Keeping it in the family: Innovation opportunities spark entrepreneur dream for Dubai couple

How Cristian Lanzanova and Austeja Brasiunaite found each other and founded their thriving marketing, communications and events company post Expo 2020

By Sandhya D’Mello

  • Follow us on
  • google-news
  • whatsapp
  • telegram


KT Photo: Shihab
KT Photo: Shihab

Published: Thu 2 May 2024, 5:55 PM

Last updated: Thu 2 May 2024, 6:58 PM

Dubai residents Cristian Lanzanova and Austeja Brasiunaite are in love with Dubai not just because of its attractions, but because it was here that the couple met, fell in love, and tied the knot. It was here that they began a new innings in their personal and professional lives — from being single to becoming a couple and partners in business.

“Dubai's spirit of innovation and its abundance of opportunities sparked a dream: To become entrepreneurs, and we opened ABRA Consulting, a marketing, communications and events company. We believe deeply in crafting personalised services that align with each client's goals and values,” said Austeja.

Austeja, 34, who is originally from Lithuania landed in Dubai only five years ago as project manager of her country’s pavilion at Expo 2020, while Cristian, 42, who hails from Italy, has more experience in the region. He has travelled extensively in the Middle East during his short tenure in Cairo previously. Prior to opening their company together, Cristian was working in a communication agency assisting several pavilions. After Expo 2020 concluded, both felt a strong urge to stay back in Dubai.

Unlike traditional family businesses or offices where business skills and wisdom are passed on from one generation to the next, this couple found the much-needed support from mentors within their social network in the UAE.

“While mentors can be incredibly influential and important, it seems like our entrepreneurial journey was fuelled by a strong support system of friends, peers, and past clients. I’d say that's pretty fantastic. It demonstrates the power of a network and the importance of building strong and lasting relationships,” said Cristian who is now a Senior Communication Consultant.

“We took a leap of faith by opening ABRA Consulting, believing we had a fundamental and encouraging factor that would help us — support from those who believed in us and our expertise. I feel that's a wonderful testament to the value we provided and the connections we had fostered over the years,” he added.

Austeja attributes her success to her mother and says, “Even though I embarked on entrepreneurship only recently, the push to take this big step was strong from my family. My mom, a totally independent woman, ran her own PR agency for years. She worked with some of Lithuania's biggest names — politicians and companies alike. Watching her balance family life and a successful career set an example for me. She proved you truly can have it all if you put your mind to it. Her constant encouragement to aim for more and be the best version of myself pushed me towards this entrepreneurial path.”

Cristian, on the other hand, comes from a family with a deep understanding of family businesses. His parents have had their own venture for years, and he's seen firsthand the importance of finding that balance between ambition and family life.

“Together, we bring a unique perspective to the table, one that values both growth and a strong foundation. It's a powerful combination that shapes how we approach our business and our future,” said Austeja.

“Dubai is a melting pot of cultures, which is great for our business”, says Cristian, as the couple gets to work with clients and partners from all over the world, constantly stretching their creative muscles and keeping them on top of international trends.

“Dubai is a major player on the world stage. Having our company based here gives us credibility and opens doors to international projects. It's exciting to be part of something so big, which gives incredible energy for fresh ideas and pushing boundaries,” said Cristian.

In her 13 years of experience in event and project management, Austeja has worked with governments, international organisations, companies and individuals, implementing top-notch events and cross-initiatives.

“I have had the pleasure to be part of different scale events — from B2B, B2G meetings, corporate or cultural events/exhibitions and large-scale global events like Expo 2020 Dubai, FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022, FIFA Women's World Cup 2023 and COP28,” said Austeja.

Cristian has a demonstrated history of working in large expositions and project management industry across the globe. With expertise in managing communications, event management and public relation programmes, he has worked alongside governments and businesses from across continents helping them realise their set objectives including improving visibility, increasing engagement and helping close large-sized investment deals.

Bonded in Dubai

Dubai, with its energy and excitement, provided the perfect backdrop for the couple’s love story to unfold.

“Dubai truly holds a special place in our hearts. It's where our paths first crossed back in the period of preparing for Expo 2020 DUBAI. What began as a professional meeting quickly blossomed into something much more — a beautiful love story,” said Austeja.

“We knew Expo 2020 Dubai would be an intense period, pushing both our personal and professional lives. Cristian, with his trademark optimism, would often say, ‘If we can make it through Expo, we can make it through anything.’ And how right he was! Those busy months were an amazing test of our connection. We learned more about each other with every passing day, and emerged even stronger as a team,” she added.

“We're so grateful to this city and the incredible bond it helped us forge. We can call UAE our home too. So from the very beginning of our relationship, we learned to balance work and private life, then the idea of opening a business together after Expo 2020 seemed very natural and timely. Where else could we have opened our company if not in Dubai — the city in which we met and fell in love?”

Truly, to the couple, their meeting in a city celebrated as a cultural mosaic was nothing less than a miracle that kindled a dream run in business and love.

More news from Lifestyle