Olimpia Tabbach earned her certificate in entrepreneurship and business plan development through the University of Dubai in 2008. She talks about how the programme helped her during the early phase of her business, and how certain aspects of running her company could be learnt only outside of the classroom.
q: Tell me what your business, Anfasic Dokhoon, is all about.
a: It's an Arabic perfume brand. We created the brand and developed it. We have about 30 scents. When we started we had about 10.
q: How did you prepare before launching the business?
a: I had always been passionate about perfumes. I was living in the south of France before moving to Dubai. I was already working in perfumes and had just graduated. I went for different kinds of training in France in a perfume company.
q: You started the certificate programme about 18 months after you launched the company. How did it help you prepare as you looked to expand the business?
a: It was a good beginning. It gave me basic knowledge about finance, marketing and how to manage, control and monitor the business. I just had a much clearer picture of all the elements that make up the business. Looking at it from a more business-oriented perspective, it really made it easier to grow.
q: Has the business plan you created for class held up over the years?
a: The business plan I submitted was to build a factory, to own our own perfume factory. Finally, we did not build the factory from scratch. But we did manage to buy one. Now, we do have a factory that works. The structure of the business plan still works.
q: How has your company grown since you handed in that business plan?
a: At that time I had one little shop. Now I have 23.
q: You've opened shops in Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Sharjah, as well as Oman, Qatar and Saudi Arabia. Was there anything that you learnt in class that helped with your expansion plans?
a: There was an interesting lecture, which I remember, on legal issues, trademarks and entities. From a legal perspective, that was helpful because after that we did register the trademark throughout the GCC.
q: What's something you only learnt in the real world and couldn't through the programme?
a: How to manage people. Human resources is the most difficult thing. The company grew very fast, from a very small team. We ended up being a full-fledged organisation and structuring it was not easy.
q: And how many employees do you oversee now?
a: About 50. I started with two.
q: What was the hardest part about bringing on all those workers?
a: Selecting the right people and getting them to do what you want to do. Where I come from, I was used to doing everything.
q: Do you ever meet with your former classmates to talk about business challenges you're all facing?
a: Some of them I still meet with. The problem is everyone is busy.