Dubai: Entrepreneur Wejdan Bin Jasem Al Mutairi has turned a childhood passion for drawing into a designer handbag label she sells through her two boutiques in Abu Dhabi.
After her sales steadily recorded an increase from nearly Dh24,000 in late last year, to nearly Dh76,000 in the third quarter of 2017, she’s aiming to take the next step and sell her Opium Luxury Bags through a major department store.
“If you reached a big department store, you reached the top end of your target market,” she said.
Ninety per cent of the customers in her boutiques — Chique La Boutique in Al Bateen area, and Gen Boutique in Foutouh Al Khair mall — are Emirati, primarily from Dubai and Al Ain. Eight per cent of her clientele are from Saudi Arabia.
Her target sector is women between 18 and 35 years old, the group she believes have the most interest in fashion. “The younger age are difficult to satisfy, and many in the older group are less enthusiastic,” she said.
At 29, she is in the middle of her targeted age range. She’s been making the bags for a year, using a Thai factory to fabricate her designs of bags made from python, ostrich and crocodile leather. It also makes wallets and cardholders for her.
As well as her mall-based boutiques, she uses a mobile boutique launched late last year to increase exposure. The mobile unit also displays and sells products such as abayas, dresses and wallets. It’s a concept also used by another Emirati entrepreneur and fashion designer, Azza Al Marar.
Al Mutairi began selling her own handbags a year ago, and has faced several challenges, including making sales in the face of established brands. Her strategy is to match quality, beat the international brands on price (her most expensive bag retails for Dh5,000), and have excellent customer service.
Still, she says, people “fear spending few thousands of dirhams for products they don’t know. This is unavoidable wherever you go.”
Her second challenge is the old start-up bete noire, turning revenue into profit. Here, she says, the “healthy level is to give you a year to two years before the expenditures are covered by the profits”.
UAE women, according to UAE Ministry of Economy, constitute nearly half of the small and medium enterprise sectors, and the Dubai Business Woman Council concluded that almost half of the female business owners are the sole owners of their firms
Al Mutairi, who holds an Executive Masters degree in Business Administration from Zayed University and has a full-time job with an Abu Dhabi government body, planned her move into business cautiously.
“I was not satisfied with being a person going to work and comeback home every day. I always wanted to be something bigger.” she said.
“It took me two years thinking and looking into options of what my business would look like. I didn’t want to go into a traditional kind of business, such as making abayas and jalabiyahs.
“Also, I wanted to have something that is relatively new to the market. Something unique, something if people hear about will stick in their heads and they won’t confuse or mix it with anything else.”
Her break came when she was offered a role as a distributor for a Thai luxury leather factory; instead she negotiated a partnership where they would make her handbag designs.
“This is something I like. I like to draw and now I draw for a different purpose. I have designed five bags. Two designs are already in the markets. A third will be launched in December, and two more next February,” she said.
“I was scared at the beginning because there is this risk and that risk, but I said I need to try.”