The story of The Cobbler serves as proof that fortune favours the bold. It shows that if you spot a gap in the market, then success can be yours if you act upon it.
These gaps can come in all shapes and sizes, but in rapidly growing markets and communities such as Dubai, their existence is shrinking as the holes are filled by those with a keen eye.
When Sibylle Arnold-Shish and her husband moved to Dubai from Europe they saw a gap and acted upon it. Now, The Cobbler is a by-word for luxury standards of shoe repair and retail, with shops in the Dubai International Finance Centre (DIFC) and Level Shoe District of Dubai Mall, and a reputation for providing a quality of service not previously seen in the region’s shoe industry.
But as with most businesses, The Cobbler’s path the success was not a straightforward one. And certainly not an obvious one, being established by a marketing expert and a banker.
But entrepreneurship and business acumen don’t recognise job titles, especially when an opportunity presents itself, as Arnold-Shish explains.
“We came to Dubai four and a half years ago. My husband and I saw a gap in the market for shoe shining. We’re French but lived in London, and he was very disappointed not to find this kind of service our here, so we decided to launch the Shoe Shine Company at business centres and airports.
“Eventually customers asked about shoe repair as well, and so we looked for a place to repair shoes but couldn’t find any places, so we decided to launch a concept that would not only be shoe repair, but the whole ‘gentlemen’s club’ experience.
“Good quality shoes, shoe repair and prices were missing here. The whole environment of shoes and accessories for gentlemen was missing, so we acted upon it, and this is how The Cobbler was born.”
Opening in the DIFC in November 2011, the husband and wife team soon had the opportunity to open a second shop at Dubai Mall. From the outside, their story seemed extremely easy, but according to Arnold Shish, this was not the case.
“In terms of starting up I would say that it was not very easy because we didn’t have the opportunity to have services help us.
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