Katrin Strunz tells us how her online concept store is designed to get us outdoors
Dubai entrepreneur hopes to motivate residents to enjoy the outdoors
“My idea was always to come up with a nice collection of products that would motivate people to go outside,” Katrin Strunz, founder of online concept store Boutique Nomads, tells me when we meet at her home in Umm Suqeim, Dubai. “This is a beautiful country, with nine months of perfect sunshine, and nobody goes to the beach because everybody’s working so hard all the time.”
Two striped lawn chairs are set up outside Strunz’s front door, facing a quartet of garden flamingos. Inside, the decor is predominantly grey, with bursts of colour in every corner, from a tray on the sofa decorated with hot pink brushstrokes and bordered by a bamboo frame, to a neon green rhinoceros figure with a gold horn – products that are all available at www.boutique-nomads.com.
Strunz moved to Dubai from Germany in 2008, and recently left a full-time corporate job to launch her online venture, which offers a mix of established brands and handmade, artisanal products from the United States and Europe.
When customers visit the site, they are welcomed by a banner of Polaroid pictures, with the strapline: “Go play outside”. Products range from beach towels, pool floats and floor pillows to hammocks, lanterns, water bottles, tote bags and more. Strunz admits that her personal tastes dictate what she buys for the site. “You’re always driven by your own preferences. I used to travel a lot, and would always buy quirky, colourful things,” she says.
Strunz is particularly enthusiastic about the 100 per cent organic, toxin-free candles by American brand SCBC. “They last super-long, around 60 hours,” she says, while inhaling the pineapple scent of an SCBC candle displayed on one of the three hexagonal coffee tables in front of us.
Strunz is open to stocking local brands, too, so long as they are aligned with Boutique Nomads’s upbeat aesthetic. One of the pool floats on the site, an inflatable polar bear that seats two people, is produced by a Dubai-based start-up, and about Dh18 from the sale of each piece is donated to the World Wildlife Fund. Pool accessories are something of a craze at the moment, and Strunz says that her flamingo- and unicorn-shaped floats are her bestselling products.
She explains that when she launched her venture, she assumed that the products would predominantly appeal to the expat community. “However, I have been proven perfectly wrong.”
Strunz bought all of the products currently offered on Boutique Nomads up front, and everything is stored in Dubai, either in a warehouse or in Strunz’s home. She says that this ensures smooth delivery, without any unforeseen delays.
At present, Boutique Nomads only offers delivery within the UAE, and while Aramex is the website’s courier of choice, sometimes Strunz hand-delivers customers’ orders. “I like to meet the people,” she explains. “Every package gets a personal tag and message. We’re called Boutique Nomads because we want to bring a boutique experience – online shopping sounds like it’s a fairly unemotional transaction, and we really want to make it more positive and special.”