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Emirati entrepreneur Shayma Al Fawwaz shares her top 7 tips for launching a café made for global success
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Emirati entrepreneur Shayma Al Fawwaz shares her top 7 tips for launching a café made for global success

Emirati entrepreneur Shayma Al Fawwaz shares her top 7 tips for launching a café made for global success
Money
Abu Dhabi–born national and creator of Gossip Cafe and Desserts, Shayma Nawaf Al Fawwaz. Photo courtesy of Gossip Cafe and Desserts.

Keith J. Fernandez

 

Gossip Café and Desserts is a favourite among Arab celebrities and influencers, especially for its coffee and milk cake. Created by Shayma Nawaf Al Fawwaz, it has quickly expanded across the UAE since its establishment in Sharjah in 2013.

When it opened a branch in London’s Covent Garden under the name Mlkcakes by Gossip, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, was among its first guests, and Prince Andrew, the Duke of York, subsequently invited Gossip The Café to St. James’s Palace.

There are nine brands under the Gossip umbrella today, including food-and-beverage spin-offs at BoxPark in Dubai and Yas Mall in Abu Dhabi.

As she spoke to MySalaam about her path to success, the Abu Dhabi–born national shared important points for entrepreneurs to consider before going into business.

1. FIND YOUR U.S.P.

A unique selling proposition is often cited as the main reason a brand acquires market share. As few household-name brands are native to the GCC, Shayma felt her Emirati DNA would resonate with customers within the UAE as well as appeal to international audiences.

“Gossip The Brand was launched as I saw a gap in the market for an Emirati company with Emirati concepts that could one day be franchised globally,” she told us. “Our objective was to create a brand that was shaped to easily go global while communicating Emirati culture, habits and experiential services through everything we did.”

2. YOU’LL NEED TO BE DETERMINED

There are always obstacles to overcome in the pursuit of your dream. How you do deal with them determines how quickly you can move forward.

“Starting any business will come with challenges,” Shayma said, listing tenacity, persistence and a passion for the business as the top qualities an entrepreneur requires. “Plans will often not materialise; you have to learn how to adapt yourself and change your approach at times, but it’s important to do whatever is in your ability to get the job done. Success often depends on how these challenges are met. Focus and dedication is key.”

3. LEARN AS MUCH AS YOU CAN BEFORE TAKING THE PLUNGE

One reason few startups make it past their third year is a simple lack of knowhow. Shayma knew her PhD in genetics wasn’t enough, so she pursued an EMBA from London Business School and gathered valuable work experience. Her CV includes stints at the DIFC, Sharjah American International School, and Mubadala.

“All of these experiences gave me a variety of skills that I now implement when running my business. I dreamed of having my own place for a long time. But I was not ready to do so until I got enough operational and asset-management experience.”

4. YOU’LL NEED A BUSINESS PLAN

A strong foundation is essential to success in business.

“For me, having a strong, well-thought-out plan to launch my business was the most important aspect,” she said. “You have to take your time to develop a strong business plan. In many cases I feel time is as important in a startup as money. Identify your point of difference in the market by analysing your competitors [and] learning about the market and the history in the market.”

She added, “Also understanding buyer behaviour. With all this knowledge, you form a hypothesis about how your business will perform in the real world.”

5. DON’T SKIP PAST THE NUMBERS

Would-be entrepreneurs are often paralysed by the fear when it comes to working out how much start-up capital they will need. But a vague notion won’t help when meeting investors.

“There are many different variables when talking about startup capital. It depends on the location, the venue, how much you are putting into marketing, staffing, inventory cost, etc. Every case should be looked at individually. Whether your startup costs AED 300,000 or AED 3,000,000, forecasting solid numbers prior to launch is crucial. Accurate research is key.”

6. INNOVATION REALLY DOES MATTER

In an over-saturated, high-volume market, businesses stand apart by thinking out of the box. Shayma’s menus feature exotic items that are not easily available elsewhere, such as tuna biryani.

“Food is like fashion; it’s constantly evolving. Catering to these changes and remaining creative is extremely important,” she said. “We revise our menu at least every six months to ensure that we are up-to-date with current trends. Standing out is key.”

7. DREAM BIG

Now that she’s opened in London, one of the hardest markets to operate in, Shayma has her sights set on further expansion.

“Right now, we are focused on franchising the brand to take it that one step further in establishing it as a global name. At the moment, we are most particularly targeting Saudi and the US; however, we aren’t restricted to any one country. The sky’s the limit.”

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