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Top 30 Women-Led Startups Shaping the Middle East in 2023

Empowering Innovation in the Middle East with Women Empowerment in Startup World

by Dr. Isma Amin
women-led

The government’s laudable emphasis on female startup Ecosystem has opened the path for a thriving and diverse business climate in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Many women-led startups have emerged, sparking a revolution throughout the Middle East. These women-led businesses, which range from cutting-edge tech disruptors to significant social enterprises, represent the UAE’s dedication to encouraging innovation and economic success.

 

Let’s delve deeper into the success stories of these pioneering women entrepreneurs and see how their endeavors are inspiring change throughout the Middle East:

1.      Rita Haung Zhen

Imiles

Rita Haung Zhen is the owner of Imiles, which is the brand that provides logistic services to e-commerce enthusiasts across China, Africa, Latin America, and GCC. Imiles has been a huge success, expanding to 14 different countries between the years 2018 and 2023. Rita worked as a chief technology officer at YVOLV before she decided to create a platform to connect Chinese sellers to the world.

Imiles

Brand iMile
Category Logistics
Establishment 2017
Nationality Chinese
Headquarters U.A.E.
Source Forbes Middle East

2.      Huda Katan

huda katan

Kattan is the Chief Executive Officer of Huda Beauty, a cosmetics company she established in the United Arab Emirates as a beauty blog in 2010. After another three years, she and her sisters began selling false eyelashes at Sephora to transform the business into a cosmetic enterprise.

huda beauty

Huda Beauty produces various products, including moisturizing creams, cosmetics, serums, and fragrances. Today, Huda Beauty has around $200 million in annual sales, with Huda Katan having a net worth of around $400 million.

Brand Huda Beauty
Category Beauty
Establishment 2013
Nationality Iraqui-American
Headquarters U.A.E.
Net worth $400 million
Annual sales $200 million
Source Forbes Middle east

3.      Mona Ataya, Leena Khalil

mona ataya

Mumzworld is the largest e-commerce portal in the Middle East dedicated to all the products related to mother care, baby, and child. Mumzworld serves about 2 million mothers all across MENA. It ships to about 20 countries.

mumzworld

Ataya is the founder and CEO of Mumzworld and became the CEO of digital assets for Mumzworld in 2021, after which it expanded to Lebanon and Jordan. She is a part of the Dubai digital board and a UNCTAD advisor. Khalil is the partner and Chief Commercial officer.

Brand Mumzworld
Category E-commerce
Establishment 2011
Nationality Palestinian; British
Headquarters U.A.E.
Annual revenue $63 million
Source Crunchbase

4.      Rayan Al Sulaimani

Rayan al sulaimani

Al Sulaimani is the Chief Executive Officer and Creative Director of the Atelier Zuhra couture enterprise. Mouza Al Awfi, her mother, was the one who came up with the idea. The brand has grown regionally and internationally under Rayan’s guidance, and she is currently on Forbes Middle East’s list of the top forty “Women behind Middle Eastern brands.”

atalier Zuhra

Beyonce, Naomi Campbell, Winnie Harlow, Paris Hilton, Nora Fatehi, and other various global stars have worn this brand. Rayan plans to expand it to other GCC nations and Europe due to the brand’s success.

Brand Atelier Zuhra
Category Fashion
Establishment 2015
Nationality Omani
Headquarters U.A.E. and Oman
Source Forbes Middle east

5.      Darya Baran

derya baran

Baran, the co-founder of RedSea – an innovative company that’s using technology to revolutionize commercial farming in hot climates worldwide, all while conserving fresh water and energy. Their technology allows greenhouse and hydroponic farms to grow better food in bigger quantities.

red sea

RedSea is sharing its sustainable technologies with Saudi’s Red Sea Project guests. Moreover, the company is the primary supplier to the resort, providing only the best for their guests. Baran is also an Associate Professor of Material Science and Engineering at the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology.

Brand RedSea
Category Agri-Tech
Establishment 2018
Nationality Turkish
Headquarters Saudi Arabia
Total funding $38.8 million
Source Crunchbase

6.      Mouna Abbassy

mouna abbassy

Mouna Abbassy, the Founder and CEO of izil Beauty, wanted people to experience the joy of connecting with Mother Nature and natural beauty. Therefore, she introduced an all-natural skincare line. The products were inspired by Ancient Moroccan recipes for enhancing beauty that were endorsed and passed down from her mother and grandmother.

izil beauty

Now, the company offers a Moroccan hammam experience in Dubai Mall, allowing people to experience the cultural heritage first-hand. They’ve also developed omnichannel infrastructure, allowing them to better cater to businesses online and offline.

Brand Izil Beauty
Category Beauty
Establishment 2012
Nationality Moroccan
Headquarters U.A.E.
Source Forbes Middle East

7.      Nour Sleiman

noor sleiman

Sleiman worked as an almentor.net media production quality controller prior to co-founding Cartlow. Cartlow was founded by Sleiman and Mohammed Sleiman. Customers can purchase clearance, open-box, and refurbished merchandise easily through the mobile app. It collaborated with Ecity Electronics in May 2023 to introduce a sustainable gadget subscription service in 16 locations across the United Arab Emirates.

cartlow

Brand Cartlow
Category Recommerce
Establishment 2019
Nationality Spanish
headquarters U.A.E.
Source Crunchbase

8.      Selma Benomar

selma benomar

Benomar introduced her brand in 2012 when she launched Moroccan kaftans in Dubai. Many celebrities across the globe, including Assala Nasri, Salmi Rachid, and others, have been found wearing them. The brand is well known because of its sustainable and eco-friendly manufacturing practices.

benomar

Through this brand, Benomar represents women who are unafraid to practice their culture and celebrate their heritage. Despite being centered around the Moroccan caftans, the brand serves the modern, diverse, and varied tastes of women.

Brand SELMA BENOMAR
Category Fashion
Establishment 2012
Nationality Moroccan-French
Headquarters U.A.E.
Source Forbes Middle east

9.      Ioanna Angelidaki

InstaShop was launched in 2015 by Angelidaki and CEO John Tsioris with the intention of developing an online marketplace that provides a wide range of delivery services for different things, including groceries, prescription medications, meals from restaurants, baked goods, and pet stores. The well-known platform has been downloaded from Google Play more than a million times, and since then, it has spread to a number of nations, including the United Arab Emirates, Oman, Qatar, Bahrain, Egypt, Lebanon, and Greece.

instashop

Due to its extraordinary performance, InstaShop was purchased by Delivery Hero in 2020 for an astounding $360 million. Particularly, Angelidaki has played a key role in managing the business’ online marketing initiatives. She worked as the CMO and co-founder of the Vound app before co-founding InstaShop.

Brand Instashop
Category e-commerce
Establishment 2015
Nationality Greek
Headquarters U.A.E.
Source Forbes Middle east

10.      Mona Kattan

mona kattan

Mona Kattan is the head of Huda Beauty, which she and her sisters Huda and Alya Kattan started. When Mona’s sister Huda, a makeup artist, began creating her fake lashes, she saw potential and urged her to create a product line. A key figure in the creation of Huda Beauty was Mona.

kayali

As president, Mona oversees brand strategy and promotes innovation as she works to expand the Huda Beauty company. In the Middle East, she has graced the covers of WWD, Entrepreneur, and Cosmopolitan. She now lives in Dubai but was born and raised in the US.

Brand Kayali; Huda beauty
category Perfumes; beauty
Establishment 2018; 2013
Nationality Iraqi-American
Headquarters U.A.E.
Source Forbes Middle east

11.      Nour Al Hassan

Nour Al hassan

Nour Al Hassan launched Tarjama in 2008 to satisfy the growing demand for high-quality translation services tailored to the Middle East’s distinct multicultural context. She was inspired by her passion for languages and how people interact.

tarjama

She challenged social norms and succeeded in the translation and localization industries by drawing on an underappreciated network of extraordinary and bright women. Tarjama, under her direction, revolutionized the industry with its dedication to excellence, rapidity, and exceptional linguistic value.

Brand Tarjama
category Digital Language Solutions
Establishment 2008
Nationality Jordanian
Headquarters U.A.E.
Source Forbes Middle east

12.      Azza fahmy, Amina, and Fatma Ghali

azza

The Design Studio by Azza Fahmy – DSAF was founded in Cairo in 2013 in partnership with Alchimia with the goal of becoming the first and only professional jewelry-making and design school in the region to offer education up to par with those found abroad.

azza fahmy jewellary

The Wonders of Nature collection, which is a tour through the enchanted jungle, was unveiled by Amina Ghali. The showpiece pieces from this collection’s meticulous detailing highlight the beauty of nature’s flaws. Amina was also recognized as one of Britain’s “HOT 100” most significant jewelry business leaders.

Brand Azza Fahmy jewelry
category Jewelry
Establishment 1969
nationality Egyptian
Headquarters Egypt
Source Forbes Middle east

13.      Melda Akin

melda akin

When the creator, Melda Akin, encountered difficulties registering for a course at the university due to the unfavorable timetable, the idea for D14.AI was originally conceived. While pursuing her master’s in Intelligent Engineering Systems and AI, she worked as a research assistant in the computer engineering division. She learned about constraint programming from this (CP).

D14

She then traveled to Dubai and established D14.AI to eliminate scheduling issues worldwide. D14.AI was chosen by Womena as one of the Top 8 start-ups in the MENA area and is fostered by In5 Tech in Dubai. The founder of the Follow That Startup program by CNN International, recognized by Standard Chartered Bank, Melda Akin, was named “New Entrepreneur of the Year 2020” in the Gulf Region by Gulf Capital.

Brand D14.Ai
category AI
Establishment 2019
nationality Turkish
headquarters U.A.E.
Source

14.      Reem Acra

reeem acrae

Reem Acra launched her bridal brand in 1997 after designing a gown for a friend’s wedding. She attracted media attention and made her fashion show debut in 1999. After pitching her designs, Saks Fifth Avenue and Kleinfeld purchased thirty dresses from Acra. Max Kane assisted her in growing her company and opening new production facilities. Over 150 stores worldwide currently sell her creations.

reem acra

The year 2001 marked the debut of Acra’s first ready-to-wear collection. Jill Biden, Poorna Jagannathan, and Princess Beatrice of York have all worn her creations.

Brand Reem Acra
category Fashion
Establishment 1997
Nationality Lebanese-American
Headquarters The U.S.
source Forbes middle east

15.      Nadine Mazhar

nadine mazhar

For those looking for a hands-free automated investment with Sarwa Invest, self-directed trading of stocks, ETFs, and cryptocurrencies with Sarwa Trade, and a place to park their money while collecting income with Sarwa Save, Sarwa provides a one-stop shop. Our hybrid model gives you access to human customer care staff and on-demand investing specialists who are available to answer your inquiries. The business has so far been successful in raising $25 million in funding.

Sarwa

Brand Sarwa
category Fintech
2017 2017
Lebanese Lebanese
U.A.E. U.A.E.
Source Forbes Middle east

16.      Yasmine Yeya

yasmine yeya

Egyptian father and a French mother gave birth to Yasmine Yeya in 1981. Her upbringing in the Egyptian city of Ismailia, on the Suez Canal, surrounded by French architecture, provided her with a multicultural upbringing that influenced her work. She developed a lifelong love of handcrafted garments at the tender age of seven, when she began knitting “perfect” patterns of extreme complexity. Her company now has a fundamental value of perfection.

maison Yeya

In 2008, she entered the world’s most prestigious fashion designer competition and quickly rose to the top. CNN, a global news network, dubbed her “The Bridal Wedding Designer that Charmed the World” in 2017. In 2019, she reached the pinnacle of her regional achievement when she was chosen to take part in the UAE Expo 2020 Pavillon Art Program. A year later, she was one of the “Women driving Middle Eastern Brands” included on Forbes’ list.

BRAND Maison Yeya
Category Fashion
Establishment 2007
Nationality French- Egyptian
Headquarters U.A.E.
Source Forbes Middle East

17.      Fatma El Shenawy

fatima el shanawery

More than 20 million Egyptians still don’t have bank accounts, meaning they have very limited or no access to the financial system. El Shenawy, then 29 years old, started Khazna in 2020 to serve and encourage people of her generation.

Khazna

Before striking out on her own, El Shenawy worked as a senior associate on the Investment Banking team at Aqraam Capital, where she consulted on debt raising, M&A, and equity capital market transactions.

Brand Khazna Tech
Category Fintech
Establishment 2020
Nationality Egyptian
Headquarters Cairo, Al Qahirah, Egypt
Total funding amount $48M
Headquarters region Europe, Middle East, and Africa (EMEA), Middle East, Europe, Middle East, and Africa (EMEA)
Source Crunchbase

18.      Salama Mohamed

salama muhammahd

Salama Mohamed’s own search for happiness serves as the catalyst for peace. Salama, who was given the gift of vitiligo, looked for clean, effective, and results-driven skincare products that would help restore and maintain her skin’s natural tone and texture.

peacefull

Salama spent years researching the efficacy of active components and testing out different formulas to create products that are appropriate for the region, the region’s people, and people of both sexes. Peacefull’s method of adapting formulations to the unique market’s needs has won it many devoted fans. The company is people-powered, market-tailored, and backed by Korean science and technology.

Brand Peacefull
Category Beauty
Establishment 2021
Nationality Emirati
Headquarters U.A.E.
source Forbes middle east

19.      Sophia Alj

sophia alj

After working as a consultant for McKinsey for four years, Sophia Alj and her husband, Ismael Belkhayat, also a management consultant, decided to start their own company in 2019. Chari, a B2B e-commerce platform that aids local shops in digitizing their services, has quickly risen to prominence as one of the most promising young companies in North Africa and is generally predicted to become Morocco’s first unicorn in the near future.

chari

Chari is an e-commerce and finance app that enables local merchants in French-speaking Africa to order and get free next-day delivery on all consumer goods they stock. Chari also offers microloans to these merchants as part of its banking services. Chari’s goal is to provide for business owners by meeting their demands for consumer items and financial aid on a consistent basis.

Brand Chari
Category E-commerce
Establishment 2020
Nationality Moroccan
headquarters Bouskoura, Grand Casablanca, Morocco
Total funding amount $8.9M
Industries B2B, E-commerce, FinTech, Retail
Source Chari

20.      Lilian Afshar

Lilian afsgar

Lilian Afshar, the founder and creative director of the company, started out as a student of the ready-to-wear fashion industry. She didn’t come up with the idea for the distinctive L’AFSHAR box clutch until she presented her graduating collection from Esmod in 2013. Because of her firm belief that a woman really doesn’t require much beyond the basics, her creations are always understated and sophisticated.

lafshar

In 2013, L’Afshar was founded after an initial order of just five bags was placed based on a prototype created for a design school project. They first showed their wares at Paris Fashion Week in 2015, and when word spread about them, their line, range, brand, and offerings expanded. We introduced our collection of home furnishings and decorative items in 2020.

Brand L’AFSHAR
Category Accessories
Establishment 2013
Nationality British-Iranian
Headquarters U.A.E.
Source Forbes middle east

21.      Ola Doudin

ola doudin

BitOasis, the first cryptocurrency exchange in the Middle East, was created in 2015 by Ola Doudin. Doudin started his career as an IT advisor in London at Ernst & Young before relocating to the Middle East to work with startups and eventually founding BitOasis. In the first quarter of this year, she plans to secure the cryptocurrency license from Abu Dhabi Global Market and the Central Bank of Bahrain, with whom she has worked closely for the better part of the past year to assist in draught laws for cryptocurrencies and blockchain.

bit oasis

BitOasis, based in the United Arab Emirates, is the largest and most reliable cryptocurrency platform in the Middle East and North Africa. BitOasis was founded in 2015 and has since become the region’s premier cryptocurrency trading platform, serving both novice and experienced investors. BitOasis’s goal is to provide retail and institutional clients in the region with the safest and most regulated infrastructure possible for trading cryptocurrencies.

Brand BitOasis
Category Crypto exchange
Establishment 2015
Nationality Jordanian
Headquarters Dubai, Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Total funding amount 30M$
Source Crunchbase

22.      Andrea Wazen

andrea wazen

Andrea, the fashion shoe designer, was born in London and reared in Beirut, where she quickly acquired a love for sketching and designing. She relocated to Paris to pursue her passion for fashion design at the Istituto Marangoni, an Italian fashion school, where she learned and honed her abilities in shoe design. Wazen moved to London in 2010 to learn the shoe business from industry titans like Christian Louboutin and Rupert Sanderson.

andrea wazen website

She also took classes in shoe design at London’s illustrious Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design. Andrea’s experiences in these two big cities for fashion gave her the drive and motivation she needed to follow her dream of becoming a designer of women’s shoes and launching her own line. The line of shoes designed by Andrea Wazen and made by hand in Italy and Beirut are of the highest quality.

Brand Andrea Wazen
Category Footwear
Establishment 2013
Nationality Lebanese
Headquarters Lebanon
Source Forbes middle east

23.      Yosra Badr

yosra

Yosra is the company’s CTO and one of the founders of IT firm Grinta. Although her main area of expertise lies in the health technology sector, she has been at the forefront of digital reforms in a wide variety of industries. She provides technical advice for many African organizations in nations including Egypt, Ghana, Nigeria, and others.

Grinta, a regulated marketplace powered by AI and ML, is helping to modernize Africa’s pharmaceutical supply chain and give a voice to the continent’s independent pharmacies. This all-encompassing platform offers inventory finance and automation in addition to a plethora of pharmaceutical and medical products from a wide range of providers.

Brand Grinta
category Healthtech
Establishment 2021
Nationality Egyptian
Headquarters Egypt
Headquarter regions Europe, Middle East, and Africa (EMEA), Middle East, Europe, Middle East, and Africa (EMEA)
Source Crunchbase

24.      Hadia Ghaleb

hadia ghaleb

Hadia Ghaleb, a fashion influencer and businesswoman located in Dubai, has debuted her brand new line of swimwear. Ghaleb has spent years monitoring the rising fashion gap in the swimsuit market between veiled and uncovered women, with the two groups even having different stores and designs. In response, she created a line of swimwear that is inclusive of women of all ethnicities, religions, and lifestyles.

hadia Ghaleb website

Brand Hadia Ghaleb label
category Fashion
Establishment 2022
Nationality Egyptian
Headquarters U.A.E
Source Forbes middle east

25.      Yasmine Abdel Karim

yasmine abdel karim

After 17 years in Europe, Egyptian-French dual national Yasmine Abdel Karim has returned to her home country to develop YFS, an immediate delivery and logistics company. YFS is a digital hub that provides immediate service to business-to-business, business-to-consumer, and consumer-to-consumer clients in metropolitan areas. Because of the adaptability of our business model, we can accommodate customers of various sizes, from sole proprietors to multinational corporations.

YFS

We are able to provide rapid service to many different industries because of our large fleet and capable operations staff. Our service also enables us to serve as a growth catalyst for small and medium-sized businesses by facilitating their entry into the expanding e-commerce industry with little outlay of resources for logistics.

Brand Yalla Fel Sekka
Category Logistics
Establishment 2019
Nationality Egyptian-French
Headquarters Egypt
Source Linkedin

26.      Zeena Zaki

zeena zaki

Zeena Zaki is an aspiring fashion designer and entrepreneur whose work has been shown in stores around the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and the Middle East. Her mother, a daydreamer herself, fostered her early interest in style. When she began creating original garments for her close circle of friends and family, her fervent interest in fashion really took off.

zeena zaki website

This interest blossomed into an established company and now serves as a wellspring of inspiration and knowledge for female entrepreneurs and style devotees. After debuting her namesake label in the United Arab Emirates in 2003, designer Zeena Zaki has since expanded it throughout the GCC and beyond, even showing at Paris Fashion Week. She plans to break into the international fashion industry and establish a name for herself in major cities like London and Paris.

Brand Zeena Zaki
Category Fashion
Establishment 2003
Nationality Iraqi
Headquarters U.A.E.
Source Forbes middle east

27.      Dina Sam’an

dina saman

Dina Sam’an is a self-described “entrepreneur at heart” who is enthusiastic about blockchain technology and the global financial system. Saman helped establish CoinMENA this year. CoinMENA, with headquarters in the Kingdom of Bahrain, is a Crypto Asset Service Provider licensed by the Central Bank of Bahrain under Category 3. With CoinMENA, you may make deposits and withdrawals in your local currency while also buying, selling, storing, and receiving digital assets.

coinMENA

Brand CoinMENA
Category Crypto exchange
Establishment 2019
Nationality Jordanian
Headquarters Bahrain
Source Crunchbase

28.      Nadine Merabi

nadine merabi

Merabi was born to an English mom and a Lebanese dad in Manchester. She was born and raised in Tripoli, Lebanon, during the first four years of her life. She got her start with her own line before being hired on as creative director of ONO UNO.

nadine mirabi web

The demand for her trademark dresses led her to revive the MERABI label four seasons later. A high-end, ready-to-wear label known for creating unforgettable items that help you create unforgettable memories. Our attention to detail and bold silhouettes are meant to make a statement and give our customers confidence.

Brand NADINE MERABI
Category Fashion
Establishment 2016
Nationality British-Lebanese
Headquarters U.K.
Source Forbes middle east

29.      Julie Barbier-Leblan

julie barbier

Julie Barbier-Leblan is a French serial entrepreneur with over 15 years of experience in disrupting innovative technologies and strategic partnerships. She founded Merit Incentives, a global engagement technology and solution startup in the GCC that has become one of the fastest-growing startups in the region.

Merit

She launched Merit Incentives to cater to the growing B2B demand for rewards and digital gifting for large enterprise clients such as Riyad Bank, Saudi Investment Bank, Shell, Adidas, Ikea France, KLM, Discover, and HSBC.

Brand Merit Incentives
Category Loyalty, Incentivization, and Gift Cards
Establishment 2016
Nationality French
Headquarters Saudi Arabia
Source Crunchbase

30.      Aya & Mounaz Abdelraouf

aya and mounaz

Aya and Mounaz, both natives of Cairo, met while attending the American University in Cairo, where she majored in communication and media arts and also completed coursework in digital arts and design. Mounaz, her sister, went to school for both marketing and painting.

okhtein

Going to workshops and swotting everything up on their own, Mounaz and Aya were resolved to make it in the fashion industry by learning craftsmanship from local craftsmen. Small event bags are the result of Mounaz’s desire to combine her two passions, jewelry and purses. In contrast to her sister’s penchant for ostentatious jewelry, Aya prefers a more understated, minimalist style.

Brand OKHTEIN
category Accessories
Establishment 2014
Nationality Egyptian
Headquarters Egypt
Source Forbes middle east

 

Must read Startups in The Middle East:

Startup Review: Tabby UAE Payment System
UAE AI startup Bedu wants early-mover advantage for $7m pre-seed funding

Conclusion

In the last few decades, women have set their mark by establishing and revolutionizing multiple industries. The UAE women are no less compared to the rest. Women’s empowerment and their role in different sectors, including e-commerce, fashion, and real estate startup , etc., has resulted in the progress and growth of the Middle Eastern regions. The enterprises they created have set a standard that inspires women worldwide to step forward and achieve their dreams.

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