Empowering Kidpreneurs

Helen Al Uzaizi talks to Ananke about her newest venture BizWorld UAE, a project-based entrepreneurship program for kids between the ages of 7-15 and how it empowers future leaders.

Tell us about your professional journey, your major success and the challenges you faced along the way. 

After studying Law and Politics in the UK, I stumbled into the marketing communications industry, fell in love and decided to pursue a career in it. After nine years in top international agencies and having leading brands like Porsche and EMAAR and LG as clients, I chose a career shift that would end up being the pillar of my future moving forward.

I transitioned into the development and entrepreneurship sector first as International Relations and Fundraising Manager for the Jordan River Foundation (an NGO chaired by HM Queen Rania of Jordan). This is where I was first exposed to youth entrepreneurship, social impact and sustainable development.  Following that, I took on the role of CEO of the Mowgli Foundation, a UK based foundation focused on mentoring for entrepreneurs.

Following my tenure, I joined the start-up and entrepreneurship world with Brndstr and have most recently embarked on a new start-up venture, BizWorld.org UAE as part of my Kids Entrepreneurship Academy.

Major successes? The fact that I have been lucky enough to find my passion and be able to pursue it. I am extremely passionate about kids’ education and entrepreneurship so to be able to find a space where I can fulfill both makes my heart skip a beat.

Challenges? The small things that creep up and ‘try’ to get you off track! Every day, having to remember what I am aiming to achieve and not get distracted by noise, setbacks and unexpected hurdles is a challenge. My life motto is to be resilient in the face of any challenge that comes my way.

What are the most important things to keep in mind when facing a challenge?

Keep your composure. There’s nothing in the world that can’t be fixed or overcome one way or another. You just need to stay calm, don’t let emotions get the best of you (although I do believe very strongly in following your instinct), and come up with the best way forward. If it doesn’t work, there’s another option. There’s always another option.

Do you agree with the notion that failure in this part of the world has negative connotations, people seldom envision its connection with growth – is this a mindset that needs to be changed?

Yes, I do.

I also, however, feel that the opposite is true and this notion of major failure gets glorified by some. Failure does not need to be something major and life altering.

I think every journey is different. Failures may not always come in the shape of your career/ company/ education. Every day we go through experiences and we are either successful with the outcome or unable to make certain things happen. Each experience can either be a success or not and how you deal and grow with these setbacks, no matter how big or small are what make you stronger over time.

Tell us about your newest venture? 

Inspired by a tweet my husband showed me one evening, I fell in love with the concept of entrepreneurship education for kids.

I have set up Bizworld.org in the Middle East as a social enterprise to teach business and entrepreneurship to young children in schools through a world class project-based entrepreneur program for Primary and High School students.

By combining education and entrepreneurship, it offers exactly what our children, our schools and our region needs to thrive in the current economic climate and far into the future.

The original BizWorld program began as a grassroots movement in California’s Silicon Valley to teach kids the important business skills that many of them were not being taught at home or in school.

Today, BizWorld.org is the largest teacher-led entrepreneurial program in the world, having taught and inspired over 600,000 children. This will be the first time the program is taught in the Middle East and although we are beginning in the UAE we have plans to expand further into the region.

Our goal is to integrate the program into schools throughout the region.

Not every child will be an entrepreneur when he or she grows up, but we can inspire every child to have an entrepreneurial spirit: to be resilient, to lead confidently, think critically and creatively, be financially responsible, and understand the value of teamwork… and finally giving back to the community.

 What are the company’s core offerings and competitive advantage?

BizWorld UAE is a project-based entrepreneurship program for kids between the ages of 7-15 and although it has just been launched for the region, the universal impact of the international BizWorld program promises great things for kids in the Middle East.

The program is given over a12-15 week duration and to date is the most comprehensive and solid program when it comes to entrepreneurship education.

Since BizWorld.org was first established 19 years ago as a grassroots movement in California’s Silicon Valley, the program has reached over 600,000 children and 8,000 educators in more than 100 countries around the globe.

Data gathered from over 3,000 BizWorld students showed that 96% of classes demonstrated a positive increase in pre and post-assessment scores and, on average, classes increased their scores by 63% after participating in the program.

It also showed that low-income students made the biggest improvements after participating in the program, with an average percentage change of 76%. What’s more, 95% of teachers surveyed for BizWorld.org‘s 2014-2015 Annual Report agreed that the programs develop students’ leadership skills and a further 98% that said they help students learn to work together to solve problems.

In 2014, research by the University of Amsterdam into BizWorld’s impact on students in The Netherlands was documented in a World Bank report (see page 37).

It concluded that “students who completed BizWorld showed much more developed non-cognitive skills than the control group – in particular, they showed greater self-efficacy, need for achievement, risk-taking, propensity, and analytical skills.”

BizWorld programs expand not only a child’s knowledge base, but also their capability to interact successfully with themselves and others.

What is your vision for your company?

My dream is to change the way kids are educated – in parallel to what schools have to offer, I’d love to be able to bring the program to every child in the region.

Our vision for the Kids Entrepreneurship Academy and BizWorld UAE is to be a national platform and resource to everyone interested in delivering such programs. To train the educators and trainers, provide the curriculum and offer the impact assessment that will ensure that we are creating the socio-economic impact we aim to achieve.

How can women in Tech and women in leadership positions encourage women economic empowerment?

Everyone needs a different kind of support and that’s why I always encourage mentoring as a great tool and way forward. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution and having a good mentor is priceless.

Being mentored has helped me tremendously over the years (and still does every day) and I make it a part of my goals to always mentor at least two women at any given time. Sometimes the challenges that women are facing are personal (family, balance, children) and sometimes they need support in their career choices and development.

One cannot be disconnected from the other and I encourage every woman to mentor just one other young woman. If each one of us supports another, over time, we’ll develop a culture of support, compassion and ultimately success and empowerment.

What entails empowering the Arab woman and women around the world?

 I believe the challenges women face are still very real and prevalent on many levels.

Changing the laws and legislations is one thing, implementing them and protecting women is another.

I believe the simplest way to empower women is for women to support women. It goes beyond quota’s and speeches, it’s as simple as support, encouragement and opportunities that women can provide other women


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