Entrepreneurial dreams that took flight during the pandemic
Entrepreneurship is not everyone’s cup of tea. But the social and financial havoc wreaked by covid-19 only compelled these individuals to think bigger and take the plunge
The outbreak of Covid-19 made way for global challenges and many were compelled to give in. However, some sprang up with the hope of a better future and looked beyond the circumstances, unlocking the entrepreneurial spirit in them.
When dreams vow to manifest, one should be ready for life to be disrupted and nobody who’s ever tasted some success can ever boast that they have not faced their share of failures, leading up to their moments of glory. However, a unique thing about the pandemic and the lockdown last year remains the fact that the extra time at hand gave several people an opportunity to reconnect with themselves and pursue their aspirations. And it also helps that Dubai, being a land of opportunities, brings out the best in you.
Reim El Houni
Reim El Houni, CEO, Media Consultant and Speaker, British Libyan, founded Dubai On Demand in 2014, a platform where the world of branded content and influencer marketing collide. This evolved into a video-based personal branding membership community for business owners and thought leaders.
Reim’s passion for video has led to the birth of three more video concepts. “Once we were in lockdown, it became evident that our customers and members were not interested in filming content. For the larger clients, video dropped to the bottom of their priority list and for the smaller customers, they simply weren’t comfortable meeting face to face. I heard a quote by Gary Vaynerchuk where he said, ‘Be the one to put yourself out of business’, meaning see what your customers are looking for and provide it before your competitors do, even if it means putting yourself out of business,” added Reim, essaying the importance of agility in business-mindedness. “I realised that video consumption was on the rise and many individuals wanted to move from being content consumers to being content creators.”
The CEO says she launched the DIY Video Academy overnight. “I promoted my first few webinars and within a week, had 18 students for my first course. It was a success and generated 18 testimonials, giving me feedback on how to streamline the process.”
Ham Hrib, founder, HAMnAM, launched his venture and turned creative consultant, catering to innovative needs. The firm specialises in the F&B industry but also has extensive experience in different segments. The firm handles branding, social media, publishing and copywriting.
“What makes us even more unique is that Amaresh (the AM in HAMnAM) is one of the top food photographers in the region. I’m not just a run-off-the-mill creative guy, but also specialise in Arabisation and localisation,” added Hrib.
When asked what compelled him to start his venture during the pandemic, he mentioned, “It’s been a frustrating couple of years working for large agencies where you are the one who’s overworked while they reap the benefits and under-pay you. We always talked about how we should stand up to ‘the man’ and start a creative agency where we could give clients what they deserved at prices that were fair. Covid-19 and losing my job gave me the push I needed to just go for it.”
Thirty-year-old Saad Belda is a business adviser, writer, and entrepreneur with international experience with global brands. In 2020, he followed his intuition and founded Stagexx, a digital presentation agency which is a lockdown-born venture specialising in supporting corporations, SMEs, and startups in the GCC with all presentations needs ranging from pitch decks, sales & marketing presentations, to big stage presentations. The venture specializes in presentation consulting, content & design development, sales enablement tools, interactive presentation, training, and digital content.
Despite coming from a pure corporate background, Belda said he always wanted to start his own journey given the entrepreneurial culture he was raised in. “In early 2020, I decided to take a break, travel to the Far East and then Covid-19 hit, which was a sudden event that disrupted all my plans. But that was the triggering point in all the decisions that followed. Was it good or bad timing?” said Belda.
In addition, spending the last five years in Dubai opened his eyes to many projects that took shape in the city and became successful business ventures. So, the question he kept asking is, why not give it a try? “With a declining job marketplace for middle management to senior roles, I felt the optimum choice left was to screen the opportunities within the context of a crisis. And Stagexx was born.”
Urvashi Deshpande, founder, bar-enthusiast.com, was a marketing professional with senior roles for over a decade working in marketing and sales roles across retail, properties and hospitality. While working across various industries and jobs, she realised that what makes any business click is ownership, involvement from the founders and a keen sense of interest in line of business.
Bar-enthusiast is an innovative e-commerce retail that caters to home bar and decor. “With Covid, we are nestled up in our cosy habitats and after a few weeks, we all realised that we needed to make it more cozy, social and party-friendly,” said Deshpande. “At a time when we are spending more time indoors than ever before, it is imperative that we make our home fit for entertaining guests in style. That combined with my dream of venturing into a passion project of home and bar accessories. Bar-enthusiast has over 200 carefully curated items that cater to a niche that is under-served, sourced from over 10 different countries.”
Iman Khatibzadeh founded Filmpot, a joint venture with an Indian company for the production of films and serials, which is set to make Dubai its headquarters. The firm announced its new streaming service for Iran, Belgium, and Dubai in July 2021. Khatibzadeh started working on his project in 2020 as more and more people were hooked on to their devices and were adapting to the new normal. “We plan to launch Filmpot streaming app in the UAE in July. Our app will be engineered to be as inclusive as possible, to make it compatible with all smart TVs and IPTV boxes and will be available for viewing throughout the Middle East and beyond. We will include Arabic movies with subtitles in English, French, and Farsi,” said Khatibzadeh.