When Emirati entrepreneur Mouza Alabbar launched a unique chocolate brand, she crunched the numbers, had a plan and created a product she loved. However, it wasn’t received the way she had hoped. With just two months to go to their outlet launch at Al Serkal Avenue, Mouza took a tough decision
“I called my marketing head and told her that we had to change everything,” she recalled. “The colours, the design, everything was wrong. We pushed the opening back and worked day and night to produce a new brand. Two days before the opening, I looked around and wondered if anyone would buy it.”
Although it was a tough call at the time considering how much money had been invested and how many people had been hired, it was the best decision she made. Her brand Ganache is now 11 months old and hugely popular. “The numbers achieved by the brand have surpassed all expectations,” she said. “On the opening day, the space was full.”
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Mouza was illustrating how mistakes are a stepping stone for businesses. Speaking at the Sharjah Entrepreneurship Festival 2024 (SEF) on Saturday, Mouza further highlighted that failures can be the best teachers.
“Sometimes, you have all the right numbers, plans and business ideas but maybe the timing wasn’t right,” she said. “It happens but it hurts and you lose money.”
The two day festival which brings together some of the best entrepreneurs from around the world saw thought leaders from various fields come together for inspiring talks across four stages as startups pitched their ideas to investors who attended the fest.
‘Being scared is good’
Another speaker at the event was adaptive mountaineer Fahad Badar. The first Arab man to double summit Everest and Lhotse in one trip, Fahad lost four fingers to severe frostbite in 2021 as he tried to summit Broad Peak mountain in Pakistan.
“The one thing common about mountaineering and entrepreneurship is failure,” he said, speaking to Khaleej Times. “Being scared of failure is very good. It keeps you on your toes. It keeps you cautious. Fear is a positive thing for me. Being scared doesn’t mean you give up. Being scare means you become more careful, you focus on yourself and you focus on the situation.”
With pitch competitions, startup lounges and informative workshops, SEF has become the gathering point for all budding entrepreneurs in the country to learn valuable lessons. Iman Ben Chaibah, Director of Community Engagement at SEF said that the aim was to inspire as many people as possible. “We try to showcase as many local businesses as possible,” she said. “People are inspired by businesses. When they see a successful restaurant or e-commerce business, they get inspired to try to give it a shot. And an inspired population is one that has stars as the limit.”
‘Learn from experience’
Philips Bahoshy, founder of CEO and Magnitt, was one of the speakers at the event and he highlighted that there were several common mistakes that startups committed. “One is that they start their business alone,” he said. “It is always better to have a team to brainstorm and include different skillsets to be successful.”
He said it was also important for entrepreneurs to focus on making money. “Gone are the days of building businesses to scale,” he said. “Gone are the days when you could build a social network platform where hopefully you could get to a certain number of subscribers and then make money. It is no longer easy to build a Facebook or an Instagram.”
He advised that anyone who wanted to start a business should spend time studying the market. “People should join a company and learn from the experience of the founders,” he said. “They should spend two or three years studying the industry and then planning their next move. Passion is the most important thing because it will be a 10-12 journey and if you don’t have the passion, you will get bored very quickly.”