Maya Itani

Co-Founder & Managing Partner of The Curve Middle East

Since graduating with a degree in business administration in 2007, Maya has been in the corporate “rat race”. When she started to suffer from burnout two years ago, she struggled to find a hobby. This was Maya’s eureka moment, and she launched The Curve, along with her husband, to help residents easily search, find and book classes in the UAE. Not long after, she left her stable job to start down the path of an entrepreneur. “It took months to finally make that decision,” says Maya, explaining that her friends, family and husband provided amazing encouragement. The website now has over 30 partner companies and over 250 classes listed. “My objective is to grow the website so that I can spread the message of lifelong learning in the Middle East,” she says.


Becky Balderstone

Founder & Owner of Ripe

“Some people don’t even know there are farms in the UAE,” says Becky, who is on a mission to promote organic, fresh produce in the region through her brand, Ripe. The businesswoman left behind a flourishing career in marketing to start a seasonal food-box delivery service, which has now expanded to include a shop, online store, farmers’ markets and a community education programme. Her work is creating a buzz amongst locals and expats alike, keen to eat healthy, ethical meals that support the UAE’s agriculture industry. “This award would show that people in the region are aware of the importance of supporting local farms,” says Becky. In the future, she and her team hope to start cooking schools and farm visits so that more people can learn about organic fruits and veggies.


Mona Syed-Mirza

Founder & CEO of Biolite Aesthetic Clinic 

Despite dropping out of school at 16, Mona went on to gain a master’s degree in medical aesthetics and became a laser practitioner, helping people with problem skin. After her divorce, she couldn’t work full-time while raising her twin girls. Determined not to let this stop her, she established a business from her home in England. While on a stopover in Dubai, Mona spotted a gap in the market and decided to take a risk, moving her life and her 11-year-old children to the UAE. Through what seemed like endless adversity she managed to grow Biolite into the success it is today, all while being a single mum. She’s currently studying for a diploma in psychotherapy, with the view to opening ‘mind spas’ for frazzled souls to receive relief.  She says that winning this award would serve as a reminder for her girls “to aspire to be more than just ordinary”.


Sophie Toh

Founder & Managing Director of TOH Public Relations

When Sophie was six she told her mother that she’d own her own business one day. The determined youngster constantly proved she was on-track, winning a Young Enterprise award at 16, and juggling multiple jobs while at university. But it wasn’t until she gained an internship at a luxury lifestyle outfit in London that she realised PR was her calling. Sophie’s work ethic and creativity gave her an edge in a competitive industry and, despite a limited contact base, she had the confidence to move to Dubai and launch TOH Public Relations in 2009. Sophie and her growing team now look after clients such as Lulu Guiness, W Hotels and MTV Middle East. “Five years ago, two people took a chance on me and offered me my first UAE project – the Emirates Woman Woman Of The Year Awards,” Sophie says, reflecting on her success. “With this in mind, just being nominated is a wonderful feeling.”


Susan Gorman

Founder & Chief Executive of SARUM

When Susan developed a chronic reaction to chemical products, she decided to take her business degree and international beauty experience to cater to those with similar problems. Starting with an organic spa in Hong Kong, she felt fully equipped to move to the UAE and open a company dedicated to organic beauty products. Five years on and SARUM is now a distributer for 12 brands, in 65 locations across the region. Susan is always looking for business inspiration in the world around her. “My daughter also struggles with sensitive skin, so SARUM now caters for children,” she explains. With awards under her belt and new products coming on board, she’s constantly expanding her goals. This nomination has given her a brief moment for reflection, she says: “I’m truly grateful for everything I’ve achieved so far.”