GCC women entrepreneurs find success on social media platforms
Khaleej Times caught up with three successful Instaprenuers: Fatma Al Mulla, Ayesha Siddequa and Latifa Al Shamsi.
In 2010, the world was introduced to a world of filtered images through Instagram, a fun way of sharing photos with family and friends. It soon developed into a hub for talented and pioneering female entrepreneurs, especially in the GCC.
Selling everything from designer abayas to customised phone covers, cupcakes to designer cakes and cookies, a new generation of Instagram entrepreneurs — or Instapreneurs — is disrupting traditional marketing with their creative designs, marketing and business strategies.
Khaleej Times caught up with three successful Instaprenuers: Fatma Al Mulla, an Emirati visual artist and founder of the pop culture brand FMM; Ayesha Siddequa, founder of abaya and women’s ready-to-wear line and the creative director of Future Fashion; and Latifa Al Shamsi, a Dubai blogger and founder of ready-to-wear and accessory fashion line.
Before the advent of social media, many women in UAE couldn’t afford to compete with household names in the fashion and design industry in terms of money or marketing.
“It is still a taboo subject. When I told my family members that I want to sell T-shirts online, they were appalled. They asked if I’d stoop that low,” said Fatma Al Mulla.
Her brand, FMM, has grown exponentially over the last three years. Her brand showcases everything from bags, T-shirts, abayas, kaftans, phone covers and passport holders. Inspired by pop-culture, Al Mulla’s designs are quirky, colourful, vibrant and steers away from the traditional drab designs. It has captivated the minds of men and women alike.
Breaking barriers and fleshing out her own career, which was fuelled by passion, took time and effort, Al Mulla said. “After I’d completed my degree in visual communication with a minor in photography, for a long time I was confused about what I wanted to do. At a time when blogs were a thing of great popularity, I started one and I began posting about things I liked. I eventually designed an illustration of an Arab woman with Arabic writing on it, and that post went viral. It was shared by many and several people used it as their wallpapers. That was the beginning of my journey,” said Al Mulla.
Although initially hesitant, Al Mulla’s parents and husband provided her immense support to achieve her goals. Stocked in S*uce and a few other boutiques in the UAE, today FMM has a following of over 102,000 people on Instagram.
Latifa Al Shamsi, blogger and founder of By Latifa Al Shamsi fashion brand is one of UAE’s most popular names in fashion across the UAE. Best known for her ready to wear abayas and kaftans, the Dubai-based blogger’s brand depicts her immense love for her city and everything beautiful. Even though it has been five years since the inception of her brand, Latifa has kept herself anonymous. “I’ve let my brand speak for itself and till date I’ve never published images along with my brand or products. The world still hasn’t seen what Latifa Al Shamsi looks like,” she said. “After completing my Masters degree in PR in Travel and Tourism, I began blogging. This was about five years ago, and two years ago, I started a clothing line with my sisters called ‘Queen L’. It was born out of our passion for creating and designing,” said Latifa. After having garnered much success on social media platforms, and 103,000 followers on Instagram, Latifa said: “Social media is only a catalyst, a tool to achieving success, not success. When you present yourself with passion for what you do and there is perfection in what you deliver, you can call yourself successful.”
Ayesha Siddequa, the owner of Future Fashion Middle East also runs a parallel namesake brand Ayesha Siddequa. Originally from India, Ayesha lived most of her life in the Middle East. After 12 years of her corporate life, she decided to pursue her passion of running her own business. Ayesha started her label Ayesha Siddequa in 2014; a collection of abaya’s and women’s ready-to-wear for her customers who are chic and glamorous with an edge. Ayesha is also the Creative Director of Future Fashion, an online marketplace that brings together sustainable fashion brands from around the world. She said: “Future Fashion is a market place for fashion driven sustainable products. Its mission is to maximise benefits to people and communities while minimising impact on the environment.”
“By creating a new space for young talent to spread their products and ideas, Instagram is allowing more and more women to enter the world of entrepreneurship, where they are quickly becoming household names and industry powerhouses in their own right,” said Sharene Lee, the co-founder of Melltoo.
“Even though there is a growing community of talented artistes and designers in the UAE who are flocking to Instagram to promote their beautiful creations, there are very few events and resources available to support them in their journey to Insta-success,” she added. “I believe in female entrepreneurship. I believe that entrepreneurship empowers women. Technology provides women with tools to dictate terms and achieve what they want,” she said.
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