Brilliant Lebanese Awards 2014

Tuesday 13th May 2014

GBA Newsletter

Dima Al Dairy Dima El Dayri, Brand Manager WE & Enterprise Banking at BLC Bank, is responsible for managing and ensuring the brand equity of the WE Initiative and Enterprise Banking brands as well as overseeing the implementation of their related strategies and action plans at BLC Bank

GBA: Why did BLC Bank decide to launch an award for women in business?

Dima El Dayri: As we designed the WE Initiative, we felt that having role models was important to encourage women to get involved in business. When women see successful women, they get motivated to start businesses themselves. We wanted to highlight that women are not only made for home, to be a housewife or an employee, that they can be an entrepreneur and a successful entrepreneur. That’s why we set up the awards.

GBA: You have two awards for entrepreneurship-Business of the Year and Woman Entrepreneur of the Year; can you describe the differences between the two?

Dima El Dayri: To qualify for both awards the business has to be in place for at least two years and be 51% Lebanese owned. Both men and women business owners can apply for the Business of the Year award, but if the business is 51% owned by a woman then it qualifies to be considered for the Women Entrepreneurship Award. Winners of both awards receive US $30,000 cash each and a range of other benefits.

GBA: You also have the People’s Choice Award, tell us about that.

Dima El Dayri: We want to support not just the two winners but all 12 finalists (6 for each award). So after the 12 have been selected we run a competition on Facebook-on both BLC’s Facebook page and on WE Initiative’s Facebook page. People vote, and the company with the highest number of votes wins. In this way we create more and more exposure for the 12 finalists and not just the two winners. It has proven to be tremendously popular in Lebanon.

GBA: What has been the impact of these awards, on the participants?

Dima El Dayri: The award ceremony was shown on MTV. We had 1,000 attendees and 548,000 viewers during 2013’s awards. During the ceremony we showcase a report on each finalist that lasts 1½ minutes. Finalists also get interviewed on other TV shows, in magazines etc. We have a full-scale campaign around the awards including all digital media. Prior to the Ceremony, we also held a teaser campaign on TV, mentioning the nature of businesses, then a revealer, showing the person behind each business. After the awards we received a good deal of calls asking for the finalists’ contact details. We really created nationwide exposure and business opportunities for our finalists.

GBA: What has been the impact of these awards on the bank and its positioning in the market?

Dima El Dayri: It has really helped to position us as the bank of reference for SMEs with a focus on women. The awards show our commitment to SMEs.

GBA: You decided to register ‘Brilliant Lebanese Awards’ as a brand, why did you do that? Has it stopped other banks from copying what you are doing?

Dima El Dayri: There are some banks in Lebanon who do this in collaboration with other institutions, but BLC was the first bank offering an award directly from the bank itself. We create a brand for the awards-the Brilliant Lebanese Awards-with a logo, tagline etc. and registering helps the Awards stand out.

GBA: The awards are open to customers and non-customers. Why did you choose to have it open to non-customers?

Dima El Dayri: This was to show our commitment not just to our SMEs but to all SMEs in Lebanon. This is a national prize.

GBA: Do you think you have taken the space in the market for this type of award?

Dima El Dayri: Yes, for now. We are differentiated in two ways. First, we are the only bank offering an award directly. Second, we are the only bank offering awards to established businesses, as opposed to start-ups or business ideas.

GBA: What are your key lessons, from a design perspective, that make your awards so successful?

Dima El Dayri: There are several dimensions to this. The first is that the award itself is hugely valuable beyond the $30,000 cash prize. We’ve set it up to really build their businesses. We chose people for the jury that can give added value to entrepreneurs. Each finalist gets detailed feedback from the jury and a plan is developed to support them based on the jury’s analysis. This includes coaching and training. We also introduce them to other companies to develop their business. We finance their needs. As mentioned, we developed a communications campaign around the awards so they also get tons of media coverage.

GBA: As you think about new GBA member banks considering launching an award, what advice would you give?

Dima El Dayri: I think the awards are a must have, if the bank wants to differentiate itself and be known around SMEs and women SMEs. There should be a cash award without conditions attached to it. Then, it’s about everything that follows, coaching, mentoring, consultancy, training, etc. To break it down in more detail banks should:

  1. Study the market very well, to see if it should be for start-ups or existing businesses; for micro or small or medium. You need to define your target market.
  2. Adapt the award to the target market.
  3. It should be for non-clients as well as clients.
  4. Offer a cash prize.
  5. Launch it from the bank and not by sponsoring another organization to do it.
  6. Have an independent jury, including institutions that represent SMEs as well as very successful entrepreneurs. For example in our case we have one member from the Central Bank of Lebanon as they offer subsidized loans to SMEs and one from Kafalat as they provide a guarantee for subsidized loans in collaboration with the Central Bank of Lebanon for SMEs in specific sectors; we have a member from Endeavor as they provide mentoring and coaching for SMEs; one seat for BLC Bank, one for a very successful women entrepreneur, and one seat for the IFC. The jury members all have contact with SMEs and can provide them with feedback and advice for improvements.
  7. Consider having a People’s Choice Award—this creates more exposure for the finalists, so people know more about them before the ceremony and it will create more traffic in general for the awards. It’s also a great way of engaging with the community via social media.

GBA: How do you integrate finalists and winners into your WE Initiative?

Dima El Dayri: We always invite the women finalists, and successful women, to share their stories, to help other women understand how to do this, to all our networking events, so that other WE Initiative participants can benefit from their experiences. In parallel, we offer finalists and winners as mentors to other women entrepreneurs. By helping them to develop these women, we really create business opportunities for both sides. When women come and share with each other they are happy and motivated and that’s the aim of the program.

—As told to the Global Banking Alliance For Women