Welcome to the Emirates Woman weekly series ‘How I got my job as…’ where we speak to some incredible entrepreneurs and businesswomen 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 Somaiah Al Dabbagh, Founder of Maeya, a homegrown chic activewear brand known for its unique designs. Designed with functionality, these size-inclusive pieces are designed to instill confidence in their customers, as they embark on their fitness journey.

Self-taught in textiles and designs, this Saudi entrepreneur creates all the pieces herself to provide the highest quality of fashion-forward activewear with various textiles, prints and materials.

Emirates Woman sat down with Al Dabbagh to find out more about how it all began and more about her entrepreneurial career path.

What was your favourite subject at school?

History and English were my favourite subjects at school. History taught me about the past and how it shaped the present, while English allowed me to explore the beauty of language and storytelling.

What was your first job?

My first job was as a junior secretary at a financial institution. It was a fast-paced environment that required a high degree of organisation and attention to detail. I learned a great deal and developed valuable skills in time management, communication, and problem-solving. Most importantly, I gained an appreciation for the crucial role that administrative support plays in the smooth operation of a business.


What brought you to Dubai?

Dubai is a hub for international trade and commerce, making it an ideal location for a brand like mine. The city has a strong economy, a well-developed infrastructure, and a favorable business environment, which has provided me with the resources and support I need to grow my business. The city has a thriving tourism sector and is a popular destination for tourists from all over the world. Hence, I saw an opportunity to tap into this market by offering high-quality activewear to fitness-conscious travellers. I was drawn to Dubai for its thriving fashion industry and the opportunities it presented for growth and innovation in my career. The city’s diverse cultural landscape and its reputation as a hub for creativity and business made it an appealing destination for me to establish my brand and pursue my passion for activewear design. Dubai provides a unique combination of favourable business conditions, a strong tourism sector, and a focus on health and wellness, making it the ideal location to live and work.

What inspired you to enter the activewear space and launch Maeya?

In 2020, I established a brand with the goal of providing stylish, elevated wardrobe options to women of all ages, sizes, and skin tones. After devoting two years to research and brand development, my objective was to empower women and boost their confidence by offering versatile and fashionable activewear that can be worn on a daily basis. My vision is to inspire self-assurance and help women stand out with their unique style. As a fitness lover, I noticed a lack of activewear that combined both fashion and functionality in the market. This realisation inspired me to create a brand that caters to this unmet demand and fills the gap. By offering premium fitness wear, I aspire to inspire and motivate more people to lead an active lifestyle. My ultimate goal is to make a positive impact on the world, as I believe that a healthy and active lifestyle can enhance one’s physical and mental well-being. This entrepreneurial journey has been extremely gratifying, and I am grateful for the chance to share my passion for fitness and wellness with others.


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Talk us through the inspiration of your pieces.

The inspiration behind our activewear brand is to empower individuals to feel confident and comfortable while pursuing their passions and staying active. Our pieces are designed with functionality in mind, incorporating features such clean fabrics and stretchy and comfortable materials. At the same time, we believe in the power of fashion to elevate one’s self-esteem and inspire self-expression, so our pieces are also stylish, with bold colors and unique patterns that allow our customers to stand out. Ultimately, our goal is to create activewear that blends performance and fashion, helping our customers look and feel their best while they chase their fitness goals and live their lives to the fullest.

What are the key elements of your role?

As the proprietor of an activewear company, I have a multi-faceted role that encompasses several key aspects, including brand strategy, where I formulate and execute a unique vision for the brand to stand out in the market and appeal to our target audience; product design, where I supervise the creation of our activewear items and collaborate with the design team to guarantee they meet our standards of performance, comfort, and style; supply chain management, where I maintain relationships with suppliers, producers, and logistics companies to guarantee efficient production, timely delivery, and quality assurance; marketing and sales, where I spearhead our marketing and sales initiatives to increase brand recognition and boost product demand, financial management, where I oversee the financial health of the business and make decisions regarding investments, budgeting, and pricing to secure its long-term prosperity, and team management, where I lead a competent and dedicated team, offering support and direction to aid in their personal and professional growth. Ultimately my duty as the owner of an activewear brand is to bring the brand vision to fruition and secure its success in a constantly evolving and competitive market.

Talk us through your daily routine.

My daily routine revolves around staying active and promoting a healthy lifestyle. I usually start my day with a light full body focused workout. I’ll have a healthy breakfast to fuel me for the rest of the day. Throughout the day, I spend time on various tasks related to my brand, including product development, testing of samples, communicating with my suppliers, marketing and managing the team who I work closely with to ensure that our shared vision for the brand is being executed consistently and effectively. Three days a week, I also like to hit the gym for a strength training session. This helps me clear my mind and recharge my energy. As someone who designs activewear, it’s important for me to experience the functionality and comfort of the pieces I create. By testing the clothes myself, I am able to identify areas for improvement and make any necessary tweaks to ensure the highest quality for my customers.

What advice do you have for anyone looking to follow in the same footsteps?

For anyone wanting to start an activewear brand, it’s important to find your niche in the market and offer unique and high-quality products that meet the needs of your target customers. Secondly, customer satisfaction should be a top priority. Listen to feedback and make changes based on customer needs to build a loyal customer base. Thirdly, assemble a strong and motivated team who shares your vision and passion. Remain flexible in the face of market changes and be open to new ideas. I also believe that its very important to keep focused on your goals and don’t let setbacks discourage you. Finally, network and seek support from industry professionals and business advisors. Starting an activewear brand takes hard work, dedication, and passion, but with the right approach, the rewards can be significant.

What is the best piece of advice you ever received?

Never give up on your goals and always believe in yourself. This advice has stuck with me throughout my fitness journey and has also been instrumental in the success of my brand. Whether I’m pushing through a tough workout or facing challenges in the business world, this reminder to persevere and have confidence in my abilities has been a source of motivation and inspiration. It has taught me to never settle for mediocrity and to always strive for excellence in all aspects of my life.

And what is the worst?

The worst piece of advice I ever received was you can’t have it all. This was a mentality that I encountered early on in my journey and it almost made me give up on my dreams of building a successful business while also pursuing my passion for fitness. However, I realised that this advice was limiting and not reflective of the unlimited potential and opportunities available to me. Instead of accepting this advice, I chose to challenge it and proved that it was possible to balance my passions and achieve my goals. I now use this experience to inspire others to never give up on their dreams and to believe in their ability to have it all.

What has been the biggest challenge you had to overcome?

At the time of our launch, the world was facing the outbreak of COVID-19. This made it a challenge for us to even gain traction on our social media platforms, particularly our Instagram page. However, I persevered and established trust with our customers through transparency, honesty, and strong customer service. This led to repeat business and positive word-of-mouth, which proved to be a highly effective marketing tool. I always made it a priority to listen to my customers’ feedback and respond to their needs, such as by working with my suppliers to release an oversized t-shirt. Customer feedback is at the core of Maeya’s DNA and it is through this feedback that we are able to grow and evolve. By staying connected and engaged with our customers, I was able to build a close relationship with them and grow the brand. Despite challenges such as shipping delays, freight packaging scares, and disruptions in the supply chain, we were able to overcome these obstacles through our focus on customer service and our commitment to listening and responding to their needs.

What are the future plans for your brand?

The future plans for the brand include expanding our online presence, opening physical stores in Dubai, and partnering with more online retailers. We also aim to expand our product offerings by venturing into men’s athletic wear and children’s athletic wear, thereby reaching a wider demographic and attracting more customers. Our goals for expansion include entering the markets of the GCC and KSA, and eventually signing a retail partner in the USA. Currently, in KSA and the USA, customers purchase our products through our website. We are in talks with e-commerce companies for partnerships, and actively seeking an online retail partner in the UAE. Additionally, we have our sights set on tying up with luxury department store chains in the Middle East and globally.

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