It has been a challenging 18 months due to COVID-19 altering lives and costing millions to lose their jobs.
As salaries were reduced, people were made redundant and businesses closed affecting global economies. But a new trend emerged – a rise in start-ups.
In October 2020, 84 000 new businesses were registered in France, a 20% rise on 2019, and the highest ever on record. In Dubai, there was a similar picture.
Melody Mok was made redundant from her events job last year and decided to launch her own company.
“I felt like my world was just crashing and there were a lot of tears”, she says, adding “I just thought to myself, what am I going to do with myself? And then the next day I decided I could either sob or actually pick myself up and do something really positive with it.”
The self-confessed foodie leaned into the home cooking trend and created freshly made chili-based Asian condiments.
In establishing ‘Curious Elephant’ she said she had learnt a lot and it is as rewarding as it is challenging.
She told Euronews that had she not been made redundant, she would probably still be doing the job she had before and she might even be unhappy. Now she feels fulfilled and happy. “I’m the happiest I’ve been in my career”, she exclaimed.
As many people were confined to their homes for 24-hours a day, DIY and home improvement rose in popularity.
Mostafa Elhrizi and his partner wanted to renovate their rented apartment and were looking for affordable and temporary solutions. They discovered peel and stick tiles, but couldn’t find anywhere to buy them in Dubai. They saw a gap in the market.
“We installed them ourselves and a lot of our friends came around, they saw, and they just basically couldn’t believe that it wasn’t real. We just instantly thought, OK, this could potentially be a business” Mostafa Elhrizi said.
What was initially a micro-business quickly developed into a much broader company that uses architectural vinyl for kitchen and bathroom makeovers.
During the pandemic, there was also a greater demand for loungewear due to increased numbers being based at home.
Brittany Sultani founded the Azuki clothing label in Dubai, creating comfortable, sustainable, eco-friendly and stylish alternatives.
“Wearing so much fast fashion over the years, you know, you look at your closet and it’s just overflowing. I wanted to create something that was sustainable and ethical, but also pieces that are going to last forever,” Brittany Sultani said.
The Azuki fashion label has grown so much in the past year that Brittany has been able to set up a second business, L’Usturalia.
“So now we’re moving ahead and kind of becoming a multi-brand e-commerce platform for brands from Australia and New Zealand. Several brands will be on this website as well as Azuki, and also supporting some small local businesses that are New Zealand and Australian owned living here in the UAE as well”, she said.
Some of the businesses born in the pandemic were through necessity. Others came from solving a problem the owner was facing themselves. But the end goal of making it a success remains the same.