Tours and tribulations

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Arva Ahmed, founder and CEO of Frying Pan Adventures.

Arva Ahmed, founder and CEO of Frying Pan Adventures.

As most small business owners will tell you, the course of true entrepreneurship never did run smooth.

It doesn’t matter how experienced you are, how extensive your network or how high-profile your contacts book, there will always be challenges along the way.

Even without issues to iron out, setting up, starting, and maintaining a business is difficult enough. So any flies in the ointment understandably put incredible strain on time, money and emotional wellbeing.

One woman who went through the roller coaster ride of start-up stresses is Arva Ahmed, founder and CEO of Frying Pan Adventures.

With dreams of starting a food tourism business, Ahmed set forth into entrepreneurialism with good intentions, plenty of positivity and solid support from friends and family.

But her story serves as a warning note, not only highlighting common problems facing start-ups in the UAE, but also exposing just how fragile the existence of a new business really is.

“Every place has its own issues,” she says. “If I’d started a business in India God knows how many bribes I would have needed to give. Dubai comes with its own problems.”

To look at her business, you would be forgiven for thinking Ahmed didn’t actually come into contact with any of the issues she alludes to.

Aimed at uncovering and sharing Dubai’s authentic culinary experiences, customers are treated to a tour of the emirate’s foodie hotspots, from the Gulf, Asia, Europe and Africa. Visiting local markets, hidden gems and cultural epicenters, expect to find Moroccan tagines, Iraqi fire-grilled carp, and plates of Nepalese dumplings among other treats, plus information about their history and tradition along the way.

Mouthwatering it may be, but Ahmed’s journey from idea to launch was no picnic.

“I decided I was going to quit my job with my dad and set up my own company last January, and at the time I knew I wanted to do a food tours concept. But I didn’t know what it would take to start it.

“So I went to various websites and government departments to find out more details. It seemed licensing was a main topic, and there was some information online but it was more important to have somebody to talk to. That’s something that became clear across the board. It’s much better to talk face to face if possible as you’re going to get more information that way.

“That was the first problem, right at the very beginning. I had so many questions to ask, mainly about licensing, but I always got directed to somebody else. Nothing happens on the phone. I didn’t know who to ask these questions to, and nobody was really helping too much.”

Ahmed had to enroll on a course in order to find answers to her questions, but even then information was not entirely transparent, and she nearly missed the vital details she was looking for.

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