UAE national Bader Al Ghaith
Dubai-born UAE national Bader Al Ghaith, now 26, got serious about capitalising on his flair for fabrics and being his own boss three years ago. Here's why.. Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: Having grown up with a flair for fabrics, 26-year-old UAE national Bader Al Ghaith always saw himself as a fan of fashion. But the Dubai-born resident got serious about capitalising on his interests and being his own boss only after a tragic experience transformed him three years ago.

“It all began with a childhood passion for fabrics, constantly seeking the finest ones while exploring various sportswear stores. I documented my fascination in my phone as notes and kept refining the ideas,” Al Ghaith said. “But the turning point for me came during my final university course.

“While enrolling in an entrepreneurship class encouraged me to launch my own venture, a near-drowning incident in 2020 made me realise the importance of being prepared financially. So I started budgeting conservatively, setting aside funds for unexpected challenges.”

Al Ghaith went on to start his own athleisure brand, NO-VA, a year later, and since then, he admitted that it has all been about finding the right balance between chasing his own dreams when starting out as a fashion entrepreneur and having a fool-proof financial plan for him.

Makings of athleisure business

“My father was the reason I started the company, and he is the main investor of the company. He guided me since a young age and always showed me what to do in situations,” Al Ghaith said, who added that including all expenses, about Dh1.2 million has been invested so far.

When detailing the costs that go into an athleisure business, the young entrepreneur summarised that the start-up costs mostly came from fees for an office to sampling and testing new material and styles daily.

“Sampling is not a one-time cost as every sample has a fee. I set up my operations in Al Karama, where it’s considered the old part of Dubai. It’s lovely as this is where the city first started.”

However, since the start-up was started post the pandemic in 2021, Al Ghaith described how it was challenging as expenses came in “many ways”. “It was very hard to manufacture outside and so the product took time and patience but it worked out slowly but steadily.”

Business now close to breaking even
“We now operate from pop-ups and online stores. The business is close to break-even, but we are not there yet due to constant expenses and as we are still studying the market even while operating in it,” he said, while adding the aim to be an Emirati-owned brand in Dubai, and overseas over time.

(A ‘break-even point’ for your business is when total sales equals total costs. At this point there is no profit or loss, so you 'break even'. The reason why this point is vital is it shows how many products are needed to sell (beyond the break-even point) to ensure a profit is made.)

Pre-entrepreneurial challenges

“My parents grew up in the 1970s. They taught lessons they learnt and sacrifices my grandfathers did to get food on the table for the whole family,” he added.

Al Ghaith said his parents gave him Dh10 to buy lunch at school every day. “While my friends got Dh100, I was happy with staring at my green bill all day and buying my manakeesh or grilled flatbread from the school’s cafeteria, as the experience made me understand the value of money.”

After his schooling, Al Ghaith later went on to first work as an unpaid intern for six months. “It taught me a lot about how money and pay affects an employee's work rate and happiness. I wasn’t the happiest there even though I did the work, but getting no pay was difficult.”

Any money lessons learnt?

One of the first personal money lessons Al Ghaith learnt was that higher price does not mean higher quality. “An expensive watch will still be a watch no matter the diamonds on it or not, and it will still do its job,” said Al Ghaith, while adding that he does not recklessly or randomly overspend.

“I don’t see the value of spending money on stuff as it's just an unnecessary distraction for me personally. My saving plan is not to buy unnecessary items, and I applied this since I was a kid. I saved up for a trampoline and bought it and still apply that foundation in every purchase that I do.

“It's simple when you have an amount of money it doesn't mean you have to spend it before getting the next salary. Put objectives on where to save and for what you want and that will push you to spend less and spend it right.”

3 entrepreneurial lessons Al Ghaith learnt
After facing issues with a single supplier early on as an entrepreneur, Al Ghaith learnt not to put all his eggs in one basket when running the business. This is why he now ensures to have a diverse network of suppliers, as opposed to having just one.

“I've also learnt feedback is a goldmine for business growth. Listening to customers is like having a compass for refining products and services, impacting both sales and brand loyalty. Adaptability is a must. Staying attuned to market shifts and consumer preferences is crucial,” he added.

“Additionally, I’ve come to realise that focusing on long-term growth and sustainability often outweighs the allure of immediate returns. Overall, I prioritise quality over quantity in all aspects of my business —whether it's products, brand awareness, or events. Even if activities like pop-up events don't bring instant gains, I see them as valuable lessons rather than losses.”