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 Noora Saeed, a top Emirati restauranteur in the UAE and founder of Vibe Café in Al Wasl and Vibe Restaurant & Bar in DIFC.
Having had a passion for food since she was young, Noora saw a gap in the F&B space in the UAE, with the vision to change what “eating healthy” means. With that, VIBE officially opened in 2018.
Emirates Woman sat down with Noora to find out what inspired her to enter the Dubai F&B space and what the future holds for the VIBE brand in the Middle East and beyond.
What was your favourite subject at school?
To be very honest, I was never one to love attending school. If I had to choose one subject, history was by far the one I enjoyed the most. I have always loved delving into the why’s and the how’s of why the world and its citizens are the way they are – it fascinates me.
On the contrary, I’ve always considered myself ‘street smart’, and since I was very young, I have been someone who naturally finds solutions for any scenario and am able to add creativity to everything I do.
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What was your first job?
Being the founder of my first venture, an eyelash extension brand named ‘Lash Dubai’. Building Lash Dubai into a successful business, which ended up being loved by the likes of Kim Kardashian and Makeup by Mario was an incredible journey from which I learnt a lot.
I was raised by my mom, who managed to successfully raise eight children, all while running her own business. Paying close attention to how she balanced it all and her leadership skills, I learnt so much from her when it comes to business. Thanks to her, I knew since I was very young that being an entrepreneur was my calling.
What inspired you to go into the F&B space and become a restauranteur?
I’ve had a passion for food since I was very young. I would literally stand up on a stool for hours and watch my mom preparing some amazing dishes, and I would be her guinea pig to perfect each dish.
I was extremely fortunate to be able to travel a lot when I grew up, and the highlights of my trips were always to explore the different flavours and cuisines the world has to offer; I would literally try everything and anything!
With that, I knew that the F&B was an industry I wanted to tap into and spent hour after hour planning what eventually became VIBE. Having my vision come to life, we successfully opened our first branch in Al Wasl, which quickly became a popular hot spot.
Can you talk us through the inspiration behind Vibe?
While the UAE has a strong array of F&B concepts to enjoy, I noticed a gap in the industry. I wanted to create a place that offered healthy and delicious dishes across a wide range of cuisines, all while providing a unique atmosphere.
VIBE does not only provide an experience that is tantalizing for the taste buds, it also provides beautiful ‘Instagrammable’ surroundings and great music, which is reflected in both our Al Wasl and DIFC branches. It is very important for us that we are constantly innovating ourselves, and we rapidly change up our menu with new and exciting flavours.
You’re paving the way for many female Emirati restauranteurs in the UAE. What does it feel like to be a role model for many?
Being a part of the pool of so many inspiring female Emirati restauranteurs humbles me and makes me feel proud at the same time. My wish is to ignite Emirati women with the same passion that led me to my achievements.
It makes me incredibly happy to see that female entrepreneurship in the UAE has seen massive growth in the UAE, and I have high hopes for our future female entrepreneurs.
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What are the key elements of your role?
As an entrepreneur, you need to be willing to do it all and ‘get your hands dirty’. Except for the cooking, all other functions are handled by me, with support from my amazing team. My role includes everything from marketing, sales strategy, designing, researching, managing teams, hiring and much more.
While being a business owner can feel overwhelming at times, it gives me a deep sensation of fulfilment seeing customers enjoying a meal with loved ones or knowing that I am providing my employees with a positive and supportive workplace.
I’m hands-on with everything; you would literally see me in the kitchen, then a moment later I’ll be on the floor entertaining customers!
Talk us through your daily routine.
I am an early bird and start my morning at 6am. The morning is incredibly important to me – it allows me to enjoy a cup of coffee for some ‘me time’ and planning the day ahead.
I head to the gym for a workout at 8am, which is, without doubt, the most important hour of my day, allowing me to de-stress and re-energize for the day ahead. After that, I meet with VIBE’s head chef and my assistant at one of our branches, where we discuss everything from the restaurant agenda for that day, to exploring F&B trends and much more.
Come 12pm, the rest of my day typically involves sales meetings, marketing meetings and bringing opportunities into fruition for VIBE, including events and concepts.
As much as I would love to stay at VIBE until late at night, I try to finish up by 7pm depending on how busy I am to get some downtime. My evenings are usually spent seeing friends, or even in front of the TV with a Netflix series. I also try to regularly visit restaurants around Dubai, not only to know what other F&B outlets have to offer, but because the UAE truly has a fantastic restaurant scene to explore.
What advice do you have for anyone looking to follow in the same footsteps?
Find the missing gap that you can fill. Once found, you can then create magic.
The F&B industry is a competitive one, and your journey will be no walk in the park. Being successful requires a great share of resilience and passion. Take each part of your journey as a learning curve, and make sure to study the market you are entering thoroughly.
Know that while you will face many ups and downs, it is up to you to get back up 10 times stronger.
Being your own boss is the most incredible feeling, and you need to keep reminding yourself it will all be worth it in the end.
What is the best piece of advice you ever received?
Don’t ever stop learning and growing as a person, because only then you can be the master of what you do.
The world we live in is always evolving, and so must you in order to be successful.
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And what is the worst?
I believe there is no such thing as ‘worst advice’. Everyone will have their own perceptions. Life is a learning curve and it’s okay to do mistakes – we’re all humans after all.
What has been the biggest challenge you had to overcome?
The UAE, especially in the past few years has welcomed some amazing F&B brands and concepts, and there is no doubt that the competition is high and staying relevant on a crowded market is a great challenge.
Despite that, VIBE has successfully marked its name in the industry, expanded and continuously gone from strength to strength. This is a challenge I am extremely proud to have overcome.
What are the future plans for your brand?
Our key vision for VIBE in the future is to expand internationally. Having received international recognition over some time now, we are seeing that tourists are adding visiting VIBE as part of their itinerary.
We are currently working hard on our strategy to expand outside the UAE, including VIBE franchising, and my end goal is for VIBE to be enjoyed by people around the world, without having to travel all the way to the UAE for that experience!
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