Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 June 2019

Week in the Life: Giving UAE-based South Africans a taste of home

Benita Bohsali overcame tragedy to set up a thriving online retail business and she is expanding her offerings, going from strength to strength

Benita Bohsali, right, with her family, mum and dad Gary and Anita Hiles and daughter Isla, 5 at home in Motor City, Dubai. Chris Whiteoak / The National
Benita Bohsali, right, with her family, mum and dad Gary and Anita Hiles and daughter Isla, 5 at home in Motor City, Dubai. Chris Whiteoak / The National

In 2012, when Benita Bohsali’s daughter was two months old, her husband nipped out to drop off a friend, and never returned.

Mohamed Bohsali had an accident on the way back in the Emirates Hills area of Dubai and died instantly. Although Ms Bohsali had a job, her husband was the main earner, so she had to find an alternative income to sustain her and her daughter’s lifestyle. So, a couple of years later, once she found her feet, she set up an online trading company, the quirkly titled Amazeballs General Trading . Getting it off the ground while she was working full-time was hard, but her parents moved to the UAE from her native South Africa to take over the day-to-day running of the business, which made it a lot easier to juggle her responsibilities. She works full-time for a beverage company during the day, and talks business with her parents in the evenings. Here, she talks to The National about her working week.


My day at my full-time job finishes about 5.30pm or 6pm. We eat at 6pm and then I literally have half an hour with my kid, Isla. She is five. She is thriving. She is an amazing little girl. She looks just like her dad, so when people see her they say ‘your husband must be Arab’. He was Lebanese. She has beautiful olive skin, frizzy dark hair and dark features. But also very much like him in terms of temper and attitude. We practice reading and then I put her to sleep at 7pm. After that I sit with my parents and discuss the happenings of the day, and anything that needs attention. I have one business, and under that umbrella there are three websites. The one that is really well known is called beloved.ae, which services the South Africans living here, and features a range of traditional foods that are unique to South Africa. Dassieartisan.ae [sells] fair trade, handmade homewares. The third, wholesaleangel.com, [delivers] fresh produce to your door, basically, but in bulk.


We spend some time talking about warehousing and website issues, what needs to come off the website or go back on, [things like] this. If there are any issues, like expiring stock, because obviously we deal with food, so that needs to be discussed. We talk about taking stock off the website. We also talk about the digital angle. What are we going to push on the Facebook page? What do we have a lot of stock of? Beloved.ae is the only South African website in the UAE. It services South African expats, of whom there are over 150,000, I believe. It sells all the foods you love and miss from home. It’s dry goods only, so cans of fruits and veg, even Bovril, because it’s not the same here. I import containers of food from South Africa. And I put it online. If you order by 12 noon or 2pm today you will get your delivery tomorrow.


On Tuesday evenings we generally speak about customer service. Are we having any problems with customers? Are there any issues? Did we have any delays? My mum does all of the customer service. She does all of the payments. She is an accountant. And my dad does all of the logistics – all of the ordering of the containers and that kind of thing so I don’t need to worry about that. But I am doing all of the thinking. What’s next. All of the finance, trying to find investors. I have had a tough time to try and raise the capital to invest in containers. I need an investor who will help me.


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On Wednesdays we devote time to talking about marketing. How are we going to market the products or websites? Do we need new webpage banners? Do we need to put something new on Facebook? That kind of thing. I have a designer. She is on a retainer, so we have to define on a monthly basis what she is going to be doing. Dassie is the website that I have just launched. It was born out of South Africa but taken to Europe by my friend’s brother. Everything is handmade. It is imported from the Far East. You can’t find a product like it anywhere in the UAE. You don’t have any really nice high-street boutique stores like you do in the UK. So I noticed that there was a gap for that here. And because I had the template for that already I just thought to myself 'let me try and do it again with a different brand'.


I normally take Thursday evening off from the business, but if I do something it may be about a promotion that we are running that weekend. Or we might decide on a Thursday what we are going to do the following week.


I am absolutely exhausted by this point. So I spend time with my kid and do fun stuff with her because, with my focus on everything else, I get to spend very little time with her during the week. I try to put her to bed as much as possible, and that’s basically where it ends. So this weekend, for example, we are going to Miracle Garden. I want to go and see the big Mickey Mouse that everyone is talking about. We have a swimming pool on the complex, so we might go swimming. Or we might spend time at the beach.

Updated: May 24, 2018 11:12 AM