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Sheraa And Alef Group Invite Applications For Access Sharjah Challenge – Al Mamsha, An AED3 Million Project To Support The GCC's F&B And Retail Startups A new Access Sharjah Challenge, Al Mamsha, by Sheraa and Alef Group, will offer a cash prize pool of AED500,000 and AED2.5 million worth of technical support and fit-out packages.

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Sheraa's Access Sharjah Challenge 2022

The Sharjah Entrepreneurship Center (Sheraa) and Sharjah-based property developer Alef Group have launched the fourth edition of Sheraa's Access Sharjah Challenge, a platform that connects startups with relevant public and private entities across the UAE. With the initiative's current iteration called Al Mamsha, the overall support offered to startups is valued at AED3 million.

Held in partnership with the UAE Ministry of Culture and Youth, Al Mamsha is focused on fostering innovation among the GCC region's retail and food and beverage (F&B) startups. Applications, which can be submitted here, will close on February 20, 2022. Up to 15 shortlisted startups in each sector will be provided technical support from March 7-24, 2022, in order to prepare for the Pitch Day that will be held later in March.

"Following the success of our collaboration with Sheraa to support the cultural and creative industries in the UAE, the Ministry of Culture and Youth is keen to extend support to innovative, creative, and tech-savvy startups from across the GCC in retail and F&B sectors," said H.E. Noura bint Mohammed Al Kaabi, UAE Minister of Culture and Youth.

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H.E. Noura bint Mohammed Al Kaabi, Minister of Culture and Youth. Source: Sheraa

"The UAE's long history of trading has made retail critical to the country's DNA, while the exceptionally dynamic food and beverage industry is a key contributor to the nation's economy," she added. "The Access Sharjah Challenge, Al Mamsha, builds on the symbiotic relationship between retail and F&B and the UAE's strong culture of stimulating innovation to provide aspiring entrepreneurs a conducive framework to bring their ideas to fruition."

The top four winners in each category will be announced in April 2022. They will all be offered to open retail spaces at the food hall and concept store locations at Sharjah's Al Mamsha, a premier mixed-use development by Alef Group.

Applicants in the F&B sector must be a first-time homegrown local brand or an established F&B entity with a new dining concept. The winners will each receive AED100,000 in cash to complete their fit-out, a waiver of one-year rent from the start date of the operation, technical support to develop a proof of concept, business and operational plans, and facilitation of business registration and granting of approvals. In addition, Alef Group will enhance the winner's spaces with facilities for a closed kitchen area, an open counter area, and seating area. The winners will also be able to avail the opportunity to operate at Al Mamsha for a minimum period of five years.

Najla Al Midfa, CEO of Sheraa. Source: Sheraa

Applicants in the retail categories must be homegrown brands and designers with unique product lines or concepts in a wide range of merchandises. Preference will be given to retail brands that first established their presence in Sharjah. The winners will each receive AED25,000 in cash to complete their fit-out. Alef Group will provide a designated retail island, truss frame for ceilings, separate lighting, and digital display totem. The winners will be offered to choose to operate at Al Mamsha for a minimum period of two years.

The challenge will thus offer an overall cash prize pool of AED 500,000 with one-year rent-free spaces at Al Mamsha food hall and concept store, plus AED2,5 million worth of technical support and fit-out packages. The Al Mamsha winners will commit to a 10% revenue share after the first year of operations.

"The new edition of Sheraa's Access Sharjah Challenge is an enabling platform for innovative homegrown startups to enter the Sharjah market and positively contribute to two of the fastest growing sectors in the region," said Najla Al Midfa, CEO of Sheraa. "The AED3 million worth support and prize pool including connections to key stakeholders will help fulfill the ambitious goals of young entrepreneurs in the region, and help them bring their creative ideas to fruition."

Issa Ataya, CEO of Alef Group.

Issa Ataya, CEO of Alef Group, added that the Group's cooperation with Sheraa aims to provide good startups with the necessary facilities to establish, expand, and develop their businesses within its projects, enabling them to benefit from the competitive advantages of the Emirate of Sharjah in this field.

"Supporting young entrepreneurial talents is a priority for Alef Group as cooperating with these pioneers not only allows it to benefit from their talents and capabilities in opening high-quality outlets, especially in the retail and food and beverage sectors, but also ensures the provision of a better shopping experience through talented Emiratis and UAE residents," Ataya said. "We aim to motivate entrepreneurs to continue launching innovative ideas and projects that enhance the attraction and quality of life in the Emirate."

Interested retail and F&B startup founders can apply for Al Mamsha by visiting this website.

Related: Going The Distance: A Celebration Of Sheraa's Journey

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