We’re in this together

There’s no denying that coronavirus has had a significant impact on business worldwide, with redundancies and pay cuts implemented across all industries. While major corporations have the potential to sustain the impact of COVID-19, small or local businesses are facing a tougher outcome.

 

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In Dubai it’s no different. Several small businesses owners are now facing increased challenges to keep going, especially those who rely group gatherings. According to The NationalThe Central Bank of the UAE’s rolled out Dh100 billion economic stimulus package to support the impact of the coronavirus pandemic which aims to help small and medium businesses.

Below, we have asked owners of some small and local businesses in Dubai to share how COVID-19 has impacted them.

Susi Russell-Park, Sole MD of Go To DXB, lived in Dubai for 7 years

 

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How has the current pandemic affected your business?

I have a referral marketing and lifestyle company and market for many small businesses and also offer lifestyle activities for both tourists and residents, such as events, yachts, desert safaris. I market for a wide range of businesses from health & fitness, hotels, Spas, restaurants, beauty and many more.

A huge part of my business at this time of year is yacht chartering and I have built up a great reputation and had my busiest most profitable to date just last month and March, April and May looking the same. This has been wiped out overnight.

What measures have you taken to protect it?

There is not much I can do to protect it but I am in process of offering full refunds to my clients at the earliest and I just have to hope that once this is all over that I am able to build back up again. My customer service and reputation is everything so by being in contact and being proactive rather than reactive in the hope that my reputation remains intact.

What advice do you have for other businesses?

Help and support as much as you can. Try to stay calm and as hard as it is, stay positive, stay healthy and take any advice and support that you can. This is a never been seen before situation. We just have to ride the storm as best that we can. Mental health is as important physical health and take support from anyone you can. You are not alone in this.

What can residents do to support local businesses?

Keep on supporting, if you can support those businesses that have e-commerce facilities or restaurants that’s are delivering then keep buying. Follow on social media and like and comment to raise SME’s profiles. We will get through this and hopefully us small businesses will find a way to survive and from my side tourists will return and activities and hospitality will resume normally over time.

Tala Badri, Founder and Executive Director, Centre for Musical Arts, Emirati lived in Dubai her whole life

 

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Operating since 2016, we are a community based music centre that teaches instrumental and vocal music individually and in groups. We run our lessons at our centre located in the Gold and Diamond Park as well as on a peripatetic basis at 17 schools in Dubai. We teach just over 1300 students. We are an international examination centre for the ABRSM and we also manage an online sheet music shop called Take Note.

How has the current pandemic affected your business?

As we are registered under the KHDA, following their directive 2 weeks ago, we have had to shut our business until at least 5 April or further notice. As a business that is driven by social contact and in person teaching, this has been a challenge. Financially, we are struggling as with no income coming in, we cannot make our rent, business loan and most importantly, salary payments. We are regarded as an option, an activity, unlike schools which are a necessity. We are fearful that students will not come back and with Ramadan / Summer holidays on the horizon where our business already suffers, it is a scary situation.

What measures have you taken to protect it?

We are trying to diversify by offering online options, but this itself presents many challenges from trying to find a legal platform to use as VOIP is still closed as well maintaining child protection aspects.  We have completely closed our offices to allow deep cleaning to take place so that when our staff return next week to offer digital lessons, there is a safe environment for them to work in.

What advice do you have for other businesses?

Be creative. There are opportunities there during this challenging time, but it does assume time and flexibility from the banks and landlords, our students and parents, and a huge amount of direct and focused support from the government to really make it work.

What can residents do to support local businesses?

At this time, the best thing they can do is not ask for refunds and try out the online learning platform.  We will be more than happy to defer lessons until when, and if, we are able to operate again.  To be patient and loyal and come back to us again when we can reopen, and take advantage of all the opportunities we will be able to provide once we are operational again.

Kim Lawrence, independent freelance swim coach, lived in Dubai for 7 years

 

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How has the current pandemic affected your business?

All pools and community pools have been closed, so once this occurred I was unable to teach. So I am now without any income until the closures are revoked. This comes at a time just after the winter months when business is quiet due to the weather, and then we had usually bad cold days, when lessons again had to cancelled. It was just in recovery when we got hit with this Virus pandemic.

What measures have you taken to protect it?

This really is hard to do, as I like many have to sit it out and hope very soon everything can go ahead again, uncertain times indeed. To protect my clients or should I say to help them, maybe help is not the word, but it will do for now, as some have paid for sessions which are now not able to take, all my existing clients will have credits for when we are able to start again. So they do not lose money, as everyone will be affected by this in some way.

What can residents do to support local businesses?

Hopefully once this ends, residents will show and support all local businesses, which I am sure they will do.

Aditi Patwari, Textile Artist & Founder of Dea Textile, lived in Dubai for 5 years

 

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How has the current pandemic affected your business? 

Two of our large group exhibitions have been postponed (Sikka Art Fair and World Art Dubai). This has frozen our investment in the exhibitions and the business that comes from it. We will have to wait until the events are back on to get a return.

What measures have you taken to protect it?

We are reinventing our strategy and finding business in new ways. We are embracing technology and shifting our conversations and marketing efforts online. Our next exhibition that is still happening is a smaller group exhibition called ‘The Extended Body; Mixing Cultures’ and is organised by Its Liquid Group in London. The opening ceremony will be live streamed on social media and will open up our reach and bring us international audiences. We are hopeful and moving forward in this direction and looking for other online galleries and partnerships.

What advice do you have for other businesses? 

Sometimes opportunities come to us disguised as challenges and it’s up to us to have an open mind and adapt to changes. We are lucky to be living in a time where we can stay connected online; think about how you can leverage that in your business.

What can residents do to support local businesses?

Support isn’t always financial. You can do so much by just liking, commenting, or sending a message to small businesses to show them your support. Share the businesses you like on your social media. Even if you cannot buy, someone who can, might see that post. Be their cheerleader – send them a message or drop a comment about why you like their business; it will keep them motivated.

Ani Stepanyan, Partner and Managing Director of Confidence First Clinic, lived in Dubai for 4 years

 

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What do you do?

Medical aesthetic clinic specialised in plastic and reconstructive surgery, aesthetic medicine and laser therapies.

How has the current pandemic affected your business?

My entire business stopped, no more sales to cover the expenses of the clinic, staff salaries, supplier payments, DEWA, rent etc.

What can residents do to support local businesses?

I believe the country needs to go to quarantine altogether to stop the spread the virus and go through the wave as quick as possible and recover from the loss faster.

Ana Olmeda, Founder and CEO of F&F Dubai specialising PR, Events Management and Marketing, lived in Dubai for 4 years

 

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How has the current pandemic affected your business?

This situation is really affecting us because I manage an events company and this industry has been one of the most affected with a mass number of cancellations. This is affecting us financially because right now is the high season for all kinds of events like social gatherings, weddings, corporate, brand launches, fashion shows, and all of them had been cancelled. We also had brands travelling from abroad to participate in the events this month and next, and of course they had to cancel their trips. Regarding the PR and Marketing this is the first thing that companies stop investing in when they are struggling. The consequences of this situation for SME is huge. If we don’t make the expected revenue now, what will happen to us and our employees in summer?

What measures have you taken to protect it?

At the moment there is not much we can do, just wait and try to postpone the events if possible instead of cancelling them. Planning for next months and changing outdoor venues for indoors for postponed events for summer.

What advice do you have for other business? 

We can try to find alternative sources of income, like doing online webinars and workshops instead of the regular ones (we do at least one ladies workshop a month about different topics) and promoting our clients and selling their products online. Is also a good moment to do other things like updating websites and databases, writing blogs to post later, and studying and improving ourselves.

What can residents do to support local businesses?

At the moment I think they can buy online products from small companies only. Later when things get better they can support companies like mine attending the events and sharing and promoting them in their social media.

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