Dubai: Three friends and one dream – opening a pastry bar in the heart of Dubai. The only hurdle? Raising the funds needed to make that dream a reality.
Speaking to Gulf News about this childhood dream she and her friends have nurtured over many years, Sadaf Abdul Jabbar said that a pastry bar seemed like the perfect business venture for the three, who have been long-time UAE residents.
“We met in school, when we were in Grade 9. Since then, we were very ambitious about various things but what bound us as friends is that we loved good food. We equally enjoy baking, serving and eating delicious food,” Abdul Jabbar, who earlier worked as a chartered accountant and is now focused on building the trio’s entrepreneurial venture, told Gulf News.
While life took the three friends in different directions – one becoming a chef, another an interior designer and the third a chartered accountant – the love for good food lingered. The turning point came when they found out about a new government-backed crowdfunding campaign in Dubai – DubaiNext. This was when the three – who are all in their early twenties – decided to take the leap into building a startup.
“It is our dream to open a restaurant run only by women in Dubai. The sweet-tooth in us lead us to go with a pastry bar,” Abdul Jabbar added.
But the three plan to build a pastry bar with a twist. Ameena Farhah, who is a trained chef, said that the pastry bar will offer a fusion of Italian, French and Indian cuisines, focusing mainly on pastries but also offer other options for brunch.
“All of us love Italian food but we will have French influences as well, because it was the French who brought the revolution in food. And, we will of course have Indian influences, because we are all Indian and we have to give back to our roots as well,” Farhah explained.
The result? Interesting combinations like the Panna Cotta Rasmalai with a Mille Feuille base.
“It’s something that I have never seen anywhere,” Farhah added.
The pastry bar plans to present many such twists to classic Indian, Italian and French desserts.
It is our dream to open a restaurant run only by women in Dubai. The sweet-tooth in us lead us to go with a pastry bar.
How easy or difficult is it raise funds online?
While the DubaiNext platform makes it easy for entrepreneurs to set up their campaign, the true challenge is effective salesmanship – how do you convince the public to contribute to your business idea? For the three childhood friends, the target they set was Dh300,000. According to Aysha Reshma, who is an interior designer by profession, this was finalised after long discussions between the three friends.
“When we set the target, we covered the cost of operations for the first few months. After that, we are hoping to run the café on the profit that we generate. So, we have factored in the cost of the rent, employees’ salary, set up, interior decoration and kitchen appliances. That is just our set up cost,” Reshma said.
However, after the initial buzz created by the launch of the project, the three have found it hard to keep the momentum going. With most of their peers still studying or having just joined the workforce, raising funds through word of mouth has yielded very limited results.
When we set the target, we covered the cost of operations for the first few months. After that, we are hoping to run the café on the profit that we generate. So, we have factored in the cost of the rent, employees’ salary, set up, interior decoration and kitchen appliances. That is just our set up cost.
“This process sounds easy, but it is very difficult to actually convince people to contribute. What’s funny is that some of our family friends still consider us as children or very young people. They have a hard time believing that we can run something on our own, so we are still trying to convince them that we can do this,” Farhah said.
What keeps them going, though, is their passion and shared love for serving good food to everyone around them.
This process sounds easy, but it is very difficult to actually convince people to contribute.
Top tips to successfully crowdfund your business idea
Gulf News spoke with Yousuf Lootah, Senior Manager of the Hamdan Innovation Incubator (HI2) in Dubai SME, which is a specialised programme aimed at entrepreneurs.
He spoke about how the DubaiNext platform, which was launched in May 2021, is the first governmental online crowdfunding platform.
“We are lucky to have Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai and Chairman of The Executive Council of Dubai, launching this project because this is a very exciting and interesting project run by the Mohammed Bin Rashid Fund for SME under Dubai Economy,” he said.
“Currently, we have more than 700 projects on the platform, which means that there is an interest from the community. The platform is different because we run it as the government and we are accepting all nationalities based in the UAE, specifically those who want to run their business in Dubai. What makes it special is that we have opened it for all ages starting from the age of 12. So, we have students, early stage startups and even existing businesses on the platform,” he added.
I think it is very important to try to look at DubaiNext as the first choice for startups when raising funding ... They should understand that Dubai is an incubator for their ideas.
So, if you wish to start your crowdfunding campaign, what are the best practices you should follow? Lootah shared these top tips:
1. Do your homework
Is your business idea truly unique? What is the market for it? How clearly is your business idea defined?
Answering these basic questions can help make a stronger, more convincing business pitch.
“For campaign owners, we just ask for a very simple brief about their projects and I think this is the homework that they need to do. They need to convince contributors in order to start marketing their campaigns. So, we ask for a simple video, where they talk about the project itself. They could mention their products or services, so I think this is about the ability of the project owners to convince their contributors,” Lootah said.
He also advised campaign owners to understand local trends and capitalise on them, while keeping an eye on the local market.
“This is what we have seen – people get attached to their ideas, they think their ideas are the best,” he said.
While it is great to think that your idea is the best, Lootah said, it is important to do a proper market research to understand if other businesses offer similar products or services.
2. Keep a reasonable target
“We try to advise the users to dream big but ask for a reasonable amount of funding so that they don’t go to the extreme. Online crowdfunding platforms usually run campaigns for an average of three months. So, you need to ask for a reasonable amount of funding in order to have a successful fundraising campaign,” Lootah said.
3. Raise funds in phases
A project on DubaiNext can ask for anywhere between Dh1,000 to Dh5million. However, Lootah suggested that entrepreneurs split their fundraising efforts in different phases.
“For example, if you wanted to work on a prototype for a new product or service, we would suggest to have the funding series in different stages through the platform so you could ask, say 20 per cent of the total amount, for the prototype funding. If you don’t clear funding then you can raise other parts of your capital request again. This is what we suggest from our experience here and also from the best practices of other platforms,” he said.
4. Choose your rewards system carefully
While it is optional to set a rewards programme when setting up a campaign, Lootah advised campaigners to use the strategy of rewards wisely.
“If you promise a reward system, you should fulfil it once your campaign succeeds. So, the rewarding system should be something reasonable and something you can deliver if your project does succeed,” he said.
If you do manage to successfully raise the funds for your business idea, you will be required to pay five per cent of the total amount raised, to the platform. Otherwise, the platform charges no fee for setting up and running fundraising campaigns.
As the platform is run by the Dubai Economic Department, it also helps entrepreneurs connect with other government entities and can be a great boost for building a strong business network.
“I think it is very important to try to look at DubaiNext as the first choice for startups when raising funding because this is something new to the market. They should understand that Dubai is an incubator for their ideas and I am not just talking about the local community here. There could be international incubators or it could be startups that wanted to start their business in Dubai. It is the best way to start their business, because it is about the journey, not just about fundraising. We also try to help with incubating their businesses, connecting them to the right people or government entities in Dubai,” Lootah said.
Steps to follow to set up your campaign
So, if you are planning to start your crowdfunding campaign, here’s how you can start through DubaiNext
Step 1: Create a UAEPass
You would first need to have a UAEPass to register on DubaiNext. The national identity platform has now made it easier for people to register using facial recognition technology, which is possible through most modern smartphones. To read a detailed guide on how you can set up your UAEPass account in minutes, read our detailed guide here.
Step 2: Visit the DubaiNext website
Next, you would need to visit the website – www.dubainext.ae
Click on ‘Start a campaign’ on the top menu panel.
Step 3: Verify identity through UAEPass
You will be asked to login using UAEPass.
Enter your Emirates ID number and click on Login.
The portal will then send an authentication request to your phone, on which you have the UAEPass app installed. You can verify your identity using the four digit code you have set, or through facial recognition, depending on the settings you have preferred for UAEPass.
Step 4: Agree to the terms and conditions
Check the box and click on Login. The website will redirect you to the homepage.
Step 5: Start your campaign
You can then click on ‘Start your campaign’ on the home page and you will be guided through a step-by-step process of setting up the campaign.
Enter campaign title.
Add a featured image that best illustrates your campaign. The featured image has square-ish dimensions – 1336px x 1002px. You will also be asked to upload a header image, however this is optional.
Pick a category for your campaign.
Step 6: Set your fundraising goals
You would then need to set your funding goal, which should be the minimum amount needed to complete the project and fulfill all rewards.
You will also be asked to set a campaign duration.
Step 7: Provide campaign details
In the next step you will be asked to describe the campaign, upload any videos that you may wish to add, as well as provide answers to frequently asked questions.
Step 8: Add rewards
You can then set contributor rewards based on the amount they contribute.
Step 9: Set your campaign profile
You can choose to have an individual or your business organisation as the identity that is displayed under your campaign profile.
Step 10: Review your campaign details
Do a final review of your campaign before submitting it on the platform.