Lending A Helping Hand To Grow

By Sandhya D’Mello
Khaleej Times, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Meet Maria Pearson, CEO of “Grow.ME.” Pearson says “We help small business be more creative and resourceful. As a woman in business, I have always been an advocate to develop other women both in corporate roles and small business owners through various groups.”


A Woman in business should know her worth and believe in it.

Ask for what you deserve, challenge assumptions and ask questions. A feminine approach is our difference; what we bring to the table creates value, so be true to yourself, that is part of the value we add, said Maria Pearson, CEO Grow.ME.

Dubai-based, development consultancy Grow.ME was born in 2011 as a solution to a gap in the market and is focused on economic and organisational impact that empowers people and businesses achieve results.

“We helped organisations find solutions, in the struggles of recession. I had learned that business was about people, whether it be the customer, supplier or service provider.

Typically, in organizations, employees focus on their area or function and easily lose sight of how the business operates commercially. As the business environment changes, finding new ways to be profitable is the solution we help find.”

Pearson, originally from New Zealand, was trained as a children’s dentist, and left the country in the late 1980s to explore the world — and in doing so she discovered dentistry was not what she enjoyed.

“I am typically a person that looks for problems to solve and my career has had many twists and turns. The learnings throughout my journey so far shape how I approach business and lead the team at Grow.ME.

I moved to the Middle East region in the early 1990s, first to Bahrain and then to the UAE to join Emirates airline. At the fast-growing airline, I had roles in service delivery, training and leadership, and always volunteered to be involved in any project going. The growth phase of Emirates was a fantastic learning opportunity, being part of various teams to launch new routes, new aircraft product offerings and finally being part of the team that created the customer experience blueprint to build a world-class brand. The commercial aspect of the aviation industry fascinated me and during this time I completed a degree in aviation management.”

Pearson left Emirates in 2007 to broaden her experience from an organizational development perspective with a local retail chain in a growth phase. Small business is one of the cornerstones of the UAE economy. Finding solutions for customers is similar to larger organisations, although small businesses have fewer resources.

“We help small business be more creative and resourceful. As a woman in business, I have always been an advocate to develop other women both in corporate roles and small business owners through various groups,” she added.

Grow.ME was selected by the Dubai Business Women Council in 2015 to develop and deliver the Ro’Ya initiative to help more women entrepreneurs start a business. This initiative led Pearson to create Women-able which is dedicated to growing female entrepreneurs in the UAE and helps develop the confidence of women to step forward and achieve.

“Starting a business and staying in business require different thinking and strong confidence in yourself and your team. We typically focus on building confidence in areas of commercial skills, communicating with purpose and projecting an inner strength throughout the ups and downs as a business owner. As an agnostic program, we work with businesses across a range of sectors and any stage, albeit an idea or an established entity wanting to go to the next level,” said Pearson.

The Grow.ME CEO strongly feels that women can do business in the UAE and what would make it ideal is more access to finance. More women on investment boards and a greater understanding by investors for how women do business.

“We project confidence and make decisions differently to our male colleagues and it is these differences that create value.

Until there is parity at executive and board level there is no ideal place for women entrepreneurs to be equal, however, the UAE government has made tremendous advances with the help of the UAE Gender Balance Council and in some cases, the UAE is far ahead of the West,” said Pearson.

Women-able is open to all women business owners and female entrepreneurs in the UAE. Women-able 2016 created tremendous economic impact for the 25 businesses, with jobs, revenue increases from sales and exports. Similar results are aimed at to be created by the company this year.

Pearson said as part of the ‘Year of Giving’ they are asking corporate CSR funds and donor funds for grant support so they can work with as many women as possible to create economic sustainability for their families and communities across the country.

“We see Ras Al Khaimah and Fujairah as two communities with lots of potential for growth,” Pearson said.

Pearson strongly advocates economic independence for women is critical to the country and the opportunity and choice for paid work mean more people participate in the economy, that is better for everyone.

“At Grow.ME our definition of empowerment is the freedom to make choices and take action, and the responsibility to support others by delivering on your commitments hence our internal working relationships are about action and group achievement, rather than measuring time.

If the result is achieved then the time is yours. We have witnessed many changes to the labour laws in the last five years which makes it easier to be flexible with employees, but it is a two-way street, we are all responsible for creating solutions and results for our customers. Without satisfied customers, we can’t pay the bills,” she says.

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