To Genny Ghanimeh, founder of Mind Cloud, entrepreneurship is about more than just business nous. She tells Vision about Dubai’s first KHDA-certified startup programme, and the variety of skills on offer
Genny Ghanimeh is on a mission. The serial entrepreneur with a passion for social enterprise wants to change the way the UAE’s entrepreneurs learn the skills they need for business success.
Ghanimeh noticed that the fixtures of Dubai’s nascent entrepreneurial ecosystem, which typically target young people and offer limited places, leave a lot of potential business leaders out of the running. Sparked by questions she received during her own mentorship efforts, she set out to make a difference for those business brains who don’t fit the usual profile, or maybe need a bit of a kick start. “I would be asked for help and I noticed a gap,” says Ghanimeh, who is also the founder and CEO of micro-finance social enterprise Pi Slice. “There was a lack of courage or self confidence in the people trying to set up their own business.”
Ghanimeh’s answer to the problem is Mind Cloud, an 10-module course that serves as an entrepreneurial A to Z. Central to its approach is a focus on entrepreneurs of all categories looking not only on business skills, but also at the individual and their interpersonal skills. Modules cover core principals such as developing a business model or tackling marketing and financial issues, plus soft skills such as mindful leadership, with each one presented by facilitators from the region, who bring their own particular knowledge and experience to the course.
“Learning any entrepreneurial programme is great, but entrepreneurship is also about execution. Execution is about understanding first your context and then where you are operating,” says Ghanimeh. “Mind Cloud focuses on the region not only from business skills and markets perspectives, but also from cultural and societal perspectives, which is something that western programmes cannot give to students from the region.”
I want to have the solution online, democratise this knowledge and demystify the whole idea of entrepreneurship
Given the green light by Dubai’s education regulator, the Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA), the officially certified course’s first official roll-out is this September, but not before the second of two pilot cohorts runs in July. The pilot programmes, the first of which ran in October last year, are an opportunity for Ghanimeh to test out what the course offers to both independent professionals and those from the corporate sphere, as well as meet the programmes' audience first hand.
“I was pleasantly surprised with the diversity of the audience, and recognised four distinct types of attendees,” says Ghanimeh. “One is the aspiring entrepreneur who wants to open their own new venture and either doesn't know where to start or wants to validate their model. Another type is the small business owner struggling with finding new growth channels, or who wants to test an existing business model. It is notable that these small business owners really benefit from the program because they are genuinely struggling with a lack of support. There was nothing in the market applicable to them, or a place where they could get help. They were too small to go to advisors and too shy to ask for help.”
Other attendees included corporate employees who wanted to find ways to apply entrepreneurial thinking to their day jobs, as well as fresh graduates exploring the idea of an MBA or hunting for their passion project.
“I want this to be accessible to anyone who is left out of whatever else is offered,” says Ghanimeh. “I want to have the solution online, democratise this knowledge and demystify the whole idea of entrepreneurship.” That mystification is generated by the buzz around entrepreneurship and some of its most spectacular success stories, which have created plenty of awareness but perhaps less understanding of what is actually involved.
Ghanimeh hopes Mind Cloud can be innovative and disruptive enough in its approach to business education and the support it offers to bust such myths and foster a new way of thinking about the reality of entrepreneurship in the region. “The challenge we anticipate is the challenge of any innovative thought leader, which is to provoke a change in existing mindsets, sooner rather than later,” she says.