A tip for UAE entrepreneurs: Don't follow the pack, be original

Over the weekend, I gave my wardrobe a spring clean. As I organised my sunglasses and accessory drawers, I noticed they had one thing in common — they were all very different to what most people wear nowadays.

While some of my sunglasses have unique vintage designs, others are very futuristic. The bottom line is that they are not something you would see elsewhere. They do not follow a certain trend and will not go out of style any time soon, which is good news for my bank account.

As much as I love supporting SME fashion businesses, what bothers me is the commonality between many of the designs you find nowadays, from the colours chosen to the cuts to how the owners brand themselves.

A close friend likes to drag me around to every fashion exhibition in town; it’s during those expeditions that I notice how many kaftans or dresses are almost identical. If someone covered the labels and you only saw the designs, you would not really be able to tell them apart. This is not to generalise, it’s something I find very common. It’s as if every business owner is targeting the same fish in the same pool. And it’s an issue not only restricted to the fashion industry, stretching over to food and beverage start-ups as well.

The thing is that by choosing to fit in and tailoring your business to what others are doing and what seems to be working for them, we, as entrepreneurs, lose a lot.

We lose focus. We lose originality. We lose the chance to work on something unique that would make a difference. We lose the chance to be a part of something we are truly passionate about, rather than doing something because it seems to be working for someone else. Ultimately, we lose our customers’ attention as they may turn to other competitive businesses offering the same products/services.

What you should remember is that not everyone loves the same things. Not everyone has the same dreams or goals. This is the beautiful thing about entrepreneurship; there is always a niche market and specific people open to your message.

Customers choose brands that reflect them in some way, that represent their preferences or ideologies; a brand where they belong. The even more beautiful thing is that even when you do start something original and new, you’ll be surprised at the people who find bits of themselves in that new venture of yours.

As much as people are more comfortable fitting in than standing out, belonging is something different something we all seek. If we find the brand where our ideas belong, where we believe in the same things as the business owner, where we believe that they will always deliver what we look for because we share the same beliefs, then we could be hooked for life. This is why you find yourself preferring certain brands for many years and do not even consider replacing them with others.

So here is what you should do next time you think about that business you want to start. Do not take too much notice of trends. Do not start something just because everyone else is doing it. Instead of another burger place or another abaya line, think about something new – something you enjoy and that others might as well. It is just a matter of time before people move on to the next thing. That is the thing about trends, they are temporary. They are for those who want to maximise on profits within a short period of time.

What business would suit you? One which you are truly passionate about? Disregard trends. Stay original. Be there for the long run.

Manar Al Hinai is an award-winning Emirati writer and communications consultant based in Abu Dhabi. Twitter: @manar_alhinai.


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