The voice of experience

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Experience is a vital thing in business, so hearing from people who have been there and done that is a huge benefit to start-ups and SMEs.

At the second Arabian Business StartUp Academy attendees were treated to presentations by two men who, while being at different stages of their entrepreneurial journeys, have both been through the trials and tribulations of starting a new business.

Shant Oknayan gave the audience the inside track on GlamBox, and the ups and downs he encountered while setting up the business. You can read more about his experiences on pages 32 to 37 of this edition of StartUp, in an interview during which he pinpoints how he overcame the hurdles placed in front of him.

While Oknayan is at the beginning of his adventure, the Academy’s other speaker, Alex Andarakis, has several years of success in various fields behind him.

The founder and managing director of management consultancy firm, Andarakis Advisory Services had a 24-year professional career at some of the region’s biggest companies before taking the leap into entrepreneurship and starting his own private business.

With job titles such as CEO, managing director and executive director at companies including Emaar Properties, Unilever, Aujan Industries and Al Islami Foods on his CV, Andarakis was well placed to explain to the audience how he made the transition from successful career to owner of a start-up.

Starting at the beginning, Andarakis spoke of his upbringing and underlined his experience: “I’m an Australian living in the Middle East. I’m working in Dubai but have worked in Jeddah, Alexandria, and just about every Arab market in the past 20 years.”

Having graduated in marketing and law, he went into real estate, where he says he “learnt a bit about entrepreneurship.” Something that prepared him for his own step into the unknown.

Using other entrepreneurs’ philosophies, Andarakis spoke about what you need to think about upfront.

“Richard Branson’s philosophy is ‘no regrets’. Sheikh Mohammed’s is ‘build it and they will come’. Steve Jobs says you can’t look back, you have to look forwards. I worked with Alabaar at Emaar – he had a dream. Tony Soprano – he’s an entrepreneur, and so is Tiger Woods.

“What can we learn from them? You’ve got to have passion and determination. Winning is more important than taking part in the competition. You’ve got to have a belief system, you’ve got to create followers.”

Pointing out some fundamentals of entrepreneurship, he added: “It’s a lot of hard work and commitment. You’re going to go through a lot of frustration. A client will call you and say ‘I want to see you at eight in the morning – how can you turn around my business. Give me a proposal tomorrow morning’. Then, if you manage it, it suddenly goes dark. Your client won’t answer the phone for a long time, and then all of a sudden he’ll call and say ‘we’re going to start today’. There is frustration at the core of every entrepreneur.”

During his professional career, Andarakis was responsible for the $3.5bn Lipton brand, had eighteen years with Unilever, was CEO of Aujan Industries, executive director at Emaar Properties, managing director at Omniyat Properties and CEO of Al Islami Foods.

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