Key discussions included the unique opportunities and challenges of the UAE's F&B scene and the importance of finding your niche to attract customers
Sharjah, 17 December 2022
The Community Stage was a bustling and vibrant space on the opening day of the Sharjah Entrepreneurship Festival 2022 (SEF). In a welcoming, green and luscious environment, attendees gathered to learn from experts and thought leaders in the food and beverage (F&B) industry, who gave entrepreneurs all the ingredients for running a successful enterprise, during a discussion titled ‘A Melting Pot: The Business of F&B in UAE’.
Najla Al Ansari, Founder of Not A Space and moderator of the discussion, began proceedings with a burst of energy her vibrant staff delivered a choreographed dance performance as her business is “not your ordinary experience” and boasts to be a place of coffee chats, performance and festivities.
The enthusiastic and experienced panellists introduced themselves and discussed the passion they had for their businesses, the diverse culture and demographics in the UAE, as well as what makes it such a prosperous location for the rapidly expanding industry of F&B.
Although there are many factors that determine a thriving healthy business, the panellists provided valuable insight into some of the key points that led to their success.
The founder of Menagerie Eatery, Hind Bin Dhaher, explained that specialising your business in something you believe in is extremely important, and this is why she made sure her company focused on nutrition, health and wellness as well as providing an unforgettable experience in their botanical-themed spaces.
Nawal Al Nuaimi, founder of the popular PaperFig Restaurants & Desserts discussed the importance of support structures, saying, “My husband has always been my biggest supporter and every business needs passionate supporters. As PaperFig was originally home-based and started small, this was especially important for me to have someone I trusted who could keep me motivated and centred through the challenges I faced.”
Ibrahim Al Malouhi, founder of The Espresso Lab said the inspiration for starting his business was simple and came from the image on the 1 Dirham coin which features an Arabian coffee pot called a “dallah”. He now boasts having the biggest coffee app in the region with over 3-million downloads and couldn’t have imagined the success he has had when he started but through being attentive to every aspect of his business he was able to make it what it is today.
Ali Al Ibrahim, the man behind the Cofe App, started his business in 2018 in Kuwait and since then it has grown exponentially offering a wide range of international and artisanal coffee brands via multiple features all on one platform. “We have many incentives and features on our app and we have found that these incentives can help to migrate users from other platforms, but you have to ensure you have a high quality service to keep them there.”
Ending off the discussion, Salim Busamnoh, founder of Gnad Cafe, had a valuable message to leave people with, saying, “If you have dreams, dream big and follow through on them, just because there are hugely successful coffee shops and businesses out there, it doesn’t mean that you can’t do even better. There is always space for innovation and improvement in any market and you may have an idea that tops even the biggest companies out there right now.”
The first day at the Community Stage was packed with valuable insight for the entrepreneurs attending and included an inspired talk about community building featuring Najla Al Ansari, Maissa Al Khafajy from therapie.ae and Iman Ben Chaibah, as well as ‘Creating Trends From The Uae’ a discussion from Hamda Taryam, YouTuber and Professional Drag Racer alongside architect Rreema Al Mheiri. The adventurous at heart were inspired by ‘An Adventure Fuelled By Purpose’ with Mountaineer Nelly Attar and Latifa Bin Haider, CEO of Baytuki, led a talk titled ‘How To Make Your First Investment’.