their ideas early on and to learn how they can solve those problems in order to develop a more concrete plan. During this stage students might even come up with completely new ideas, or they might decide to collaborate with others to help maximize the chance that their ideas will work out.
Once students have more concrete plans and ideas, they can move to the second stage of the Accelerator program. In this stage, Sheraa assists the students in creating their own startup. It does so by helping these entrepreneurs get business licenses, providing them with the resources they require, and offering them opportunities to pitch their ideas to potential investors.
Sheraa’s final pillar is Grow. This stage is for people who already have a startup and are looking to expand their business. For this stage, Sheraa requires at least one member of the group to commit full time to the business.
With the new expansion, Sheraa has a dedicated room for each of its four pillars. The expansion of the center also means that students and others visiting Sheraa will have a comfortable work space, allowing the flow of ideas to be more natural. Whether attending lectures or meetings in the center’s smaller rooms or in its open space, students won’t feel like they have moved from one classroom just to enter another. Sheraa welcomes all students to make use of its space, even when working on course assignments and projects.
Whether you are a student with a business idea, a person with a dream, or even if you have no business plan yet, you are invited to visit Sheraa and explore the opportunities the center offers. If you are a former student looking to expand your startup acumen, a student or graduate of other universities, or just an aspiring entrepreneur, come to Sheraa and you will find that there is always something for everyone at the center. Sheraa takes aspiring entrepreneurs on an exciting journey to inspire and support them as they establish their businesses.
Tayiba Ahmed is a student at American University of Sharjah.
Visit www.aus.edu for more information about American University of Sharjah