Dubai: “I don’t believe in looking back or regretting anything,” Asma said confidently to Gulf News on a bright and unsurprisingly sunny day in Dubai. The 45-year-old entrepreneur and wellness guru is a big believer in manifesting your dream life. “My goal was to ignite the wellness movement in the region through nutrition, Pilates, life-coaching and alternative therapies.” And her passion project, The Hundred Wellness Centre is achieving her objectives of becoming a key pillar in the health and wellness industry in the UAE.
“With all of the changes and challenges brought forth by the pandemic, we have found that there is a real interest in wellness and an increase in people that want to work on improving their mental and physical health.” There's been a natural increase in anxiety about leaving the house, which has had a positive ripple effect on the business.
And business is where Asma feels truly supported. “We are very empowered as Emirati citizens to start our own businesses,” she said to Gulf News. “There are a lot of initiatives that support young Emirati business owners. We are lucky that we also receive funding from the government and plenty of support. I believe the UAE is the land of opportunity.”
Growing up in the UAE
Asma was born and raised in Dubai. She went to the Al Ittihad Private School. “School fuelled my passion for learning, reading, arts and culture.” After graduation, she went to university in Washington DC, then moved back to the UAE. After graduating from the George Washington University in 2000, Asma started her professional career at Etisalat, where she worked for 5 years before launching the Hundred.
If I had to describe myself in one sentence, I would say I am a proud Emirati woman that found my purpose, mission and vision through The Hundred Wellness Centre
Asma describes herself as a proud Emirati woman that has found her purpose, mission and vision through wellness. “My parents are a great inspiration to me, they are the kindest and most amazing people and I feel very grateful to them.” Although her parents didn’t have a formal education, she considers them very enlightened, wise and open-minded. “They taught me the value of time and money, how to be respectable, giving and helpful. They truly believe in me and have supported me throughout my life.”
Asma’s friends would describe her as kind, honest, giving and a little blunt. “I have a good sense of humour and I embrace my weirdness. I also have a very unique and eclectic taste and appreciate the small and lovely things.”
The spark that launched her business
After graduating from the George Washington University in 2000, Asma started her professional career at Etisalat, where she worked for five years.“When I came back to the UAE from the United States, I was trying to find myself. I was working at Etisalat and doing Pilates with my sister. It really changed my life. I loved the routine, movement, social connection and my teacher. It fuelled a year of self-discovery and helped me feel more positive about life.”
Ultimately, Asma’s favourite Pilates studio closed down, which left her disappointed. She was talking to her brother about what transpired and he suggested that if she can’t find another pilates studio, she should just launch her own. “When he said that to me I knew at that moment that it was the right thing to do. I submitted my resignation and spent a year trying to figure out what exactly I wanted to do in my studio.”
In 2008, Asma launched the Hundred Pilates Studio. A few years later in 2011, this single studio evolved into a bigger wellness centre which today offers rehabilitation, chiropractic therapies, emotional therapies, nutrition, life coaching and a health-food café. “Pilates had such an incredible impact on my life, mental health and overall wellbeing, and I wanted to be able to help others achieve the same.”
Asma loves sports. She completed the London Royal Parks half marathon and in 2009, climbed Mount Fuji – Japan’s highest mountain.
Over the years Asma has received many awards for her work at the Hundred. In 2010 she was awarded the Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Award for Young Business Leaders for the best business in healthcare by the Crown Prince of Dubai. In 2012, she won the Emirates Woman of the Year award in the achiever's category for her work as a pioneer in the industry.
In March 2016, during the visit of the US President, Joe Bidden and his wife to the UAE, Asma was invited by Dr Jill Biden to give a speech about her experience as a successful female Emirati entrepreneur at the School of Research Science in Dubai on the occasion of International Women’s Day.
In 2011, The Hundred Wellness Center was ranked #45 in Dubai’s top 100 small and medium enterprises and also selected as the best health and fitness facility in the UAE by the Sports and Industry Awards. The centre was also awarded the Best Small Project in the GCC states during the 32nd session of the council of ministries of labour at the end of 2015.
For now, Asma is focused on grounding, strengthening her roots, and watering her own soil. “I try to look at our work from a trendsetting and change-making approach, ensuring that all of our plans are aligned with our vision to serve the people of the UAE. We have recently gained some incredible new therapists, who offer new services and treatments to our clients, and we are working on increasing our sustainability as well as giving back to the community.”