Making an impact : Anna Arzua MacMillan
It was peak summer in Dubai when a chance invite convinced her that she wanted to join BNI Evergreen, the then all-female chapter in the UAE. Being a tech-startup founder, she had long felt the need to affiliate with a business network that supported startups and SME owners. So she filled up the form in August 2019 and joined the chapter, where she first assisted as the signage coordinator and went on to become the Member Engagement Chair within the chapter.
“We can grow our businesses in a sustainable manner only when we combine our business ethics with a genuine interest to help other businesses thrive” says Anna who has a strong background in corporate healthcare. “I have an abundance mindset and I believe that we must first invest in forming good interpersonal relationships with all our fellow members. We must also share resources to optimize our products and services to align with the market conditions.”
Community support portal
She had a transformation early-March 2020, when she realized that she needed to set up a comprehensive support network for her mother who lives in Spain, a country that is one of the epicenters of the current pandemic. The experience got her thinking about the immediate community around her – not unusual, as she has a history of leading different community initiatives.
This led to her kickstarting #InThisTogetherUAE, a platform to connect and support people and businesses. “I am convinced that when communities come together, it results in many possibilities. I built the platform to connect those who need help with those who can offer help or a support system. Let me make it clear that we do not accept any donations or ask for charity. We ask for the biggest gift that you can give – time and knowledge,” says Anna.
The portal offers services such as phone calls to check on people, being the emergency contact for another person, helping invalids who are homebound and mental health support from licensed professionals. It also provides support from parents experienced in homeschooling to families who find it hard to adjust to eLearning. On the professional front, the portal also partnered with recruitment companies to help people find jobs.
The SME corner
But as SMEs contribute to above 60 percent of the UAE’s non-oil economy and comprise 86 percent of the private workforce, Anna decided to take it one step further.
She created an SME section, which includes a service where SMEs can connect with industry experts and professionals who will mentor them for free for 20 hours, over a period of three months. It also offers space to companies who wish to help the needy by offering 50 percent discounts or even free products.
One of the highlights of the portal is “Speakers for Good,” an initiative where global speakers and renowned authors are offering a series of free webinars to help entrepreneurs and SMEs.
“My ask is to connect with me if you would like to volunteer by sharing your time, knowledge and even resources to ensure that yet another SME does not wind up operations or terminate their employees. When we support ‘One SME at a time’, we will also contribute to making an impact on the regional and global economy,” says Anna who invites everyone to join her on the mission.
Edited by Sona Nambiar, Founder at Kimiyaa Technologies and Content Strategist at BNI Warriors.
Interviewed by Raakhi Rupani, BNI Communications Coordinator and edited by Sona Nambiar, Founder at Kimiyaa and Content Strategist at BNI Warriors