Young Emi­rati en­tre­pre­neur fol­lows her pas­sion for de­sign

Opium Lux­ury Hand­bags tar­gets fash­ion-con­scious 18 to 35-year-olds

Gulf News - - FRONT PAGE -

En­tre­pre­neur We­j­dan Bin Jasem Al Mu­tairi has turned a child­hood pas­sion for draw­ing into a de­signer hand­bag la­bel she sells through her two bou­tiques in Abu Dhabi.

Af­ter her sales steadily recorded an in­crease from nearly Dh24,000 late last year, to nearly Dh76,000 in the third quar­ter of 2017, she’s aim­ing to take the next step and sell her Opium Lux­ury Bags through a ma­jor de­part­ment store.

“If you reached a big de­part­ment store, you reached the top end of your tar­get mar­ket,” she said.

Ninety per cent of the cus­tomers in her bou­tiques — Chique La Bou­tique in Al Ba­teen area, and Gen Bou­tique in Foutouh Al Khair mall — are Emi­rati, pri­mar­ily from Dubai and Al Ain. Eight per cent of her clien­tele is from Saudi Ara­bia.

Most in­ter­ested

Her tar­get sec­tor is women be­tween 18 and 35 years, the group she be­lieves have the most in­ter­est in fash­ion. “The younger age are dif­fi­cult to sat­isfy, and many in the older group are less en­thu­si­as­tic,” she said.

At 29, she is in the mid­dle of her tar­geted age range. Al Mu­tairi be­gan sell­ing her own hand­bags a year ago, and has faced sev­eral chal­lenges, in­clud­ing mak­ing sales in the face of es­tab­lished brands. Her strat­egy is to match qual­ity, beat the in­ter­na­tional brands on price (her most ex­pen­sive bag re­tails for Dh5,000), and have ex­cel­lent cus­tomer ser­vice.

As well as her mall-based bou­tiques, she uses a mo­bile bou­tique launched late last year to in­crease ex­po­sure. The mo­bile unit also dis­plays and sells prod­ucts such as abayas, dresses and wal­lets. It’s a con­cept also used by an­other Emi­rati en­tre­pre­neur and fash­ion de­signer, Azza Al Marar. She’s been mak­ing the bags for a year, us­ing a Thai fac­tory to fab­ri­cate her de­signs of bags made from python, os­trich and croc­o­dile leather. It also makes wal­lets and card­hold­ers for her.

Still, she says, peo­ple “fear spend­ing a few thou­sands of dirhams for prod­ucts they don’t know. This is un­avoid­able wher­ever you go.”

Her sec­ond chal­lenge is the old start-up bete noire, turn­ing rev­enue into profit. Here, she says, the “healthy level is to give you a year to two years be­fore the ex­pen­di­tures are cov­ered by the prof­its”.

UAE women, ac­cord­ing to the UAE Min­istry of Econ­omy, con­sti­tute nearly half of the small and medium en­ter­prise sec­tor, and the Dubai Busi­ness Women’s Coun­cil con­cluded that al­most half of the fe­male busi­ness own­ers are the sole own­ers of their firms

Al Mu­tairi, who holds an Ex­ec­u­tive Mas­ters de­gree in Busi­ness Ad­min­is­tra­tion from Zayed Univer­sity and has a full-time job with an Abu Dhabi gov­ern­ment agency, planned her move into busi­ness cau­tiously.

Some­thing big­ger

“I was not sat­is­fied with be­ing a per­son go­ing to work and com­ing back home every day. I al­ways wanted to be some­thing big­ger,” she said.

“It took me two years think­ing and look­ing into op­tions of what my busi­ness would look like. I didn’t want to go into a tra­di­tional kind of busi­ness, such as mak­ing abayas and jal­abiyahs.

“Also, I wanted to have some­thing that is rel­a­tively new to the mar­ket. Some­thing unique, some­thing if peo­ple hear about will stick in their heads and they won’t con­fuse or mix it with any­thing else.”

Her break came when she was of­fered a role as a dis­trib­u­tor for a Thai lux­ury leather fac­tory; in­stead she ne­go­ti­ated a part­ner­ship where they would make her hand­bag de­signs. “This is some­thing I like. I like to draw and now I draw for a dif­fer­ent pur­pose. I have de­signed five bags. Two de­signs are al­ready in the mar­kets. A third will be launched in De­cem­ber, and two more next Fe­bru­ary,” she said.

“I was scared at the be­gin­ning be­cause there is this risk and that risk, but I said I need to try.”

Ab­dul Rah­man/Gulf News

We­j­dan Bin Jasem Al Mu­tairi, founder of Chic La Bou­tique in Abu Dhabi, with her de­signs at her bou­tique dur­ing an in­ter­view.

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