Tuesday, July 16, 2024

How a trip to Europe got a Lebanese mother in the business of premium family sleepwear

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Dubai: At age 40, Lebanese-Greek expat Nayla Haddad prides herself in not only being a single mother of two, but also in getting to self-start her third business last year after stumbling upon a softer-than-cotton fabric during a trip to Europe.

The serial entrepreneur, being a long-time believer in how sleepwear directly impacts the quality of sleep, was eager to share this new found discovery. “I searched for similar options in my region and realised how challenging it was to find micro-fibre sleepwear for the whole family,” said Haddad.

It was this realisation that finally drove her to start a retail business in 2023, 11 years after first starting her restaurant business, and six years after launching one in the fitness space. Within the first nine months, her business reached a break-even point. In 11 months, she made over Dh1.2 million in sales.

WHAT DOES IT MEAN FOR A BUSINESS TO ‘BREAK EVEN’?

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

Experiences drive serial entrepreneur

“Invaluable experiences often pave the way for me to get into entrepreneurship, similar to when I launched two consecutive businesses in Africa initially. So I then employed my skill set to launch my third business, anchored in Dubai, alongside my children,” the serial businesswoman added.

“My latest venture was launched 11 months ago, and since then, we have had 928 clients, with an average monthly return of more than 30 per cent across regional markets,” she added. The groundwork for Haddad’s business, however, began right after she relocated to Dubai in 2020.

“Amid the challenging times of the COVID-19 pandemic, I found myself locked at home, dedicating my time to crafting the business plan for over two years and then launching the premium sleepwear business, ‘One of a Kin’, in June 2023.”

What goes into a business that makes premium sleepwear?

The business expenses were diverse and required at various stages of the business, Haddad detailed. “Initially, during the conceptualising stage, we focused on research and development, with extensive analysis into how the regional and global market works for sleepwear.

“Moving on to the prototype stage, we invested resources in producing, testing, and comparing numerous samples. Aside from delivering softness, we got a supplier with a sustainable manufacturing process. Next, in the product design phase, we worked on style, colours, and aesthetic appeal.”

Haddad funded the first round of production using her savings and funds from the successful closures of her previous three businesses, without going into detail of how much. She went on to tell how she not only invested the gains she made, but also the know-how she got from her past business ventures.

Juggling responsibilities ahead of launch

“As the launch date approached, we went into full-scale production. We had to coordinate with our fabric supplier, oversee manufacturing processes across different cuts and colours at a factory, and manage the entire supply chain, including shipping, storage, and fulfilment,” Haddad added.

“Additionally, we invested in building essential departments such as customer service, marketing (covering creative, production, digital, social media, PR, and influencer agencies), operations (including office rent, utility bills, salaries, and health insurance), accounting, and legal.

“The product received an overwhelmingly positive response, resulting in sell-outs within weeks. This gave us the initial momentum to continue operating and this was indicative in the growth trajectory that led us to generating over Dh1 million in total sales ever since.”

Lesson #1: Do not compromise on quality to keep costs low.

The serial entrepreneur admitted that she was tempted to save money when starting the business, but soon learnt that this would often come at the cost of losing regular customers and in turn hurt its reputation. This is the first lesson she wanted to share with fellow entrepreneurs starting out as well.

“When overseeing a self-funded business, allocating each dirham with a specific purpose is crucial to maximise return on investment in various areas such as marketing and talent acquisition. Don’t ever compromise on high quality for a lower price, place a higher value on quality,” she said.

“I am vigilant regarding all costs and expenses related to the business. It’s crucial to maintain a balance between prudent financial management and taking the time to celebrate milestones to stay motivated and avoid burnout. I also treat myself and my family on special occasions as toils should be rewarded.”

Lesson #2: Business is not just pitching a product, but a lifestyle.

For Haddad, the critical differentiation was not just offering a comfort-driven product but creating a sustainable lifestyle with which the audience could identify. “One of the core principles I live by is giving back to those in need. I apply this by proudly having a Zero Waste principle in our business,” she added.

“For example, we are producing our baby comforters made from repurposed fabric scraps, with sale profits to be donated to selected charities. My family and I grew up during challenging times in Lebanon with conflicts and war. So it was a difficult period where budgets were tight.

“However, my parents always ensured that we had what we needed while instilling important money-centric principles and values for leading a responsible and mindful life – a lesson in balance that guides my approach to this day.”

We are producing our baby comforters made from repurposed fabric scraps, with sale profits to be donated

– Nayla Haddad

Lesson #3: Know your financial boundaries, and always stick to it.

Haddad revealed that she also learnt to respect financial boundaries, whether in personal or a professional setting. “By staying mindful of budgetary constraints, I have been able to make more informed decisions and avoid overextending myself financially,” she noted, before explaining how.

“As an entrepreneur committed to growing my businesses, I reinvested most of my earnings into various start-ups. At the same time, I save at least 20 per cent of my income in a diversified investment portfolio to diversify risk and invest in carefully selected luxury items with proven incremental resale value.”

All this and more, Haddad learnt from her first job managing brands at US-based multinational consumer goods giant Procter and Gamble, after getting her Bachelor’s degree in Finance from Lebanon and a Master’s degree specialisation in marketing focused on luxury products in France.

Lesson #4: Leverage marketing, closely track budgets to drive up sales.

She said she particularly understood the importance of leveraging marketing to drive sales when leading campaigns, learning to budget responsibly and to build and run a team aimed at delivering returns. These principles have been instrumental in shaping my approach to my businesses,” she explained.

“By taking account of money spent across all areas, from operations to marketing. In our e-commerce operations, I pay particular attention to paid media, our primary driver of sales and conversions. Since our launch, we have achieved an excellent above-average ROAS (Return on Ad Spend).”

WHAT IS RETURN ON AD SPEND (ROAS) IN BUSINESS?

Return on Ad Spend (ROAS) is a marketing metric that measures revenue earned for each dirham you spend on advertising. By calculating and tracking ROAS, you gain insights on the effectiveness of your advertising.

“Moreover, in carefully building my team, I have made it a point to see to it that all my associates have shareholder status rather than just mere employees working towards a common goal. This secures their total commitment.”

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