x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Double delight looks to be in the frame

Entrepreneurs who make the leap from earning a salary to working for themselves often go on to found other businesses, like Reim El Houni, who speaks about becoming a serial entrepreneur.

Reim El Houni of Ti22, says there were times when she doubted her decision to start her own business. Lee Hoagland / The National
Reim El Houni of Ti22, says there were times when she doubted her decision to start her own business. Lee Hoagland / The National

For the first few years of her career Reim El Houni, 31, was a paid employee who worked in film production. But two years ago she set up her own business and now owns a second company with a friend. Here, she talks about becoming a serial entrepreneur.

q You left your job as a film producer with Dubai One two years ago and set up your own production company, Ti22 Films. Why?

a It was something I seriously discussed when I first moved out here, when I was freelance. [Back then] I was able to pick up projects. Some of them won New York Festival awards, which was great, so I knew the potential was there. But given the recession [it was too risky] and I was then offered a full-time job I thought OK the timing wasn't quite right. Working in television is quite a stressful environment, so I just reached a point where I wanted to focus on other things.

Did you find the transition from being a paid employee to your own boss difficult?

It's quite a challenge to suddenly realise that everything is dependent on you. I know how to do the work. It's the stress of running a business. I could be the best producer in the world but it doesn't mean I'm going to be the best businesswoman. There were a lot of moments when I doubted decisions and thought, 'Is this the right thing to do?' It's got easier.

And you now own a second business. What is it and why did you decide to set it up?

I just suddenly realised this is achievable. In June last year I set up a company called Bambootique. It's clothing made from bamboo.

It is very different from your first company. What attracted you to the opportunity?

I have a partner for that business, Asma Al Tajir, who is a friend of mine. We grew up together and we have always been very environmentally conscious. We came across this fabric which is amazing. It's got so many benefits. One of the main benefits of bamboo fabric is it's very good in the heat. It's much cooler than cotton and it's much softer, and anti-bacterial. It doesn't really exist in this region yet. It is a bit of an entrepreneurial opportunity as well as also believing in the product.

How challenging is it managing two companies that are so different?

That has probably been the most challenging aspect because video production is what my background is in and is what I understand, so my tendency is to spend more time on that. Bambootique is really more of a learning experience. We have had to learn an awful lot in the past year about fabric and clothing and design. But it's also helpful that I have a business partner with that because then there's two of you to balance it out, which is great.