With ACK’s First Annual Competition for Innovation and Entrepreneurship in Small and Medium Enterprises hosted by the college’s Center of Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIEACK), students experienced the true meaning of building a business idea from the ground up. Whether choosing to innovate the food and beverage sector, IT, social media and communications or tourism, amongst other industry sectors, the competition opened the students’ eyes to the world of the small business economy. What was once considered a small part of the business economy, the small and medium sized enterprise (SME) is gaining more importance in the eyes of fresh graduates nationwide. With CIEACK, students now have the chance of building their skills to take on this evolving field as soon as they’ve completed their university careers.
We met with the seasoned Dr. Sam Toglaw, manager of CIEACK and Acting Associate Dean for the School of Business at ACK, to learn more about his role in carrying out this exciting competition. Upon completing his PhD in marketing management from the University of Technology Sydney (UTS) in 2006, Dr. Sam garnered 20 years of practical experience in Australia, the Far East and Middle East. From working in managerial positions to training professionals in many disciplines such as customer relationship management, strategic planning & leadership, consumer behaviour, service design and branding as well as entrepreneurial skills, Dr. Sam oversaw every moment of the competition with a keen eye on innovation.
Can you tell us more about the competition?
The School of Business established a center for innovation and entrepreneurship in December 2015 in order to foster and support innovation and entrepreneurship across ACK, through advantageous education, training, research and functions including distinctive outreach programs, networking initiatives, and cooperation with strategic organizations. Our vision is to become a leader in generating human capital with excellence in innovative thinking and entrepreneurship skills that enable them convert novel ideas to successful enterprises.
In order to build student entrepreneurial skills that enable them to convert their innovative business ideas to real successful businesses, we introduced units in our academic curriculum that require the development of startup business plans over 13 weeks. Students go through idea generation workshops on a weekly basis and learn how to screen business ideas and develop them to become strong enough for a sustainable business.
It is a learning experience during which students in groups learn teamwork, self-leadership, critical thinking, risk assessment, financial, situational, market and customer analyses and, most importantly, strategic planning.
What was the importance of the competition, and how did the students perform?
It was the first ACK competition for innovation and entrepreneurship in small and medium enterprises. Students faced the challenge to “pitch” their business ideas in front of a panel of judges. The first ACK competition was organized with the Arab Planning Institute and the Global Center of Kuwait University who organized training sessions for ACK students to overcome difficulties and mistakes commonly done in business plans. Kuwait Banking Association generously sponsored the prizes for the first three winners. Also in attendance were Mr. Abdullah Al-Sharhan, Chairman of ACK, Dr. Bader Mallalah, Chairman of API, Mr. Sulaiman Al-Ayoubi on behalf of Mr. Majid Al-Ajeel, Chairman of KBA, and Dr. Redha Behbehani, Founder and Director General of Global Center.
The first winning project was Tire Rubber Recycling Factory, the second one was a brilliant mobile application for advance booking of venues and restaurants in Kuwait. The third winning project was a social media application similar to Facebook but subscribers can share locations and organize many value adding functions that save time, effort and money. Having spoken about the winners, I want to be fair with all competing groups as many other good projects were presented in this completion in the food and hospitality industries.
The qualified teams; not only the winning ones; also had the opportunity to participate in Startup Kuwait 2016, a national competition that was held on the 29th May, 2016 and will include qualified teams from private universities as well as Kuwait University. It was a competition that nationally fostered innovation and entrepreneurship in every way.
What do you believe are the most integral tools that business students need to acquire before embarking on a professional career?
Students need to learn and acquire employability skills such as team work, leadership, critical and analytical thinking, product and service innovation as well as strategic planning. Finally, entrepreneurship is what ignites their energies to convert dreams to reality and ideas to profitable businesses. “It does not make sense to hire smart people and tell them what to do, they are the ones who tell us what to do”-Steve Jobs.