To be a good baker you need to have the right ingredients, follow the recipe to a T and make sure you give it just the right amount of time to cook. And that’s exactly what all of the speakers at the recent TEDxAUC did. Although what they ended up making wasn’t a cake, but a great idea.
The theme of the second TEDxAUC event, hosted by the American University in Cairo on December 21, was ‘Idea Bakers’. Putting together a list of 20 speakers to share their success stories of becoming entrepreneurs and hopefully inspire listeners to start baking their own ideas.
“We chose entrepreneurship because we felt that TEDx events in Egypt aren’t focusing enough on entrepreneurship even though the TEDx experience is very suitable for (the topic),” says Amr Ashraf, founder of TEDxAUC.
Entrepreneurship is gaining momentum fast in Egypt, with many young people venturing out on their own.
“Ten years ago, the idea of finding someone who wants to be an entrepreneur after graduation was rare,” says Ashraf.
In Egypt, where youth in the ages 18-25 comprise around 25% of the population and the unemployment rate was approximately 12% in 2011, according to UNDP reports, nurturing entrepreneurship is key to create jobs.
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“An entrepreneur has to be innovative by default. it’s a needed idea, it can help transform society in one way or another. You need to think ten years from now, what will be your impact?” Sherif Kamel, founding dean of the business school at AUC, explained in his talk at the event.
And that’s exactly what Fairouz Omar, one of the speakers at the event and founder of Qalb Kabeer Foundation set out to do. At the young age of 16, Omar discovered a unique talent of solving people’s problems, and even after completing medical school and becoming a doctor, she decided to trade in her white coat in order to pursue her true passion.
“There were organizations to develop industry and agriculture, but no one wanted to develop the human being himself,” she said.
Omar set up a small office in an apartment where she offered counseling for teenagers in public schools, thereby providing an access to mental health that was otherwise nonexistent in public schooling in Egypt. Omar was elected to become an Ashoka Fellow in 2009.
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Another inspirational speaker was Essam Sharaf, a young medical student at Cairo University and president of Enactus Cairo University, which helps people in impoverished communities reach their own entrepreneurial success.
The organization visits slum areas outside of Cairo in order to encourage and assist the people there to start their own businesses. So far, it has helped launching six different projects including La Maison De Crochet, where one woman has successfully trained the women in her community in making items out of crochet. She also started her own line of hand-made crochet.
“Our idea may be small and our competition is fierce but I believe that we can surprise the world,” said Sharaf.
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Many different types of ideas were presented at TEDxAUC, all providing inspiration. Shady Barakat told his personal story of discovering the DIY (Do It Yourself) culture and founding the Home Page, an online furniture fair – the first of its kind in Egypt.
Calling on his own humorous experience from domesticated life as a married man, Barakat tells the story of how he discovered the joy of doing things yourself and got into furniture design, which made him launch the Home Page.
“Please get your hands dirty, please do it yourself,” Barakat told the crowd.
Other speakers included the founders of Disalata, Ayman Rashed, founder of Otlob.com, Sherif El-Ghamrawy, founder of Basata, as well as a musical performance by singer Shady Ahmed.
The event was so successful that the team behind TEDxAUC has decided to continue the theme of entrepreneurship for a number of their upcoming events as well.
“The ‘Idea Bakers’ will not disappear,” says Ashraf, who was approved by TED to host these events in August of 2011. He first attended TEDxTeen in New York City in 2010, and the next year he was invited to speak at TEDxTeen about Egypt’s revolution and the role of social media.
“I was exposed to TED, and introduced to the TEDx community so I thought why not hold a TEDx event at AUC,” he says. “If you think about the number of AUC alumni holding influential positions, AUC is perfect.”