Welcome to EW‘s weekly series ‘How I got my job as…’ where we speak to some incredible entrepreneurs both based in the UAE and globally to find out about their career paths that led them to where they are now; what their daily routines look like; the advice they’d give to those starting out; and the hurdles they’ve had to overcome.
This week we chat with the founder of UAE-based jewellery brand Terrasuya, Emanuel Brendarou, who is originally from Stockholm, Sweden. After moving to Dubai over five years ago, Brendarou saw a gap in the fashion and accessories space to create a brand that championed elegant accessories for everyday use.
EW sat down with Brendarou to find out more about his impressive career history, his new brand and what inspired him to enter into the realm of fashion.
What was your favourite subject at school?
Language studies in general: Spanish, Portuguese, and Arabic. I’ve always been curious about new places and cultures, maybe because I grew up in a peripheral part of the world, far away from beaches and palm trees. Language studies helped me bridge that gap.
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What was your first job?
I started working at the age of 12 years, taking part-time jobs during summer breaks or public holidays. I would get jobs cleaning, selling ice cream, waitering, whatever I could find. One of my first jobs, was at a local bakery in my neighbourhood back in my hometown, Stockholm. I think starting at a young age plays an infinite role in shaping your responsibilities and understanding the value of money.
What inspired you to go into the jewellery and fashion industry?
I find accessories exciting; accessories are usually the last pieces we put on when we get ready for our day, they complete our look. Accessories help us express our own style and they can carry meaning – I think many can relate to having a necklace, a bracelet, a pair of earrings or a watch with a sentimental value. They can be tied to a memory, a person, a moment, or a place.
I am passionate about creating those sentiments for people through our accessories and making them accessible to everyone, enabling our customers to express whatever it is they want to express to themselves, the world or their loved ones – no occasion required.
Further to this, I saw an opportunity to create something different – elegant accessories for everyday use, produced with long-term sustainability in mind, offered at a decent price. Whereas looking around, I think there was and still is a heavy focus on the luxury price points across different industries, whilst the affordable segments are being overlooked or serviced with quality that does not last. There is a common misconception that elegant design and quality cannot be attained without breaking the bank. We are here to change that. Terrasuya is about designing elegant and affordable accessories to be carried by anyone, anytime, anywhere.
What eventually brought you to Dubai?
I came here with my previous employer, to support on a strategy project for a regional consumer goods company. I ended up extending, and then I found love and decided to stay. If you would’ve asked me five years ago “where do you see yourself in five years?”, I probably would not have been able to predict living in Dubai. With that in mind, it’s exciting to think about what might lie ahead in five years.
You’ve launched your Terrasuya just this year. What’s the story behind launching your own brand here in Dubai?
It’s an idea that has been growing with me for a while, and I felt like the timing was right. Dubai is a great location to be based out of for many reasons. In many ways, this city is younger than myself, and still, in such a short time, Dubai has become one of the global hubs for tourists. You can look at Dubai in different ways, to me, it is a reminder that you can go far with a clear vision and determination. Second, our ambition with Terrasuya is to be global within the next 5-7 years, what better location to be based out of than Dubai? You can reach Asia, Europe and Africa, within 6-8 hours flight. Logistically it’s hard to beat.
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What are the key elements of your role?
As with every start-up, I think founders often wear many hats throughout the company’s progress. I think one of the key elements of my role is general problem-solving. We’re still a small team, which means I’m involved in pretty much everything from design, finances, marketing, logistics to customer service. This requires a solution-oriented mindset, a handful of creativity and a whole lot of flexibility. It could be anything from finding the right materials and tweaking product design to achieve the right quality in production, to planning every detail required for a photoshoot, to sorting out challenges with shipping a product from A to B within a realistic time frame.
Talk us through your daily routine.
Early start, around 5am, to charge the batteries before the workday starts. Usually, I try to fit in a workout or a walk, some reading and time for breakfast with a cup of coffee, or two.
I then start working around 8-9 am and I try to focus the early hours on demanding tasks. Simply because I’m more productive in the early hours, so I like to make the most out of them. It could be anything from looking at new product designs and planning for our next collection, to pure number crunching and planning for the quarter ahead. I try to postpone calls, meetings, and email replies to the afternoon – 2 pm and onwards. There is a lot of coordinating to do, which will take most of the day ahead.
Every now and then I also try to fit in a couple of product deliveries in person, to meet our customers. It’s an important part of my job, to connect with our customers. After all, they are the driving force.
The day usually ends around 7pm, with dinner and wind down before bedtime at 10pm – 11pm.
To summarize, I try to set-up the day and tasks to match my energy levels, it is not always easy with all the distractions around us; phones constantly pinging and email notifications popping up on the screen. It requires some discipline. I think it’s always worth reminding yourself that, most likely, there is no harm in keeping a message or email waiting for later the same day.
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What advice do you have for anyone looking to follow in the same footsteps?
We’re still in the early stages of building Terrasuya, but based on what I’ve learned so far from this experience, I would say: Whatever it is you’ve set your mind on doing, define a clear ambition and prepare for a long-distance run.
Things usually take longer time than you initially think, you have to believe in what you’re doing and then keep on running, one step at the time. Consistency will eventually generate results, but you also need to be open to pivot along the way. It’s a balance I guess, and it’s hard to be more specific, but the point is to plan for a long period of self-sufficiency and then just to keep going. Unexpected bottlenecks always pop up, in the end it comes down to how well you’ve prepared.
What is the best piece of advice you ever received?
There are many, but I guess what resonates the most with me at the moment is: “The best way to eat an elephant…”. Taking big things in small bite-size. It is really that easy. When something seems intimidating, the best thing to do is just to break the challenge down into small bits, and then go one step at a time.
What has been the biggest challenge you had to overcome?
There are a couple, but I think that’s life. Looking at the Terrasuya-journey, starting up a company in the UAE and getting things up to speed is a relatively demanding task.
What are your goals for 2021?
For Terrasuya, the goal is to be recognized regionally for our unique design language, for the quality we provide and for our high service level. In the longer run, we want people to think of Terrasuya as a company that breaks barriers and raises standards, in the GCC and beyond.
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