'Years of hard work ruined': UAE business owners grapple with losses, try to rebuild after floods

Some are leaning on the goodness of the larger community who have rallied to support and get smaller brands back on their feet


Nasreen Abdulla

Published: Mon 29 Apr 2024, 6:00 AM

Last updated: Mon 29 Apr 2024, 8:52 PM

When entrepreneur Faizah Khadijah was able to access the warehouse of her desserts business, The Sweetie Shop, after the storm in the UAE on April 16, she was reduced to tears.

“I had just received a consignment from the UK on the Sunday before the storm which included sprinkles, chocolate and wrapping paper,” she said. “The roof caved in, and everything was destroyed. I took a pen and notepad to write down everything I had to reorder, and I just burst into tears. Five years of my hard work had been ruined.”


The British expat is one among hundreds of small and medium enterprise (SME) owners who are counting the losses due to the unprecedented rain and flooding.

Faizah said that her dessert shop is continuing to operate out of its location in Ripe Market on a low capacity. “We have already lost so much money that we cannot afford to lose any more,” she said. “So we are running with what we have. We have to continue to reinvest and reorder into the business so we are trying our best.”

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'Have to redo everything'

Another Ripe Market vendor, Harri and Eve, found their newly inaugurated location flooded during the incident. “We converted a 40-foot container into our flagship store that we opened on March 16 after a 5-week fitout,” said co-owner Lauren Butcher.

“It was completely flooded and destroyed. We could only salvage a few things which were on the higher shelves. We have been in touch with our contractor and they said they have to rip out everything including walls, ceilings and floorings because everything is cracked. It could take almost six weeks to complete the process.”

Lauren (middle) with her co-owners Lyndsey Carphin and Katy Rice at the store’s opening in March

The company which also runs an e-commerce business said their deliveries were also affected. “Much like the other e-commerce stores, our deliveries suffered in the aftermath of the flood,” she said. “But we are thankful that our warehouse did not have any damages.”

Another local business owner, Adriana Pagliero is a baker and has been unable to function as usual. “Although my business was not too badly affected, my house is destroyed beyond repair,” she said. “I had over 1,000 books from my great grandfather with handwritten notes and many personal items that were all in my basement. Everything including our documents like marriage and birth certificates have been destroyed.”

Adriana said she feels like her heart has been ripped out. “Although I am trying to keep running my bakery, I feel like my mind is elsewhere,” she said. “All I can think of is how many years of family keepsakes have been destroyed. These were things entrusted to me by my mother and I just feel hollow inside."

Round the clock efforts

Despite the losses, Faizah said that she has been impressed by the way the local community has been rallying around local businesses. “I posted on Instagram about the losses we suffered and there are so many residents who have come out to support me and order from me,” she said. “Within just two weeks, from feeling helpless I am feeling more positive. If it had been anywhere else in the world, this would have destroyed my business forever.”

Lauren said she was impressed by the round-the-clock efforts by the organisers of Ripe Market. “As soon as it was safe to access the location, they have been there 24/7 cleaning out and helping the vendors,” she said. “It was impressive to see how committed they were to helping us out. I know that we will be able to bounce back from this.”

On Saturday, the Mohammed Bin Rashid Establishment for Small and Medium Enterprises Development (Dubai SME) announced interest-free loans for Emiratis whose businesses were affected by the floods. The incentive allows eligible companies to get interest-free loans of a maximum of Dh300,000 with a grace period of 6 to 12 months.

Earlier, the UAE Central Bank also said that local banks may defer personal loan instalments for residents who were affected by the recent heavy rains.


Nasreen Abdulla

Published: Mon 29 Apr 2024, 6:00 AM

Last updated: Mon 29 Apr 2024, 8:52 PM

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