Interview with Dubai Female Entrepreneur of @blend
Born and bred in Saudi Arabia, Malak Al-Habib successfully wears many different hats. She’s a new entrepreneur, a wife and a mother to two children. For the past 10 years, Malak has been observing the health and eating habits of people in UAE. Her conclusion – they needed an easy, fresh option.
So after spending a year doing market research in Singapore, she decided to open her own “wholesome and affordable” restaurant in Dubai. Early this year, she opened @blend at Palm Jumeirah.
We were happy to learn about Dubai female entrepreneur Malak’s business strategy, her vision for her community, and what it’s taken her to get to where the business is today.
WHAT UNHELPFUL ADVICE HAVE YOU BEEN GIVEN THAT YOU’VE IGNORED?
Malak: “Start your project right away.” It can be very tempting and some excited entrepreneurs might take this advice and immediately run to the execution phase. Some might justify their advice by saying that there isn’t much to do in a planning phase when starting an F&B business like ours.
However, we didn’t do this way. We went through very careful and thorough planning and a concept development phase in order to identify the main parameters of the business. We planned the project and conducted a feasibility study. No matter how great your business idea is, without proper planning, you are planning to fail.
WHAT HAVE BEEN YOUR BEST AND WORST BUSINESS DECISION TO-DATE?
Malak: Starting @blend in a city like Dubai is probably my best business decision to date. The city is so vibrant and dynamic as well as supports many opportunities and business ideas and allows them to flourish.
The worst decision, I would say, was not starting the recruitment process early enough. It was incredibly surprising how long and difficult this process can be. There are many candidates in the market and the process to screen the good ones; recognize who can fit the hospitality business; and finish the formalities of their hiring can take very long time.
If you could do it all over again, what would you do differently?
Malak: There are certain lessons I’ve learned and decisions that I would like to have made. I would probably take my time in doing certain things with suppliers and contractors. I would have been able to save certain cost elements. However, this is sometimes the price we pay for experience. You actually learn from the things that go wrong more than those that go right.
HOW DO YOU OVERCOME OBSTACLES?
Malak: By being resilient and keep trying. I am convinced that not all problems are resolved the first time. As a matter of fact, only very few or small problems are resolved immediately. You have to keep trying and be persistent in order to overcome obstacles and get the best results.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
Malak: A wise business woman told me: “Don’t panic.” Always take a big breath, think and analyze your options. No matter how big the problem is, break it down to small pieces and resolve it piece by piece.
A wise business woman told me: “Don’t panic.” Always take a big breath, think and analyze your options.
Starting your own business is a beautiful thing to do and can be as a dream come true. However, it is also very stressful. When it is your own place, you want everything to be perfect. In reality, nothing will be. It’s always Murphey’s law when you are doing your business. Everything seems to go the wrong way.
What advice would you give to women graduatingfrom college this year?
Malak: Pursue your dreams, but pursue them wisely. Plan right, be patient and resilient. Don’t expect that the road will be rosy and paved; you will face difficulties. However, your resilience is what will make you a great leader.
How do you deal with a male-dominated environment?
Malak: I try not to let it bother me; in fact, I mostly don’t think about it! I have a rule in life: don’t put obstacles to yourself. We, as women in the work place or in the business world, should put our full strength and passion in what we do. Eventually, youwill force your respect and name to everyone and everyone will come to you because they believe in your strength and need your help and assistance.
WHAT IS YOUR TOP NETWORKING TIP?
Malak: Build your relationships before you need them. Don’t wait until you need a favour and try to reach out for networks and others to help you. Always be the first to give a hand or extend help to others. Believe me, it will be valued later.
WHAT ARE YOU MOST PROUD OF?
Malak: Business-wise: @blend. As an entrepreneur, your first business is the most difficult and most precious to you.
As a mother and wife: my family. They are the most supportive family any women entrepreneur can ask for and without their support it would’ve been impossible to achieve what have been done so far.
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