A serial entrepreneur and seasoned marketer, Ramzi Nakad co-founded BRAG – a leading event agency in Dubai – in 2009. As BRAG’s managing partner, Nakad helped secure partnerships with government and private entities, including Dubai Tourism & Emaar, while also directing some of Dubai’s most talked about community events like Market OTB, Beach Canteen, Sole Dxb and Meet d3. A strong supporter of regional talent, Nakad co-founded Fashion Forward (FFWD) in 2013, offering a unified developmental platform for the region. Recognising the importance of actively making tangible contributions towards economic growth, in 2016, Nakad helped establish an empowerment programme under FFWD, named EPIC. The programme aims to extend business development support to emerging talent from the Middle East through a series of initiatives, including the establishment of a FFWD Showroom in Paris. A regular commentator for thought leadership, Nakad has been selected to be a guest speaker at Start-up Grind powered by Google.
Mohammed Abdullah Al-Anjari
Mohammed Abdullah Al-Anjari is a Kuwaiti entrepreneur who succeeded in launching home-grown brands. After graduation his first job was at the Exports Department of the Ministry of Justice followed by the Environment Public Authority. Launching a home-grown fashion brand for the first time in Kuwait was a wild idea back then. Al-Anjari commissioned a professional artist to design a brand reflecting his ideas and plans. Once this was ready, he promptly had the trademark registered. Three-to-four months later Deer&Dear was a registered trademark in the US, the UK and Europe. Today Deer&Dear is present at The Avenues Mall, Kuwait and four other locations, in addition to Al-Khobar and Al-Hamra Mall in KSA. The plan is to expand Deer&Dear worldwide. In order to diversify his investments, Al-Anjari also ventured into the restaurants sector. His journey has strengthened his belief that business enterprises have every chance to succeed with the right elements and a strong foundation.
Frank-Matthias Kuntermann was appointed deputy CEO of ABC Group in November 2016. An accomplished business leader, Kuntermann joined ABC in 2013 as COO. With his in-depth knowledge of the retail industry, he drove ABC’s strategic vision and development and has brought new practices to the company primarily centred on enhancing customer experience. He has also been instrumental in expanding the group’s brand portfolio. During his tenure, the recent renovation of the ABC Achrafieh Department Store was completed, ultimately bringing new standards to the retail industry in Lebanon. Prior to joining ABC, Kuntermann was with Hermès Middle East. He began his career at Deloitte & Touche in France before moving to the perfume and cosmetics industry where he managed the sales and export of brands Marina de Bourbon and Mauboussin. Kuntermann has been a trade advisor to the French government since 2005, and is a board member of Retail Inc. in Lebanon.
Yasser Shamsi started his professional career with a degree in Business Administration and Economics. Being a third-generation family member to work in the textile industry, he started the shirt-making Dalydress factory in 1979. His ability to develop and expand the business led to the emergence of Shamsi for Trading & Agencies, the company’s fashion retail division. In 1996 Dalydress started with a menswear line, later the womenswear line was introduced and the brand quickly developed into one of Egypt’s leading brands, managing to sustain international competition and continue to grow into one of Egypt’s largest fashion retail networks. With his hunger and understanding of the industry, Shamsi’s next aim was to expand internationally and that was achieved last year, opening the company’s first two shops in Morocco, with the plan to run the model regionally in the next few years.
Christine Souffrant Ntim
Christine Souffrant Ntim is an award-winning Haitian-American entrepreneur and start-up ecosystem expert for emerging markets. Ntim started her career as the founder of Vendedy, a social network connecting people to street markets with the aim of digitising a $10-trillion black economy and centralising the world’s 200,000 street markets. Today she is the director of Startup Grind Dubai powered by Google for entrepreneurs and a partner at the GlobalStartupEcosystem.com, which hosts the largest digital online accelerator programme in the world, graduating over 1000+ companies across 190+ countries a year. She speaks on digital entrepreneurship, start-up hacking, exponential tech AI and personal branding at over 20+ global conferences a year, which includes former appearances at the US State Department Tours, United Nations, TEDx, SXSW, Startup Grind Global, SeedStars World, European Union Forum and more.
Denis Ravizza started his professional career with a degree in art direction & graphic design. In 1989, he was rated by world-renowned American head hunter Rita-Sue Siegel among the top 1% graphic designers in the US. His design and art direction works for numerous record labels in France, England and the US, led him to become consultant for various fashion brands including Jean-Paul Gaultier, Yves Saint-Laurent, Versace and Kansai Yamamoto, among others. In 1988 Ravizza was appointed as the ‘key keeper’ of the graphic identity of Esprit’s collections. In 2004, Ravizza landed in Dubai in view of sharing his lifetime passion and expertise in art direction, fashion and design with aspiring fashion designers by founding ESMOD Dubai The French Fashion Institute with Tamara Hostal. Ravizza and Hostal have also co-founded the Pôlette Concept Store at City Walk in Dubai to operate as a retail space for emerging designers and ESMOD Dubai graduates for designing, manufacturing, retailing, branding and marketing their collections.
Ebraheem Al Samadi
An entrepreneur from the age of 14, Ebraheem Al Samadi launched his very first business out of his mother’s Florida apartment selling thrift shop clothing and items on eBay, a stint which eventually earned him one of eBay’s coveted ‘1000 Power Sellers’ awards. He joined the family business in 2010 as CEO retail, headed up by his father Husni Al Samadi. The Al Samadi family later expanded their business interests into the Middle East, with Dubai as their operational hub. Today Al Samadi energetically pursues new opportunities wherever they arise. Al Samadi Group comprises two business divisions; retail and hospitality. With brands, products and successful business models sourced from the USA, Canada and Europe, the company portfolio is diverse and continuing to expand. Ebraheem’s driving force has long been the desire to fully support his family, as well as striving to ensure he creates an environment which first and foremost promotes happiness amongst employees and colleagues.
Kyrgyz entrepreneur Ulugbek Yuldashev is the founder and CEO of AWOK.com, one of the leading online retail platforms in the UAE. He founded the online store in 2013, which commenced operations by selling electronics and gadgets. The company has grown rapidly since its inception, offering over 50,000 products across 30-plus categories and employs close to 500 people. Yuldashev has had a flair for business since an early age and started his first company in 2004, when he was just 19 years old. In 2006, he moved to Dubai and in 2008 established the wholesale company Gulf Alabel Technologies LLC. Success in this venture led him to set up another wholesale company called Alifco LLC followed by entering the e-commerce industry in the region with ALIFCA DMCC as the parent company of AWOK.com. Yuldashev is a business graduate and considers his father to be his mentor who instilled in him discipline and ethics in business at a young age.
Matthew King is the co-founder of BaemBu, a self-funded start-up & the first 100% sustainable apparel in the region as recognised by the Dubai Chamber of Commerce & Industry. He juggles his full-time day job in between, working as the division manager for one of the largest print companies in the region, armed with almost two decades of experience in the print industry. With the passion and drive for creating something sustainable, King along with his partner Aimee Changco decided to set-up BaemBu that specialises in sustainable apparel, made of bamboo fiber and organic cotton, which carries international accreditations. Over three years in the industry, the ecologically conscious brand has established a firm foot in the growing entrepreneurial community in the Middle East.
Dana Miskulnig is one of two co-founders of Elevaete, a local active wear brand that brings together women with the common goal to lead a healthier and more active lifestyle. Born and raised in the UAE, Miskulnig has now been here 24 years with a brief study break in her home country, Austria. She studied hospitality and tourism management and found her place in a sports event-marketing agency when she returned to Dubai. After working in the marketing department for agencies, family businesses and the government, Miskulnig decided to start her own business, with a purpose, in the UAE. This led to partnering with Tanvi Malik and founding Elevaete.
Adel Belcaid is a principal with AT Kearney's CMT practice, based in Dubai. Belcaid has over 18 years of strategy and operational experience acquired through various engagements in the Middle East, Europe and the US. He advises corporations, regulators and government agencies in telecommunications and media, and more recently in digital transformation, both market-facing (distribution, e-commerce) and structural (operating model, supply chain). Belcaid has led numerous engagements in the areas of strategic planning, sales & marketing, go-to market, new product development, supply chain strategy and organisational development. He is a prolific author/speaker and is regularly featured in leading regional/international publications and audio-visual channels. He holds a MBA from MIT Sloan, USA and M.Eng in Computer Engineering from ENSEIRB, France. He is a Fulbright Scholar and holds a patent in telecommunications.
Donna Benton launched the Entertainer in 2001 to make Dubai’s dining and leisure venues more affordable for its residents and drive footfall to the growing number of world-class outlets. The ‘always buy one get one free’ model was designed to be mutually beneficial to both customers and merchants. Benton built the business alone in the first few years – managing corporate legalities, recruiting merchants, overseeing printing and production and even selling the books herself. Word of mouth drove strong book sales and redemptions grew rapidly. From 2008, Benton expanded to the GCC and then into Asia, South Africa and Europe, whilst also expanding her product offering to include spas, salons, fitness and hotel accommodation. With the launch of the award-winning Entertainer app in 2013, the company has successfully transitioned from a print publication to a data-driven digital business, with a burgeoning B2B customer loyalty business and brand new products targeting the tourism and travel markets.
Born and raised in London and of Egyptian descent, Miral Youssef, a mother of three, developed high interest in fashion at an early age. She decided to transform her passion into a vocation, completing a Master’s degree in Fashion Culture and Media from the London College of Fashion. Beginning her career in her home town, Youssef had the opportunity to experience several roles within a number of prestigious fashion companies. In 2012, she moved to the Middle East and joined the Chalhoub Group where she was responsible for the regional commercial and franchise operations of many fashion brands. Her understanding of the luxury fashion industry in the region, as well as her strong expertise in the retail business and management, led her to be appointed as general manager for Chalhoub Group’s award-winning children’s retail concept ‘Level Kids’, set in the young and lively environment of City Walk in Dubai.
Nasif Kayed, founder and CEO, The Arab Culturalist, is a cultural expert on Arab-Emirati culture. He has been an entrepreneur and consultant for 33 years, having developed 40 businesses during that period. He also spent eight years as managing director of the Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Centre for Cultural Understanding. Kayed’s most recent venture, The Arab Culturalist, is a consultancy firm focused on building cross-cultural communication and inter-cultural competencies among businesses and educational institutions throughout the Middle East and beyond. He was part of the UAE delegation at the 2015 & 2016 Dubai Week in China, and a participant in the Dubai Plan 2021 strategy session.
Recognised at the Mohammed Bin Rashid Awards for Young Business Leaders as the Best Arab Start-up Business in the female category, among other local and regional recognitions, Nada Alawi grew up loving fashion and appreciating art. In 2011 she founded Annada, a luxury lifestyle brand that transforms art into fashion accessories and apparel, with her sister Noor Alawi in partnership with Middle Eastern artists. Today Annada products are sold widely across the GCC. In 2016 Alawi received the female entrepreneurship seal from Her Majesty Princess Sabeeka for her work in Annada. Besides being an entrepreneur, Alawi – who began her career in the oil & gas industry in Houston, Texas – is currently a board member at the Bahrain Economic Development Board and prior to that she led a number of key roles, most notably as a board member at Bahrain Bourse in addition to being the president of leading global NGO Rotary Club Bahrain.
With over 11 years of experience in real estate asset management and operations, Saoud Khoory has managed a diverse portfolio including retail, hospitality, residential and leisure. At Yas Mall, Khoory first held the position of deputy manager for four years and then became general manager in 2016. During this time, Khoory has led all areas of operations and marketing of the regional shopping, dining and entertainment destination. His focus at Yas Mall has been to maximise the mall’s overall performance by supporting business development, strengthening retail leasing portfolio while implementing an innovative retail strategy. He has also held board positions on Aldar hotels & hospitalities and Al Raha International. Prior to this, Khoory has worked in companies such as Zakum Development Company, Noor Islamic Bank and Aldar Properties PJSC. During his time at Aldar Properties PJSC, Khoory’s key achievements include orchestrating the merger between Aldar and Sorouh Real Estate and the management agreement between Aldar and Yas Viceroy Hotel. He holds a Bachelor degree from Boston University.
Nadine Benchaffai started her career in the world of FMCG marketing initially at Kraft Foods in the Middle East followed by Nestle Purina in Europe and Yoplait UK Innovation. She covered a variety of roles from brand management to strategy development and innovation processes. She left to embark on her MBA at London Business School and decided to take the entrepreneurship route. She joined fellow LBS alum Brandon Stephens in launching Tortilla in the UK in 2006 where she remained on the board until her move to Dubai, although she remains an investor at Tortilla. In Dubai she co-founded and launched Taqado Mexican Kitchen in 2012, which now has 14 stores with aggressive expansion plans in place. In 2015 Benchaffai went on to launch a new concept called Park House Cafe targeting the underserved beach and park locations. She is also an investor in a number of other start-ups.
Khurshid Vakil is the co-founder of Marina Home Interiors retail chain – a Dubai-based avant-garde lifestyle & home décor company that operates large format stores across most Middle East markets, North Africa and India. Born in India and having lived and worked in Switzerland, Spain and Dubai, Vakil understands cross cultural influences very well that can be vividly seen coexisting in his company’s corporate culture and design harmony of product mix. Vakil remains at the forefront of Marina Home’s acquisition, expansion and brand building strategy and its vision to take the brand forward globally through company-owned operations as well as continued franchise rollout plan. He ensures Marina Home’s philosophy is clearly visible in its environment thus bringing in continued year-on-year growth and global accolades for the organisation. A member of several international business forums, Vakil is regularly seen as a speaker at international business events and conventions.
Following a career in finance of nearly a decade in New York and Paris, where he specialised in hedge funds and in risk management, Mohamed Haouache is now the CEO and co-founder of Storefront – one the leading global marketplaces for short-term commercial space rental. He is currently focusing on developing the company’s strategy and overseeing Storefront’s continued expansion into new markets. Haouache holds a J.D in Law, and a Masters in Finance.
Juan de Lascurain
Juan de Lascurain is an entrepeneur-designer from Mexico. He has founded a brand called Dream Big. He started his career as a tennis player, then went on to compete as a triathlete for more than five years around the world, including the 1999 Hawaii Ironman. In 2000 he started coaching tennis in Beverly Hills and four years later he was offered free air-time at a local non-profit television network. Without prior experience he started interviewing celebrities and athletes to present their inspiring stories to inspire others. In 2008 while sitting at a friend’s place Lascurain grabbed a napkin and a black marker and started doodling. A lady noticed and told him to start painting. He decided to try and after a few months finished his first painting. Realising his talent, he decided to paint commercial designs and commercialise everything through the Dream Big brand. Most people thought he was crazy and that artists don’t make money, but through his faith, determination and talent he has been able to create over 10,000 designs.
Mansour Salameh has been working as Facebook’s client solutions manager for retail & e-commerce clients in the Middle East, North Africa and Pakistan since 2012. During this time, Salameh has been at the forefront of helping top retail, online and e-commerce companies including SOUQ.com, Namshi, Dubizzle, Careem, AWOK.com, Alshaya, Al Tayer and Landmark Group, among others, achieve their marketing objectives and scale their business through Facebook. Prior to that, Salameh spent nine years working in traditional media and creative advertising, managing blue-chip brands across various industries.
A cultural entrepreneur, Alexandre Teodoresco, is the man behind some of the ground-breaking and award winning concepts in Dubai – such as Street Nights, Food Truck Jam, Truckers DXB and Street Food Market DXB – fostering local talents through a series of food truck and destination events. Teodoresco encourages the community to support home-grown concepts, while living and loving an authentic lifestyle. He envisions to lead the food truck revolution and intends to continuously innovate ideas for Dubai residents, expatriates and tourists to explore.
With almost three decades of experience behind her, Luma Bourisly brings a rich, diverse background to her role as founder and vision creator of KOOOT.com – an online shopping and lifestyle destination for modern Middle Eastern women. She is also the founding member and general secretary of Kuwait Business Council for Dubai and Northern Emirates. Bourisly’s career began in 1990 as the head of media department in Kuwait Information Centre in Cairo, where she was responsible for assuring adequate coverage of the Gulf War across international media channels. She then moved to the research industry working with Australia-based Reark Research in 1992. She also worked with First Gulf Bank in Ajman and the ENOC Group. In 2005, she was a member of the launch team of Emirates National Development Programme at the Executive Office. In 2006, Bourisly joined du – where she was one of the founding team members – where she held several leadership positions during her 10-year tenure.
With over three decades of experience in the fashion retail industry, Mark Tesseyman has made his mark as an experienced successful retailer across GCC, North Africa, Russia in addition to Europe and the UK. Tesseyman was appointed CEO of LIWA Trading Enterprises in 2015 to restructure and grow the organisation. A key focus has been to target specific market sectors and evolve a retail strategy in line with shifting global trends. He has driven the change management agenda placing the customer first, improving performance and transforming the way the company operates. Tesseyman has extensive international experience, developing and implementing best practice retail management systems and working for industry-leading international companies, including Next Retail, Matalan Ltd, The Peacock Group and Alshaya. Prior to his current role, he held key senior positions at both large corporate PLC companies as well as family-owned organisations. He is also familiar with private equity-backed businesses.
UAE national Mahmoud Bartawi is the co-founder of Under500, a Dubai-based healthy café concept. Observing a gap in the market for nutritious food concepts that are affordable and tasty, Bartawi set out to develop a business around his belief of healthy living and eating. Since the inception of Under500 in 2016, the company has now expanded to three restaurants across popular areas of Dubai, with plans for future expansion. Bartawi believes in contributing to the UAE’s 2021 Vision, through his business that will help to facilitate change, and is keen to see obesity rates lowered, life expectancy increased and the happiness factor go up. His vision is to develop Under500 commercially and financially to rank among the top three healthy food brands in the region. Bartawi holds a Business Degree from the American University of Sharjah and a Masters in International Business from the University of Wollongong in Dubai.
Stevi Lowmass is the founder and owner of The Camel Soap Factory – an award winning natural soap manufacturer in Dubai. She worked in the IT and electronic payments industries for many years, but after the birth of her daughter in 2005 became increasingly obsessed with the idea of creating a business built on her passions. A trip to Australia in 2008 when she visited an amazing olive oil soap factory cemented the idea in her head of creating a company selling natural soap made with local camel milk. She studied soap making with Melinda Coss in London – the author of ‘The Handmade Soap book’ – and started a small business. Rapid growth entailed obtaining an industrial licence and establishing a factory in the UAE. The company is now based in Al Quoz, Dubai and ships across the GCC and worldwide.
Stephen Graham Holbrook
Stephen Graham Holbrook directs the clothing division for the Kamal Osman Jamjoom (KOJ) Group, comprising four brands with a cumulative annual turnover running into the billions of Dirhams. He joined KOJ in 2013, with over 20 years’ of apparel industry experience, directly managing or partnering with global brand names such as Playtex, Wonderbra, Marks & Spencer and Victoria’s Secret. Prior to moving to the region Holbrook spent time working in Europe, the US and Asia, as well as holding non-executive positions with a number of SME businesses. He holds an MSc from the Cranfield Institute of Technology as well as a number of professional qualifications from the London Business School. Holbrook loves the cultural diversity and opportunity travel affords and is fascinated by the ever-changing social fabric of the world.
Tahir Shah is the founding partner at Moti Roti – the region’s first Pakistani soul kitchen pop-up and food truck. Born in Doncaster to Pakistani parents, he grew up in a household rooted in a rich food culture where roti or flatbread was shared at the table every night. Graduating from Hertfordshire University he spent over 10 years working for Nokia in IT, moving to Dubai midway through his career. Here, lamenting the lack of quality quick food options for office workers – and being inspired by a fast-food trend from the US known as fast casual – he decided to change the face of Pakistani food. He believed it should be fresh, cool, accessible and represent the true style of Pakistani mums’ food. In 2012, he left Nokia and started Moti Roti.
A later in life entrepreneur, Ian Ohan has lived, worked and created in the Gulf region for the past 18 years. Today Ohan is the CEO and founder of Freedom Pizza – a UAE-based, all-natural carry-out and delivery pizza chain with over 250 employees, an airline packaged product division – developed initially for Emirates Airlines and soon for VOX Cinemas – and six locations in the UAE. Freedom Pizza is part of KRSH Investments, an F&B investment platform, also owned by Ohan, which is in the process of developing additional home-grown food concepts in the healthier fast and fast casual food sectors. In 2006, Ohan joined two partners and established a real estate and hospitality investment advisory firm RSP Group, which was sold to Jones Lang LaSalle in 2009. In the past, Ohan has held senior positions in KPMG, Arthur Andersen’s Real Estate and Hospitality Group and Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts.
Mohamed Galal is the president & CEO of Tasweeq Shopping Malls in Egypt. Galal has been in the Egyptian market since 2009, and has contributed to several successful mall developments, and retail launches with primary focus on the development of hypermarket-anchored mall developments in the secondary cities of Mansoura, Assyut, Zagazig, Banha, Tanta, Port Said and Mahallaa. Galal started his career in mall management with Majid Al Futtaim Misr launching Maadi City Centre and Alexandria City Centre. Dandy Mega Mall was his next success story acting as the CEO for the Dandy Development Company. Then he launched Capital Zayed, a strategically located mixed-use project as executive director for Dorra Group Egypt, which was followed by the successful launch of Sodic Egypt – unique commercial projects of Eastown & Westown allied with Solidere International. This was followed by the award-wining residential golf-anchored luxury compound Allegria and Katameya Plaza, Autoville the Strip and The Showrooms now Desigopolis.