BEIRUT: Red carpets, tuxedos, gowns, champagne and animated conversations flowed through the elegant corridors of Casino du Liban which played host Thursday to the BLC Bank’s sixth installment of the Brilliant Lebanese Awards.
Roaming along the stairs of the casino, decorated with pictures of its past glories, one cannot but feel the ambiance of Lebanon’s golden age reflected through its retro design. The banking executives gathered here for the event were serenaded by the sounds of a piano playing classic show tunes.
The Brilliant Lebanese Awards is held each year to honor Lebanese entrepreneurs on their achievements, who have spearheaded successful initiatives spanning across different sectors and proved their leadership and entrepreneurship skills.
More than 750 candidates have participated in the Brilliant Lebanese Awards since its inception in 2012, which is open to all Lebanese businesses, the bank noted in a statement.
For the 12 finalists, tonight was the culmination of a year of challenges and testing, that was unanimously described by them all to be one of the most positive experiences in their lives.
“It was a great personal test, and a chance to meet other up-and-coming startups that have very high potential in the country,” finalist Lebnan Nader, CEO of Game Cooks, told Annahar before entering the main event.
While another finalist, Priscilla Elora Sharuk, COO of Myki, was humbled by her participation in the competition, expressing that “we are honored to be part of this outstanding initiative.”
They keep their fingers crossed in the hope of recognition by a jury charged with making the final verdict on two key awards. The first being Business of the Year, while the other is Women Entrepreneur of the Year, which was launched by the BLC’s WE Initiative that focuses on women empowerment in the entrepreneurial scene.
The award winners were acknowledged with a cash prize, amounting to $30,000 each for the two top categories, while the winner of the People's Choice Award received a prize of $5,000.
In addition to financial grants, Brilliant winners also gain some of the following benefits:
Recognition & Exposure
Selected finalists will take part in TV interviews, a 90-minute Awards ceremony broadcast live on LBCI including a full report about their business. Finalists will also get no less than two months of social media coverage on all BLC Bank and We Initiative platforms.
Learning & Development
Finalists will attend an in-depth seminar on Digital & Inbound Marketing to learn how to succeed online and maximize exposure.
Coaching & Mentoring
Finalists will receive valuable coaching and advice from the nine professional jury members along with opportunities to grow their business.
The jury tasked in making this year’s verdict were representatives hailing from multiple business institutions, including the Central Bank, Berytech, Endeavor Lebanon, Kafalat, the International Finance Corporation (IFC), the Lebanese American University, the Lebanese League for Women in Business (LLWB), and the BLC Bank.
“This year’s edition showcases a huge variety of candidates who excel in various fields and whose activities span from education to design, technology and many other domains,” Tania Mousallem, Bank assistant GM and head of the WE Initiative, told Annahar.
The event requires almost a year of preparation on the part of the finalists, during which candidates go through successive and rigorous preparations, during which they are offered guidance, advice, and training.
“This year notably witnessed an increase in the number of participating tech companies, which can be explained by the recent development of the knowledge economy,” Mousallem added.
As the show kicked off, a musical number from Lebanese artists Elissa, one of Lebanon’s and MENA’s frequent chart toppers, took the stage by storm while candidates clasped their chairs anxiously awaiting the jury’s verdict.
Stories of each entrepreneur played out on the large screens adjacent to the stage inside of the casino’s grand Hall of Ambassadors.
The jury had picked their winner for both categories of awards based on financial performance (30 percent), creativity (30 percent), sustainability and scalability (25 percent), and social responsibility (15 percent).
While online, followers of the voting could view a leaderboard which tabulated voting in real time, as they waited for the announcement. Ultimately, the voting was for the category of People’s Choice.
The Business of the Year winner was Spectronite, headed by Georges El Aily, which is a company that built around designing and producing high-capacity, long-range Microwave systems for providing carrier-grade point-to-point IP connectivity.
“Winning here, at home, [in Lebanon] has a different and much sweeter taste, better than winning anywhere else,” Aily said during his brief speech.
The jury geared up to consider the next group innovators for: The Woman Entrepreneur Award.
The competition was difficult, with the crowd shouting the names of their personal favorites for the prize. Following the same sequence of watching short video reels describing the person and their business, the jury had made their decision.
Nada Ghazal, founder and creative director of Nada G, which creates fine jewelry pieces with an edge, and also features a tailor-made and high-end portfolio in 18k gold, adorned with precious and semi-precious stones.
“I would not be here without the loving support of my family and my husband, who stood with me through the good and bad times to build my brand and witness it grow year-in and year-out,” Ghazal said during her speech.
Going against established norms, the pieces exhibit fragility, docility in their textures, and vibrancy in their candid statements. Each piece of jewelry echoes a different sense of emotion, mirroring not only an adornment of the senses but more so celebrating what it means to be a woman, the company notes in a statement.
Later in the night, Nadim Kassar, BLC’s Deputy Chairman and General Manager, announced the launching of a new category of future award related to e-businesses "due to the important role this sector plays in the Knowledge Economy."
Closing in on the end of the event, the People’s Choice Award was announced following an extensive online voting process for one of the 12 finalists who had caught the popular eye.
Mohammad Ali Beydoun, CEO of L’Art-Qui-Tecte, walked away with the award, receiving 5131 online votes to claim the prize of the People’s Choice.
After the awards, when the crowds finally faded, the piano score for "New York, New York" (if I can make it here, I can make it anywhere) drifted through the halls of the Casino; a fitting ending to what had been a gala night.
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