By Tamara Pupic
The three co-founders of Integreat Center aim to create a safe and supportive environment for individuals with special needs and their families
Our latest Entrepreneurs of the Week are Kiran Thakur, Ayukta Thakur and Nikita Patel, the three enterprising co-founders of Integreat Center, the first holistic special needs center for young adults aged 16 to 25 in Dubai.
Before conceptualising Integreat Center as a professionally managed, safe, and supportive environment for individuals with special needs and their families, the co-founders conducted exhaustive research with often-frustrated parents who repeatedly asked what further developmental opportunities existed for their young adult with special needs after the age of 18 in Dubai.
“2016 will mark the beginning of the center. Currently, we are facing overwhelming demand in terms of student enrollment enquiries as parents, unfortunately, do not have many alternatives. We hope to fill this gap,” Ayukta Thakur says.
“We want to contribute to creating a more inclusive society by increasing awareness about the strengths and capabilities of young adults with special needs to be independent as well as active members of the workforce and society.”
Not only is the Integreat Center fulfilling a vital need in the market, but it also operates as a social enterprise where all profits are invested into the Integreat Scholarship Fund to provide need-based scholarships to families that require financial assistance.
“There is tremendous scope for start-ups in Dubai, especially in the fields of healthcare and education, which are both still largely developing sectors,” says Patel. “We learned that currently there is no way to license a company as a social enterprise in Dubai and we hope to advocate for this in the future.
“It is important to show that companies can use business principles to solve social issues, while remaining efficient, sustainable as well as impactful.”
Integreat Center recently won CrowdFunDXB, a crowd-funded pitch competition organised by Impact Hub Dubai, a Dubai-based incubator and innovation hub.
“Not only did we gain monetary support, which will contribute to the Integreat Scholarship Fund, but we received mentorship from CREATIVE ZONE which has been invaluable in terms of their network, leveraging their partner’s competencies in marketing and accounting, as well as helping with promotion and exposure,” Ayukta Thakur says.
Kiran Thakur concludes by advising other aspiring entrepreneurs: “You will see resistance at every stage because the market for start-ups in Dubai is still very nascent. It is okay to reach out to others for help, and it is not necessary to have all the answers. Surround yourself with people with different areas of expertise, and use their knowledge to help you in your venture.
“About 99 percent of the time, there will be uncertainty and most things will be out of your control. Focus on the things you can control.”
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