Dubai: Like many other small business owners, Sunita Anchan, an Indian expat based in the United Arab Emirates, had worked in a company full-time in India for more than a decade before venturing into the highly competitive world of spirit. business in Dubai.
However, the lessons that prompted her to explore business ownership not only taught her how to handle the day-to-day money-related challenges of running a new business, they also keep her motivated to continue investing, both financially and financially. personally.
“Working career spanning over 15 years with many ups and downs taught me the fundamentals of managing finances for the future,” revealed Anchan, who worked in public relations (PR) and event management in India before moving to the United Arab Emirates.
Long before taking the entrepreneurial route, Anchan recalled starting out as a public relations executive fresh out of college, after which she worked her way up the corporate ladder and into a management position managing five to six client brands.
Learn to earn, save and invest while young
“Belonging to a middle-class family, saving a small part of the salary was a priority as well as mandatory for an instance of childhood. When I was around 16 years old, a medical emergency with my father was an eye opener, where his savings came in handy,” he revealed.
“I lost my father a year later, when I was 17, and he was the only member of the family who made money. Post this to manage the family, my mom and I started doing small odd jobs like sewing, providing tiffin services and tuition to little kids. We used to budget for all of our food, expenses, profits, and what to reinvest in our small home business.
“These made me understand the importance of earning, saving and investing,” added Anchan, who in 2014 co-launched ‘Arpan Flowers’, an online retailer offering artisan flower arrangements and fresh flower subscriptions in Dubai.
What was the initial investment for an online florist?
Anchan revealed that the initial investment was not much, as she and her husband started the business as a purely online portal with limited services and products.
“We started with an initial investment of close to $50,000 (Dh183,649), which was mainly used to set up the e-commerce portal and the initial IT and back office infrastructure,” he explained.
How was the initial investment of the business financed?
The initial investment for the business was from Anchan’s personal savings. “I invested everything in this and after 2 years, when we had a good understanding and client base, we raised a small fund of $200,000 (Dh734,597) to expand.
“To scale, I needed additional support, so I brought my old friend on board as a business partner. Currently we have also reinvested some more of our personal savings to upgrade our technology setup. We are now ready for substantial expansions within the UAE and GCC regions and will again seek strategic investment.”
Challenges you face when starting a decoration business?
When Anchan started the business with her husband in 2014, the market had a few flower shops.
“It was not an organized market. I wanted to fill this gap and provide the convenience, in a more organized way, of buying fresh Indian flowers and custom event decorations. We knew that the future will be driven by technology and therefore we developed our website, which offers Indian and cut flowers along with the option of home delivery.”
The website also offers subscription for home flower delivery, a concept that was not available at the time, he added. “The challenge was finding the right vendors and suppliers, as I was a woman it was hard to get them to trust me in a male dominated business sector.
“After a few years in the business, I also realized that the market didn’t have many options for cheap decorating services, and I also wanted to fill this gap… that’s how decorating services were born. Again, the challenge was finding the right resources to be able to deliver with quality.”
Overcoming challenges of an enterprising woman
Anchan also revealed how it was particularly challenging to be a female entrepreneur when she started, given that there weren’t many launching into entrepreneurship at the time.
“Being a woman in a male-dominated business, I always had to push barriers and make inroads with clients and event companies. One of the biggest challenges women entrepreneurs face is balancing work and family life, and mine was no different as both of my children were young when we started.”
How much does it cost you to run the business monthly?
On average, the current operating cost per month is just under $10,000 (Dh36,729), Anchan noted, but added that during the seasonal peak costs are proportionately higher.
“We understand the need for funds to manage adequate cash flow to operate an online or physical business and therefore we have always maintained cash reserves for at least two to three months of operating costs and managed to rotate them.
‘We maintain our focus on accounts receivable [amounts owed to a business, regarded as assets], work to keep our inventory as low as possible, especially when it comes to perishable goods. Since it is an online business, we know our demand in advance and this helps to plan our products and stock respectively. With five or six years of maturity in this business, we have a good understanding of supply and demand, and this helps us to plan better”.
5 Quick Business Tips to Help Other Entrepreneurs Start a Business of Their Own?
1. Focus on ideas that add value and solve a social need, being a scalable model (capable of being easily expanded or updated according to demand)
2. Raise enough capital to start and maintain the business for at least 2 years.
3. Seek to commit full-time, while studying and researching the market in detail
4. Good marketing is the key to increasing sales revenue and growth.
5. Invest in hiring talent and/or value-added resources and workers
Do you invest the money you earn in your personal life?
“Personally, I am focused and invested in the flower business and therefore I am not looking to invest in other aspects, but yes, my husband invests in other technology-driven businesses and also some assets,” Anchan added.
“When we have the right funds, I would consider investing in businesses that are in the DNA of my current business. We have plans to make our own product brands and would like to offer organic or eco-friendly decoration options. We are currently looking at several options in the decoration service, which can be economical”.