Rana el Eid, the founder of the Cafe Ceramique franchise and Azur Spa, on turning an unfamiliar concept into a successful business:
How did you come up with the idea to combine a cafe with an artist studio?
I used to create corporate identities for companies; come up with designs for the logo, brochures and build up their brands. I then had the idea of starting Cafe Ceramique. I saw the idea in Canada, but I didn't feel it would work here if it was only a paint-your-own pottery shop.
Did you adapt the concept for this region?
The only way of doing it was to add the food and beverage aspect - not just a coffee shop but a full restaurant. There was really nothing to do with young kids that could make you spend quality time. I had two kids at the time. From that - a personal need and demand from my friends around me - I knew this would work in the family market.
What tricks did you use to stay ahead of competition?
Because people liked it so much when it opened in Abu Dhabi in 2002, we knew we had to quickly open in Dubai. To scare the competition off we acted like we were this big company. We immediately put out a huge radio campaign. The people at Town Centre heard about it and thought we were an international franchise. They really wanted us because it fitted so much with their mall's concept. We did that for six years, then I got bored. During that time, I prepared the franchise manuals and started approaching people to franchise it.
There are now three locations in the UAE, plus five elsewhere in the GCC. But you also launched a spa last summer in Dubai. What makes Azur Spa unique in a market with so many spas already?
We made Azur Spa a social spa, trying to get people together for bachelorette parties, birthdays, makeovers before ladies go out, little princess parties. The other part is Azur Spa on Wheelz; going to people's homes, their offices.
What is your greatest challenge today?
To figure out the logistics of how to service all of Dubai and still maximise the time and efficiency of the team. We have 10 staff members, but with the demand it is not enough to cover both the salon and on wheels. I'm hiring more drivers and will dedicate one team for the spa and one for outside.
How can entrepreneurs turn an idea into a brand?
What I find with the businesses here is that the majority open without having a concept. Once you have a concept all the elements need to fit together - the uniform, decoration - and consistently communicate the message through … brochures, menus, flyers. You have to choose your target market and stick to it.