The final phase of the Young Entrepreneurs Competition took place last week, Rania Moussly reports.

The fifth annual Young Entrepreneurs Competition (YEC) exhibition opened last week in Dubai. The four-day event was inaugurated by Shaikh Majid Bin Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Chairman of Dubai Culture, and organised by the Mohammad Bin Rashid Establishment for Young Business Leaders (MBRE).

The competition is aimed at secondary school and college students, giving them an opportunity to establish their business ideas and showcase their products for sale.

"We want them to go through the overall simulation of entrepreneurship, from raising capital to running a business and succeeding," Abdul Baset Al Janahi, Chief Executive Officer of the MBRE, told Notes.

The idea behind the initiative is to embed the entrepreneurial spirit and drive it into UAE's youth before they enter university. Once armed with a degree and "with real business ideas... they will know where to head," Al Janahi said.

The contest aims to create a simple entrepreneurial environment for students to compete in a real-life business scenario, inspiring a generation of leading entrepreneurs for the future.

The winners of the competition were announced on the fourth day by a panel of 'mystery shopping' judges made up of prominent business executives and educators from the Ministry of Education, the MBRE and the Dubai Knowledge and Human Development Authority.

Student shops were evaluated on their creativity, originality, marketing material, sales skills and profit. With no official prize to be won at the end of the contest, the recognition of their idea was worth something along with the "opportunity to establish a business free of charge and make money for the coming four days," Al Janahi said.

Established in 2005, the competition has grown substantially, boasting a commendable increase in the number of student stalls from just 80 in the beginning to 295 now.

"We expect this will create a pipeline of new ideas, new ventures and new entrepreneurs for Dubai... and hopefully next year we will double it [the number of stalls]," said Al Janahi.

Students from schools and colleges across Dubai and Sharjah manned colourful and creative sale booths. They sold mobile phone accessories, hand-beaded jewellery, hand-embroidered handbags, perfumes, T-shirts, quilts, books, little yellow chicks, playstation games and everything imaginable in between - it was a real bazaar.

Fatima Al Hashimi and Jamila Mubarak in the 11th grade of Al Mawakeb Private School Al Barsha spoke to Notes about their business venture. Their shop called 'Oh Traffic' was inspired by the congested streets of Dubai.

They were selling licence plate tagged bracelets and traffic-themed phone accessories and were handing out informative traffic safety booklets.

"We've learnt that a good appearance and the right attitude attract people," said Fatima, adding these factors were responsible for boosting sales and earning them future orders.

Five 12th grade students from Jumeirah College studying business and economics were encouraged by their teachers to participate in YEC as an after-school activity. They were selling hand-made jewellery that they had handcrafted and designed using beads from Thailand.

"We are taking the business enterprise competition pretty seriously, we want our quality to come across... for us it's about the experience," said Nisba Neemat, 17.

Sayyid Ahmad and Jason Crasto from Our Own English High School in Dubai were selling books related to the UAE and Arab culture and history.

Selling their books at a 20 per cent discount from market prices, they were offering a free framed container holding sand from all seven emirates for any two books bought together.

Artist Renee Mariel and her friends from Westminster School, Dubai, are the inventors of 'Shout it Out!, a shop selling T-shirts with powerful messages. "We have a message, that's what makes us different," said Renee.

"We give voice to our ideas and convey messages through our products," she said. With a capital of Dh2,000, Renee, Maria Magos and Mirna Adil sought sponsorship from their school, parents and suppliers.