I wish I’d known - The Entrepreneurs 7 - Magazine | Monocle

thumbnail text

name: Scott Chambers
company: Surfing Dubai

What it does:
The Sharjah-born entrepreneur’s watersports company offers rentals, repairs and lessons, from surfing to paddle-boarding, as well as the Single Fin Café. 

What he wishes he’d known: 
“I was young when we first launched. Starting a surfing company in the desert was uncharted territory. The idea of betting the kitchen sink on it and trying things that might not work was intimidating in the early years. I didn’t realise that there would be failures along the way and, out of the 50 things that I would try, only one or two might really stick. Be bold enough to follow through.”

name: Jane Harvey
company: Savii

What it does:
Scottish-born Harvey has co-founded a financial platform – a banking app and card – for young people over 13 years of age across the Mena region.

What she wishes she’d known: 
“Focus on the customers. Satisfaction from consumers should always be at the core of a business. Continue to gather feedback, both good and bad, adapt and pivot the product to people’s needs and go above and beyond when it comes to service. Fall in love with your customers, not the product. If they’re happy, they will become your biggest advocates.”

name: Hussain Moloobhoy
company: Sole

What it does:
Sole is a live entertainment and media platform that connects commerce and culture. It started as a blog by three friends but is now the region’s foremost experiential, brand-building company.

What he wishes he’d known:
“Don’t sacrifice parts of your life for success. Too often, entrepreneurs focus on their careers and wealth but striking a balance is key.”

name: Alamira Noor Bani Hashim
company: The Dinner Club by No57

What it does: 
With her business partner, Buthaina Al Mazrui, Abu Dhabi-born entrepreneur Hashim founded a brand hosting supper clubs in 2012; they also run a café.

What she wishes she’d known:
“I was daring. We never took no for an answer and truly believed that anything was possible. However, having the right team is one of the most important aspects of any business.”

name: Mark Chahwan
company: Sarwa

What it does:
The Lebanese-Canadian analyst co-founded a financial platform that allows you to trade, save and invest all in one place.

What he wishes he’d known:
“It’s important to keep things simple as you grow, as fintech is still a complex area to navigate. There are many things that are still being developed and this can create a lot of admin. Ideally you would have one company to serve the same market.”

name: Div Turakhia
company: Media.net 

What it does:
Mumbai-raised entrepreneur Turakhia is a UAE-based investor behind several companies including Media.net, from which he stepped down as CEO in 2019. Under his watch, he built Media.net to be one of the world’s largest online advertising businesses. It was sold in 2016 for $900m (€858m). 

What he wishes he’d known:
“A great idea works well in a film but in real life it’s never the main thing: it’s basically about how to operate more efficiently and make something better, rather than the thing itself. It’s the many little things that you do every day, not the one turning point. Keep moving the ship forward and you learn more from it; this allows you to create more value. That’s what makes the difference. 

People who are around you might have your best interests at heart but you must also consider that the things that they’re saying come from their own personal experience and might or might not apply to you. Every business that I’ve run fails every day until it doesn’t. When you start out, there are many things that work and many that don’t. It’s never about something super strategic; it’s a lot of things that you need to put in place. Eventually, with time, the compounding effect creates significant value. 

Every country has an advantage. As an entrepreneur you have to identify the advantages that you need to run your business. In the UAE, we can get high-quality talent from around the world who understand how to build something in this geography. The UAE is like a start-up and it knows that it’s young compared to other countries. That means being nimble to change and open to feedback. It’s looking for things to replicate from around the world; you have to iterate and see where it goes.”

name: Jay Sadiq
company: FortyGuard

What it does:
Founded by Sadiq in 2020 in Abu Dhabi, FortyGuard is a technology start-up that uses AI to provide detailed outdoor-temperature insights to help reduce street-level heat. 

What he wishes he’d known:
“I wish that I had been forewarned about the emotional roller-coaster ride of entrepreneurship. The highs are exciting but the lows can be equally profound. It’s essential to build a robust support system and always remember the ‘why’ behind your venture. That becomes really important during challenging times.”

name: Hind Al Mulla
company: Home Bakery

What it does:
The Emirati owner and director is behind Dubai’s Home Bakery, a venue with a focus on local ingredients. Al Mulla recently added to the stable with café Home Bakery Kitchen, opening in Abu Dhabi’s Marina Mall.

What she wishes she’d known:
“Keep going because it gets easier. At one point I couldn’t see the light at the end of the tunnel because I was taking on more than I could handle. But we made it in the end.”

name: Ammar Kalor
company: Kalo

What it does: 
Kalo is a designer and architect. His eponymous firm focuses on the relationship between digital technology and traditional craft. He is also a faculty member of the American University of Sharjah.

What he wishes he’d known:
“Start small. Why? Because having a narrow focus forces entrepreneurs to really dig into what makes their business special and introduce its most fundamental essence in its first offerings, whether it’s a service or product.”


name : Izu Ani
company: YSeventy7

What it does:
Nigeria-born, Dubai-based Ani, known as “Chef Izu”, is a household name, having been head chef at restaurants such as La Petite Maison and La Serre Bistro & Boulangerie. He has set up several restaurants, including Fika, and is the founder of YSeventy7, a consultancy specialising in F&B.

What he wishes he’d known:
“We can’t pour from an empty cup. It’s so important to make time for yourself, hit the reset button and clear your mind. I cycle every morning; my time on the bike is my meditation and it sets me up for the day.”

Name: Murshed Mohamed Ahmed
company: Drivu

What it does:
Ahmed is the co-founder of a company whose technology helps restaurants and coffee shops to have a drive-through facility. It currently works with about 1,000 other businesses around the UAE

What he wishes he’d known:
“Observing market changes is vital. For example, between about 2010 and 2014 there was a big movement towards smartphones and this led to a lot of behavioural changes. Observing these market changes and then taking the necessary steps will make or break you.”

name: Anna Seaman 
company: Morrow Collective

What it does: Seaman, originally from the UK, is the co-founder of Morrow Collective, an art consultancy founded in 2021 specialising in NFTs.

What she wishes she’d known:
“Make sure that you are set up to handle growth. It sounds odd but if you grow too quickly, it’s as hard as if you don’t grow at all. This is a country where circumstances can change rapidly – like everything else.”

name: Yasmin Atassi
company: Green Art Gallery

What it does: Atassi is the director of Green Art Gallery, one of the first galleries in the UAE, which launched in Dubai in 1995. Atassi has been at the helm since the venue relaunched as a contemporary art gallery on Alserkal Avenue in 2010. 

What she wishes she’d known: “You need to have some kind of vision and play the long game. You can create the content that you want and people will eventually follow, whether that’s through sales or artists joining the gallery.”

name: Rachael Brown
company: Capsule Arts

What it does:
Brown is the co-founder and creative director of Dubai-based arts consultancy Capsule Arts. Established in 2012, the consultancy specialises in designing and producing art and accessory packages for commercial design projects. With a team of more than 30, Capsule Arts also works in Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Kuwait and as far afield as the Seychelles and Uganda. 

What she wishes she’d known:
“Try to do yourself out of a job. What I mean is: you need to become a business owner rather than simply someone who has a job in your own business. About four or five years into establishing Capsule Arts, we started to have that change of mindset; if the business requires you to be there on a day-to-day basis, you have a job and not a business. It’s important from day one to have that in your strategy. How do I replace myself so I can focus on the business? 

If you are going to have an investor, make sure that you’re aligned on things beyond finances. What does that investor do for you beyond just putting up some capital? How will they propel you or help you grow? We had a business partner and bought them out early on and wished that there had been more synergy. 

HR is one of the big challenges. What we do is so niche and there are no issues hiring fresh-to-the-table graduates, but bringing someone in who has leadership experience is harder. You need to be constantly hiring and looking for the right people. You might suddenly land two projects and have to double the size of your team.”

name: Adam Ridgeway
company: One Moto

What it does:
Pioneers two-wheeled electric vehicles in the GCC region. Ridgeway, the CEO, has helped to raise $190m (€181m) in asset financing and launched numerous model types along the way. After initially being founded in the UK, it officially launched in the UAE in 2020. 

What he wishes he’d known:
“It was a long road from setting up my first company at 16 and establishing my company in the UAE aged 28. If you find something that you love, give it as much as you can for as long as possible and that will lead to success. Being an entrepreneur is a spirit – you need tenacity, self-confidence and a bit of ego in the early years.”

name: Stasha Toncev
company: 21grams

What it does:
Toncev, who has a background in marketing, hospitality and events, started contemporary Balkan restaurant 21grams, which opened in Dubai in 2018. 

What she wishes she’d known:
“Stay true to your values and purpose. Remember that you don’t have to do everything by yourself. It’s perfectly alright to lean on others when you need it. As founder, it’s only natural to want to oversee every aspect of your business. But building close ties with your team and community, whether it’s through delegation or simply reaching out for assistance, not only lightens your workload but also nurtures a more collaborative and thriving environment.”

name: Grace Hauser
company: Oda Concepts

What it does: 
Hauser is the founder of Oda Concepts, a boutique creative consultancy with a global reach. She has also been director of Dubai’s XVA Gallery and Hotel since 2020. 

What she wishes she’d known: 
“Slow and progressive growth is really important. Don’t get overly zealous with plans and ambitions. You always need to keep your eyes on where you want to go and work towards what that initial goal was – even though things can of course change.”

name: Ladi Delano
company: Moove Africa

What it does:
Co-founder and CEO Delano oversees a company that provides vehicle financing to ride-hailing drivers in sub-Saharan Africa. He lives in the UAE

What he wishes he’d known:
“Start-up founders have the ability to visualise something that doesn’t exist today. If you go into a room and say, ‘This is my vision,’ 90 per cent of people will tell you that they don’t see it and won’t end up supporting you. So being able to continue to push on and believe in your ideas is a powerful force.”

name: Mohamad Orfali
company: Orfali Bros

What it does:
Orfali, originally from Aleppo, is the chef behind Orfali Bros restaurant, an establishment that has won numerous accolades and regularly appears in “best of” lists. He founded the restaurant with his two brothers, Wassim and Omar. 

What he wishes he’d known:
“Dubai is not an easy city; competition in the F&B space is very high and there are at least 20,000 restaurants here. So start with the right concept that fits the market and blends well.”

name: Ahmad AlMuhassin
company: Villa Aumédan

What it does:
Villa Aumédan is a concept shop featuring art, emerging regional design, flowers and coffee. Ahmad AlMuhassin is its founder and creative director and his sister Noura is managing director.

What he wishes he’d known:
“I wish I had been more aware of the abundant opportunities available to local entrepreneurs in the UAE. From financial support and tailored strategy plans to expertly crafted business plans and marketing assistance, the ecosystem here is brimming with resources.”

Share on:

X (formerly Twitter)




Go back: Contents

Partnership: Leading with AI


sign in to monocle

new to monocle?

Subscriptions start from £120.

Subscribe now





Monocle Radio


  • The Stack