Text size:

  • Small
  • Normal
  • Large
Young female entrepreneur artists prepare for a display of their artwork at Nomads Box in Dubai.
Young female entrepreneur artists prepare for a display of their artwork at Nomads Box in Dubai.

Moving pictures for a living

The Life: Good business ideas often come in a flash for entrepreneurs, but turning a promising indea into profits is usually a much longer slog.

Good business ideas often come in a flash for entrepreneurs, but turning a promising idea into profits is usually a much longer slog.

This is the sink-or-swim situation in which a pair of Dubai-based artists find themselves.

Shamma al Amri and Mona Fares, both 25, last year launched Nomads Box (NBX), a portable exhibition that displays local artists' work in a shipping container they move to hot spots around Dubai.

The entrepreneurs sell their own work and that of local artists, from which they take a 40 per cent cut.

They received a grant of Dh62,000 (US$16,880) from Sheikha Manal bint Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum to start the project, but the cash has been spent and the business must generate enough revenue to keep running.

Experts say it is not uncommon for start-ups to focus primarily on raising seed capital and then struggle to capitalise on the product, partly because the two tasks require different skills.

The problem the two Dubai women face is that they are pioneering a new concept, making the market hard to quantify.

This means that building a business plan and predicting cash flows is harder than selling in an established market, especially when they also have to stay true to their artistic ideals.

"We will need to find a compromise between selling and upholding the true meaning of art," says Ms al Amri.

To ensure the business survives, Ms al Amri hopes another benefactor will provide a cash injection until sales pick up.

The good news is that according to Art Dubai, which held its fifth DIFC Gulf Art Fair this month, there are positive trends behind the business.

"We see more and more of these public projects that engage the person on the street," says Antonia Carver, the director of the art fair.

"But to have a thriving arts sector we need opportunities for artists to be successful in market terms - for example, their work sells through galleries and auctions."

Ms al Amri says there is a "paradox" artists face between trying sell their art and remaining creative.

"Many artists are put off if they have to create for a particular audience," she says. "The most important part about art is that it's genuine."

Having first spent three months at the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC), NBX is now on The Walk at Jumeirah Beach Residence.

The entrepreneurs came up with the concept for a moving arts container from the UAE's nomadic tradition. Shipping is a key symbol of Dubai's trading past and the project is also an environmental initiative to recycle the many containers left behind in the country.

The overheads and start-up costs have been vast. The moving and powering of the shipping container has eaten into the budget, while only a few paintings have been sold thus far.


Back to the top

More articles

Editor's Picks

 The Greens, villas: Q1 no change. 3BR - Dh210-250,000. 4BR - Dh210-260,000. 5BR - Dh220-300,000. Q1 2013-Q1 2014 5% rise. Pawan Singh / The National

In pictures: Where Dubai rents have risen and fallen, Q1 2014

Find out how rental prices in the prime locations in Dubai have altered during the first three months of the year and the current rates you will pay according to data provided by Asteco.

 Above, the private pool of Ocean Heights' five-bedroom penthouse flat. Courtesy Christie’s International Real Estate

In pictures: Penthouse flat is height of Dubai luxury living

A five-bedroom penthouse in Ocean Heights in Dubai Marina is on sale for Dh25 million and comes with a private pool and an unparalleled view of Dubai.

 The cooling towers of the Temelin nuclear power plant near the Tyn nad Vltavou in Czech Republic. The country wants to continue expanding nuclear energy capacity despite cancelling a tender to build two new units. David W Cerny / Reuters

In pictures: Best business images for the week to April 17, 2014

Here are some of the best business images for the week to April 17, 2014.

 A sign points the way to an outdoor market popular with German visitors on the Polish side of the German-Polish border. Sean Gallup / Getty Images

In pictures: A decade since the European Union went east

May 1 will mark 10 years since the European Union expanded east, taking in countries like Poland, the Czech Republic and the Baltic states as new members. And though the border region between Germany and Poland is flourishing with trade and cultural exchange, the open border has also brought a sharp rise in crime.

 The Wind, Energy, Technology and Environment Exhibition takes place from April 14 to April 16. Above, the Dewa showroom during last year’s Wetex. Jaime Puebla / The National

April corporate and economic calendar for the UAE and overseas

From Cityscape to Wetex to stock-market holidays to nations reporting first-quarter GDP figures, here is our helpful calendar of April's business events in the UAE and internationally.

 Get the latest information on credit cards, bank accounts and loan products in the UAE. Mark Lennihan / AP Photo

Rates report: Latest on UAE loans, accounts and credit cards

Souqamal.com brings you the latest interest rates on banking products in the UAE.


To add your event to The National listings, click here

Get the most from The National