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 Emirates Woman chats with Lucy Gibson, Founder of Sand Dollar Dubai. As one of the UAE’s most loved, homegrown boutiques, known for offering beautiful, handpicked, luxe resort wear for women, men, and children, has become a hub for tourists in the region.

As Dubai has slowly become home to various concept stores in the region, Sand Dollar is continuously making its mark in the emirate as a boutique hub for shopping.

The new Sand Dollar store which opened in July 2023 in Arjan, Dubai, is strategically nestled within the crossroads of some of Dubai’s major communities (Jumeirah Golf Estates, Jumeirah Village Triangle, Arabian Ranches, Al Barari, Victory Heights).

The 2,400 square feet store offers shoppers the chance to try and shop from more than 100 brands including Eres, Hunza G, and Melissa Odabash to fashion brands such as Nearly Fully Dressed. With an in-store stylist, Sarah Silsbury, visitors can choose from a myriad of pieces best-suited to their style.

With both luxury swimwear and stylish resort wear, this one-stop shop features an in-store coffee bar, a stunning outdoor terrace and a variety of activations.

To understand more about her journey as an entrepreneur, Emirates Woman delved into her story of how it all began.

What was your favourite subject at school?

At school, I thrived in collaborative team environments, so if I had to pick one subject, it would be PE. I really enjoyed it, especially when we had challenges that as a team we had to overcome together.

What was your first job?

My very first job was working as a shop assistant at Topshop, when I was just 15 – in the UK, it’s quite common to take on a part-time job when you’re at school. This was when I started falling in love with clothes and fashion, I used to get so excited when new collections dropped in store. My first full-time job after school was at a flower market in the heart of London, in Covent Garden. Here my creativity blossomed. I was involved with many aspects of the shop, my favourite part was piecing together flowers and creating beautiful boutiques bursting with colour.

What brought you to Dubai?

I was born and raised in Dubai. My parents have been living in the region for 55 years now – they were part of the original expatriates that came to this fascinating city all those years ago. After I completed my higher education in the UK, I flew back in a heartbeat. I wanted to be near my family and live my life in the place I loved the most.

What inspired you to enter the fashion space and launch Sand Dollar?

Before I started Sand Dollar, I always found it challenging to find luxury swimwear and resort wear that suited my style. With 365 days of sunshine a year; sandy beaches lined with glistening skyscrapers, I came up with the idea of starting a business where people could shop for beautiful items whether they were dressing for the beach or bar. Through starting Sand Dollar, I was able to take learnings from my degree in international business – it’s safe to say that I put it to good use!

Talk us through the concept of Sand Dollar?

Sand Dollar is a boutique that encapsulates the essence of effortless beach city elegance. It has a unique blend of coastal inspiration and modern sophistication, offering a refreshing take on contemporary fashion. Our carefully curated collection filled with global luxury brands and homegrown concepts has a harmonious balance between comfort and style. From flowing maxi dresses to elegant swimwear that exudes confidence, we offer timeless designs that empower individuals to express their individuality and embrace their innate sense of beauty. Sand Dollar has always and will always be a family-run business. Even my daughter loves to get involved (with the fun stuff). When she isn’t at school, or doing homework, or playing sports, she comes in and helps style looks with me – she is my inspiration when it comes to the children’s line.

What are the key elements of your role?

I oversee the running of the entire business; you could say I’m a ‘jack of all trades’. One of my main roles is purchasing, I always make sure the items we select have taste, style, and comfort – I handpick every single piece we sell. My second but equally important role is looking after the team. I work closely with them, ensuring we have a unified workforce. I’m very much committed to maintaining a good culture, where people feel valued, respected and most of all happy.

Talk us through your daily routine.

Before work, it’s all about mummy duties. I prepare the children for school, pack their lunches, and drop them off at school. I always like to get a workout in before the working day begins, so you’ll usually find me running on the treadmills or taking part in a class. Then I quickly get dressed and ready to head into the office. The first thing I always like to do is have a check-in with the team and see how everyone is doing. We use this time to run through the key actions for the day ahead and any new developments that need urgent attention. With seven standalone boutiques across Dubai and Abu Dhabi, I always try to visit one per day so I can meet with the retail teams. Quite often, my day sees me working closely with our e-commerce team, I assist with the packing and quality checks, and I make sure I chip in and support my team wherever and however I can. The evening then reaches and I’m back to my mummy duties.

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

Always work hard and put in the hours. You need to be persistent and find motivation to never give up. There will always be hurdles and challenges but know that there is always a solution. I firmly believe that taking the hard road can often lead to fruitful outcomes.

Tell us more about your pieces.

We have over 100 brands from luxury names such as Eres, Hunza G, and Melissa Odabash, to homegrown concepts, like Never Fully Dressed. We have a wide range of womenswear, menswear, and children’s wear that offers something for everyone; different price points, sizes, and ranges for different shapes, no matter who you are you will always discover something beautiful at Sand Dollar. We recently opened a flagship boutique in Arjan, this is where customers can discover the full range, which was before only available online.

What is the best piece of advice you have ever received?

Don’t make yourself dependent on anyone and always stay in tune with your team. It is so important to support your staff and sense check how they are doing. Without my team, Sand Dollar wouldn’t be the success it is today.

And what is the worst?

Always do your own research and don’t rely on other people’s words. Yes of course supportive friends and family will give advice and recommendations, but it’s important that you yourself take the time and look into things, read, and asses. It’s amazing how much you can learn, and often this way means you mitigate future mistakes.

What’s the biggest challenge you have had to overcome?

The adjustment from brick-and-mortar into the digital world, was a big learning curve, from various systems to building a specific team with certain roles. I think in the past few years many businesses have gone through similar challenges. With the pandemic, a lot of brands had to act fast and shift to the digital world. That said, since lockdown the brick-and-mortar industry has gone from strength to strength and footfall is back in a healthy state.

What’s your future for the brand?

I want to continue our successful growth and fine-tune the strong foundations that exist today. As we are a family-run business, I want that experience to come through more to our community. Sand Dollar has grown into much more than a fashion boutique, we are creating a lifestyle. I will continue to keep my finger on the pulse, build on our unparalleled customer experience, and explore ways to grow here in the UAE.

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Images: Supplied