By Tamara Pupic
Sidiqa Sohail’s initiatives to support female-owned business in the UAE
Sidiqa Sohail, founder of Spontiphoria, a Dubai-based concept store, has put in place several initiatives to promote and support other small female-owned businesses.
The concept store of this half-Emirati and half-Pakistani entrepreneur is a combination of a bakery, café, boutique, and event space.
Since launching in 2013, Sohail has insisted that Spontiphoria’s bakers rely only on the equipment, techniques, and ingredients used in a home kitchen. Furthermore, she has added a community-oriented layer to her homegrown concept — monthly language sessions, book talks, and various classes and workshops.
“I am always asked if I faced any challenges in opening my business due to my gender. However, I have to say that being a female in business actually helped my cause rather than hindered it,” she says.
“I faced no obstacles because of my gender, but the hardest challenge we faced was back in the beginning when we were trying to turn the concept into reality.”
In a city conquered by international F&B brands, carving a niche for her innovative concept has required taking care of all aspects of running the business by herself, including accounting, marketing, stock-keeping, day-to-day administration and management tasks, event planning, product development, and many more.
“It was very hard for people to have enough trust in a new, unheard of in Dubai, concept and as such we struggled till we found the right location,” Sohail says. “Dubai was, and to a certain extent still very much is, extremely brand- and franchise- conscious.”
Sohail soon realised that she was not alone in this struggle since there were many creative female entrepreneurs operating small businesses out of their homes who could not to sell their products except online or at craft fairs.
To support them, Sohail initiated the April Small Business Month at her store in Wasl Square, which has grown into an annual event.
“The April Small Business Month is essentially a chance for small businesses to stock their products in a boutique and get retail experience in a brick and mortar store, but it is also a chance for small business owners to network,” Sohail explains. “As part of the April Small Business Month we have organised many different events, such as small business owners’ networking sessions and panel talks, coffee mornings, and other events related to the specialty of each of the vendors.”
Our latest Entrepreneur of the Week plans to venture into franchising and also to expand her concept into other creative sectors such as fashion and events.
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