Startup Bootcamp: ‘Entrepreneurship for All’ Programme

Startup Bootcamp, an entrepreneurship training to promote development of innovative business ideas among young innovators, entrepreneurs and software developers from displaced, refugee and host communities, took place on 4-5 May in Erbil, Kurdistan Region of Iraq.

The event was supported by IOM Iraq, and organized by Five One Labs, a start-up incubator based in Iraq that assists displaced and conflict affected entrepreneurs develop their businesses.

More than 30 entrepreneurs from across Iraq and Syria received training in business plan development and coaching from mentors; they also had the opportunity to pitch ideas to panels of judges.

The training included: entrepreneurial mindset development, customer interview techniques, ideation, business model canvassing, prototyping and pitch development. Mentors and judges included local business leaders, innovation experts, development agency staff, academics, staff from the United States Consulate in Erbil and IOM staff.

In the weeks leading up to the training, participants were chosen through a rigorous selection process based on a proposed business idea, understanding of entrepreneurship and English proficiency.

Ideas included: e-commerce platforms for groceries, books, and other products; virtual reality rehabilitation games for people with disabilities; an education platform to teach soft skills and another to teach the Kurdish language; a dental marketplace; HR management systems; and a Syrian shipping business using an Uber-like business model to send documents with travellers.

The winner was determined in a lightning round face-off between the first-place winner from the individual competition – the creator of a weight loss game – against the first-place winners from the team competition. The winning team, Darwan Soap production, is developing and marketing a soap made of natural ingredients using traditional soap-making techniques. Team members include two junior physicians, a medical student and a business manager.

“During the Startup Bootcamp we studied our customer segment and built our business model. We are excited to develop this natural soap made from the seeds of a tree that grows in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq,” said Shehin Jihad, who initiated the idea. “We are using our medical knowledge to analyse potential ingredients that are helpful for people with sensitive skin and skin conditions,” she added.

First-place winners receive: membership in the TechHub co-working space in Erbil for one month, continued business mentoring from international business experts and entrepreneurs, modest funding to cover business expenses (USD 150), and an opportunity to apply for a USD 1,000 business grant to launch their ventures.

This Startup Bootcamp is part of the ‘Entrepreneurship for All’ project, which is managed by Five One Labs in cooperation with various community partners and sponsored by IOM, with funding from the US Department of State, Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration (PRM).

Entrepreneurship for All is a two-month long series of on-line and in-person business and leadership trainings across northern Iraq. Training sessions include: identifying market gaps and customer needs; creative business idea development; market and customer research; and marketing. Participants include Syrian refugees, displaced Iraqis and host community members; more than 200 people will participate. Training is provided in Arabic, Kurdish and English.

The project aims to build cohesion between entrepreneurs who have been internally displaced and the local community through entrepreneurial ventures that contribute to the local economy. In addition to the series of trainings for aspiring entrepreneurs, ten existing start-up companies launched by displaced and conflict-affected entrepreneurs will be offered advisory, legal and financial support to scale-up.

Entrepreneurship for All is implemented in the framework of the IOM 3RP programme supported by PRM. The overall aim of this programme is to provide Syrian refugees, IDPs and vulnerable host communities with access to education and employment opportunities.

For more information please contact: Sandra Black in IOM Iraq, Tel: +964 751 234 2550, Email: sblack@iom.int Alice Bosley at Five One Labs: Email: alice@fiveonelabs.org

(Source: IOM)

Kirkuk Women Buck Stereotypes With Streetside Sales

This article was originally published by Niqash. Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

A small group of Kirkuk women have set up a market of their own, selling handicrafts and home-made jewellery. It’s an opportunity to make money for their families but also makes them a target.

A small crowd of shoppers is milling about in front of two tables on the street in central Kirkuk. Their reaction to the women behind the tables, who are selling trinkets as well as jewellery they have designed and made themselves, varies.

Some make a small purchase and encourage the women. But others made disparaging remarks. Usually accessories and jewellery like this are sold in stores by men and the stock is often made in China.

When she first started making jewellery and selling it on the street, her family were opposed, says one of the organisers here today, Falilah Hamid.

“My parents didn’t like the idea of me standing on the sidewalk, because they know society has an ugly idea of women working and they were worried how passers-by would react,” she explains to NIQASH. “But my husband was the first to support me.”

Hamid is from Baghdad originally but moved to Kirkuk in 2005 after an escalation in sectarian violence in the south. Her son is ill and the family had a hard time making ends meet. So Hamid started making small trinkets, bracelets and earrings as well as traditional wedding decorations. Hamid also sews the latter and obtains her materials from Baghdad, a city she still loves, as well as from the larger Kurdish cities of Erbil and Sulaymaniyah.

Then she set up a stand on central Quds Street and, despite getting harassed just as she expected, she has not given up. More recently she has been joined by other women, who are also making money for their families by selling handicrafts. Hamid, who is in her 40s, says there are now about 12 local women involved and all of them take great pride in their designs and creativity.

Next to Hamid is Nour, a 20-year-old student at the University of Tikrit. She is earning a living selling her handmade jewellery and continuing to study accounting at the same time; she’s in her final year at university and hopes to eventually get a government job to help her family. For now though, she is working here as well as trying to sell her designs through Facebook shopping sites.

It’s not always fun, Nour admits. “Standing in the streets is hard and we get all kinds of reactions,” she explains. “But my father is sick and cannot work so this job brings in money for myself and my family. Sometimes my father helps me by carrying my table to the streets,” she says, adding that he often sits with her too, to prevent people from harassing her or the other females.

Hamid says one of the most important things about the small stall holders’ initiative is that the sales can help support divorced or widowed women in Kirkuk, who have no other way of earning an income.

“I hold small workshops for women to teach them the different crafts and cookery,” she says – the stall holders also sell snacks.

“Hamid is an excellent cook,” says her excited husband, who has been listening the whole time. “Her food is like meals in the best and most expensive restaurants,” he says. And with support like this, this small women’s market in Kirkuk is bound to keep going, no matter what the critics mutter as they walk past.

How Iraqi Entrepreneurs can Raise Startup Money Without a Loan

By Hal Miran, Editor-in-Chief, Bite.Tech. Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

How Iraqi Entrepreneurs can Raise Startup Money Without a Loan

Raising money for your business is always a challenge. Every startup must prepare and plan in detail how they intend to raise funds for their new startup.

In countries like Iraq, the lack of access to bank loans makes it more difficult for tech entrepreneurs to raise money for their company. This is made trickier by a lack of angel or venture capital money. So, what can you do to raise startup money without a loan?

1. First, look on the bright side!

First of all, looking for business financing externally should be your last option, not your first. When it comes to venture capital or angel investment, you give up a portion of your company in exchange for money and often, strategic advice and help. But, it usually comes with a lot of conditions attached.

2. Bootstrap your way to tech startup success

Bootstrapping is the process of financing a new company with minimal financial resources. It is the first method to raise startup financing that every tech entrepreneur should look into.

A great bootstrapping strategy typically involves using your own money and asking people close to you to invest. This is coupled with clever use of the money you have to make it go as far as possible towards your business success.

Where possible, use free resources and study how to implement growth hacking principles to accelerate your growth at minimal or zero cost. There are now so many incredible business resources online that are free and weren’t available for the tech startup entrepreneur of ten years ago.

How can you raise bootstrapping money for your startup? Here are the most immediate options:

a. Your own personal money

b. Ask your friends and family

c. Attend essential networking events such as hackathons and bootcamps to meet potential investors and make new contacts