How did you get this idea to start your business?
My venture started with passion and over the years evolved into a business model. Rivaage is a platform for emerging and established brands to showcase their collections / talent, as the name implies.
Is your enterprise a game changer?
My business has evolved over the years as the UAE’s retail landscape developed. I started selling only couture and then found my niche turning into a multi-brand concept. I’ve been able to focus on regional brands with unique product at a specific bridge price point, which is something that hadn’t been offered in the UAE before Rivaage.
How old and how large is the team?
When my business started, we were only four people in a villa on Jumeirah Beach Road (Dubai), now we have nine locations in the UAE and Qatar. We have a total of five people in the office, but then we also have individual sales teams, 30 in total. My team is very young and incredibly dynamic, constantly coming up with new ideas and creative input.
Professionally speaking, who do you consider your role model in terms of business?
Ingie Chalhoub has always been a regional inspiration to be.
Your first source of funding — was it personal, family & friends, or a venture capital?
I have personally funded my venture hence the slow and organic growth in the region.
How do you find the UAE start-up environment?
Today, the possibilities for startups in the UAE are very encouraging. The environment has evolved over the years and now there are a lot less hoops to jump through. It is much more organized. There are so many opportunities in the UAE and with a leadership so passionately supporting innovation; this is the perfect place to be to start your business.
In terms of mentors, I’m incredibly blessed to be a member of Entrepreneurs’ Organization’s UAE chapter. We have forums with likeminded entrepreneurs where we can learn, share and ask for help if required. This mentorship and communication with my peers has helped me more than words can describe. There is also the Accelerator Programme, which is a mentorship scheme for smaller startup business owners. Members of Entrepreneurs’ Organization lead talks and offer advice and mentorship to these incredibly talented entrepreneurs.
Other than your present business, which new areas/sectors you will like to explore to expand your business empire?
I am focused on geographic growth, specifically looking to expand into Saudi Arabia. This is something I would love to achieve in the near future.
What is your advice to other entrepreneurs?
It’s very important to take risks. I learnt everything I know about business by trying and failing, so do not be scared to fail. You will succeed if you are persistent and are able take risks.
What are the strongest and weakest points of UAE’s start-up eco system?
One strength of the UAE’s start-up ecosystem is the challenge it presents. I definitely think there is room for growth as the market is still developing. It is currently a lot easier for big businesses to come into the region rather than startups and SMEs. If you can survive in this environment and grow your business, you will be ok.
How do you see the role of technology in your future growth plans? How does digital media strengthen your business?
Social media is a large part of what we do at Rivaage and I anticipate the integration of social media in our business will increase. We are also looking into e-commerce so there is definitely a lot of technological integration in our future growth plans. I believe you have to be in this industry and this part of the world.
What new measures you adopted that resulted into success of your business?
As important as passion is in your business, you need to know how to separate the two to be able to see the business plan rationally and for what it is. If it’s not good enough, throw it away and start again.
To whom you attribute the success?