Najla Al Ansari, co-founder of NOT a SPACE, discusses cultivating communities through creativity throughout the UAE.
A graduate of the American University of Sharjah, UAE, I’m an Emirati serial entrepreneur and co-founder of NOT a SPACE, alongside other side ventures. As an explorer of life, I never intended to become an entrepreneur but I always had the fire in me to take risks. Venturing into my first business, a day spa that was built in 2011, was the biggest risk at only 21 years old. It was hard for me at the beginning with sleepless nights and limited resources but eventually, it all fell into place when you put the hard work into it. Now, I’m creating more spaces and taking more risks has become an addiction and I’m loving it. I believe everyone has a purpose in life and when you connect with that love, that’s when the magic unfolds.
NOT a SPACE was launched in 2019 right before the pandemic hit with a focus on creating a community to work and play, eat and shop, and get groomed. A space for all to enjoy good music, great coffee and creating more stories and friendships. It is NOT your ordinary hangout place, NOT for egos, NOT for perfection… but a space to feel free and be you. Simply, NOT is a space with a heart, one that brings wild and kind souls together. At NOT, you can find a barbershop, a parlour, a pet grooming spa, and a community cafe right in the centre that brings all humans and pets together through the different events we create and host from music, fashion, wellness, sports, talks and workshops. During winter and summer, NOT pops up in unique locations around the UAE. One that is most popular, is our Al Faya winter annual and magical pop-up located far away in the desert where you can enjoy the breeze, live events, and peaceful mountain views attracting the sunrise explorers, sunset lovers, and the night owls under the starry skies.
I’ve got both a creative and business mindset. Without being able to explore and create new ideas, I wouldn’t be able to run the business and vice versa. I spend most of my time being inspired by what’s out there and then strategically putting it into a plan to make sure it is feasible and makes financial sense. Especially, in our line of business and space, we rely a lot on creativity which gives us a competitive edge by always being different and ahead of the game in offering new experiences to the community.
I’m a true believer in doing good and it will come back to you in time. And to always go after your dreams because it’s a chance you take on yourself and you are the driver of your own future. Only you can decide what’s good for you, control the speed and be responsible for the choices you make. You are you and that is your superpower to be truly happy.
If you’ve got an idea but are not sure if it will work, go ahead and jump right in if you truly believe in it. It starts with the first step and the rest will follow. It doesn’t come easy, but it’s a beautiful journey if you do what you love.
When we weren’t generating any revenue, my first business was coming down really fast and almost crashing before I re-strategized and started to look at things differently. This changed my perception of things and I learnt that we need to listen to the market more, invest in the right team and then put a system in place but most importantly, to keep moving and never stop believing.
I’m happy with how from starting my business at such a young age to being selected as a board member at the Sharjah Business Women Council, to organizing the first and fastest growing Sharjah Entrepreneurship Festival that takes place every year gathering thousands of like-minded individuals, business owners and aspiring entrepreneurs. Running my own business is a full-time job now at NOT a SPACE and I have never been happier!
People from all around the world of different backgrounds, mindsets, cultures and experiences that I meet and learn from every single minute of every single day. Saying yes to new adventures all the time guides you to opportunities, experiences, and learnings to be better every day.
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