The entrepreneurial spirit emerged in businesswoman Kristina Nyzell at the tender age of six when her father gave her the unenviable chore of weeding their massive garden in Sweden. Instead of slogging until late at night and missing out on playtime, she roped in her friends to help her by paying them part of the money her father gave her. The work got done quickly, there was time to play and she still had the bulk of her pocket money to enjoy.

Fast forward a few decades later and Nyzell is now a successful entrepreneur and director of her own business called Disruptive Play Ltd.

Bringing in experts

Nyzell was among a group of leading entrepreneurs and business people in the Gulf who were speaking at the second AIESEC Dubai Entrepreneurship Seminar at the American University of Sharjah (AUS).

The experts shared their stories and covered aspects of entrepreneurship including business ideas, plans and financing a business.

The speakers included managing director and chief executive of the NMC group Bavaguthu Raghuram or B.R. Shetty, founder and chief operations officer of Momenta Global Meera Kaul and vice president of Rasmala Avinash D'souza.

The seminar also featured panel discussions and workshops on effective business planning tutorials and planning and acquiring finance for a business.

Students of AUS, the Higher Colleges of Technology, University of Wollongong in Dubai (UOWD), Middlesex University, Dubai, and the American University in Dubai attended.

Sound advice

"Am I the right person to be an entrepreneur? Can I take stress? Can I take sleepless nights and disappointments? Can I create opportunities?" were some of the questions self-starter Meera Kaul asked students to ask themselves.

The businesswoman urged students to think carefully about what product or service idea they wanted to pursue.

"I started about seven-and-a-half years ago – I had nobody to talk to and there weren't any doors to knock on. Now networking is possible and you can approach people for advice," she said.

According to Kaul the first year was the test for the business, and operational costs ought to be kept low. Organisational skills were essential.

"Today according to the global entrepreneurship monitor the UAE is not really in the top 20 or 30, but it is growing and that is very heartening to see. Opportunities are abundant and created for entrepreneurs. Identify these opportunities!" she said.

Barriers to success

Nyzell said the journey of entrepreneurship starts when one is young and is fraught with disappointments but also brings success.

Nyzell said the school system "really tried to beat it out of me".

She said: "At school, teachers asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up and I said I wanted to be an entrepreneur; they asked me 'and when are you going to get a real job?'"

She advised students to decide whether they were "lions" or "sheep".

She said: "I see opportunities and I act upon it. It is an extreme sport and it's not about luck. It's hard work waking up when other people are sleeping and going to bed really late.

"Entrepreneurs have the ability to absorb risk, not only our own but other people's," she added.

Other problems experienced by new entrepreneurs were managing cash flow, difficulties in collaborating, identifying one's weaknesses and transferring the company vision to employees to make them feel a part of the business.

Student feedback

"It is our privilege to have industry stalwarts to speak at the seminar. They bring with them valuable knowledge and experience, which will help our delegates understand entrepreneurship from successful first generation entrepreneurs," said Sharnali Jani, who is an AIESEC team leader and the next president elect of the organisation's Dubai branch.

The UOWD marketing student said: "Dubai is up-and-coming and we felt we needed to give entrepreneurship a lot of importance due to the opportunities available in the region."

AUS finance student Abdullah Shunnar said: "I attended the event because I think it's a good opportunity for me to get some information to become an entrepreneur."

Iba Masoud, an 18-year-old Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA) student at AUS, said the event informed her on how best to achieve her entrepreneurial goals. "I have a lot of aspirations and I'm currently working on a research project with Emirates airline. I would like to improve the business or start up my own business that improves the current situation of the industry."