Dear Ali: My homemade fudge is the best. The recipe comes from my grandmother. I want to sell it here, and I was wondering what advice you would have. Shukran, LD Dubai
Dear LD: As an entrepreneur myself, I know how important it is to obtain supportive but honest feedback. So the first thing I would say is: "Good luck" or "Go for it" (bi tawfeeq). Starting your own business, even if it's part-time, requires a lot of thought and a lot of elbow grease (which I hope is not one of your "secret" ingredients).
I would start by getting feedback from your family and neighbours. They know you best, and might be able to give you some advice. Try not to be too sensitive to any criticism. Then, branch out to the hotels, coffee shops and grocers in your area. They may give you practical suggestions and might even become your first clients, although many global brands, such as Starbucks, have their own homemade food policies. You could also have a bakery sale at colleges or universities in order to test the market.
I'm sure your fudge is delicious, but it's important to know what the local community likes, especially as we are big on sweets and desserts. That way, you will appreciate what people like and you might get tips on Emirati flavours such as saffron, cardamom and so on.
My next suggestion is that you find a suitable local sponsor. How big do you want your company to be? Do you want to distribute the product yourself? A local sponsor can give you insight on how to build a brand in the UAE, as well as any cultural differences you should be aware of.
After you've got a thorough business plan and a local sponsor, you should contact your municipality and chamber of commerce. They will alert you as to any licences and special programmes you need.
Even if this is a part-time endeavour, it's important to ensure your food is being checked out by a government monitoring agency. Without these assurances you could be in serious trouble if, God forbid, someone becomes sick after eating your product.
Finally, social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter are a good way of getting the word out about your product, and it would also help you connect with your customers.
Dear Ali: There are different offensive gestures in the world but here in the UAE it seems that sticking up your finger is taken as a big deal? Rami J, Abu Dhabi
Dear Rami J: Buddy, don't tell me you are expecting a smile from a person after sticking up your finger to him or her, eh?
Almost everywhere, disrespectful gestures such as that are considered offensive. Of course, depending on where, and to whom it is happening, the reaction to it varies from acceptance to no tolerance whatsover.
In our region, such an act could lead to a fight or the police being called. However, this shouldn't make us look as if we can't chill! It's simply that our society is more conservative and that is manifested in our TV shows and movies. We really don't have any bad language or unseemly gestures in our locally made shows, so that shows you how we view their usage. This is all part of what we call "respect".
It exists all around the world, mostly from person to person, and we might be lucky to have it in our culture.
English: Power or strength
A word usually said in salute as one enters a majlis, an office or a shop in which the salesperson is an Arab from the Gulf. It works for both men and women, friends or strangers. It's usually accompanied by a raised hand to reinforce the literal meaning of "strength to you. I come unarmed". You enter a shop and say: "Gowwah," and the person there would reply: "Allah Yigaweek - may God grant you strength."