Success in the city… Dubai’s entrepreneurs share their stories
Dubai has always brimmed with a spirit of entrepreneurship. Some of the emirate's self-starters share their stories with Vision
‘Dubai is a land of opportunity and that opportunity is not tied to a particular bracket or class of people’ Zufi Alexander, Luxury bag designer
Property developer Nadia Zaal
Emirati Nadia Zaal spent her childhood around a kitchen table brimming not just with richly flavoured Middle Eastern dishes but with vessels of entrepreneurial zeal, dreams and ideas. “My grandfather, owning a building in Deira, was one of Dubai’s first landlords in the fifties and sixties and my father followed suit,” explains Nadia.
A combination of this entrepreneurial family background and the inherent openness to new ideas and concepts prevalent in Dubai made its mark on Zaal from an early age and has stayed with her.
She spent her childhood in Dubai before returning to the UK to study Government Economics and then taking a job in the Abu Dhabi Government as a financial analyst. Aged 23 she was responsible for negotiating multi-billion-dollar deals. Hardly surprising then that before she hit 30 her real estate company Zaya was heading up an ambitious property development, the exclusive private island of Nurai, in the Emirates.
This location marks the realisation of Nadia Zaal’s entrepreneurial dreams. Dubbed by Newsweek as the “Most luxurious project in the world”, Nurai is an uber-opulent community of limited-edition beachfront estates and water villas set off the Abu Dhabi coast. www.zaya.com Home furnishing retailer Thomas Lundgren
“Because we don’t believe the world needs another retailer, THE One aims to be both magical and meaningful,” explains Swede Thomas Lundgren, founder of this imaginative Dubai-based furniture brand.
This energetic fortysomething believes his brand aims are ultimately achievable because THE One doesn’t sell just furniture and accessories, but feelings too. “It’s not what you buy that’s important, it’s how you feel after you’ve bought it,” argues Lundgren. “We see our stores as theatres where our audience is entertained by a cast of employees.”
THE One sells “Home Fashion”. A sleek urban table serves to free up conversation in a dining room and a woven lampshade brings warmth to a calm, white living room. Underpinning it all is Lundgren’s wish to “save the world” from anodyne interiors.
In 1997 he decided Dubai was the perfect place to realise his ambitions, so following his first store launch in Abu Dhabi, he opened an outlet in the smart Jumeirah Beach district and, subsequently, four more locations in the emirate.
Lundgren’s vision is set to expand globally, with a target of 99 stores by 2020. www.theoneplanet.com Luxury bag designer Zufi Alexander
Luxe bag designer Zufi Alexander has found a fan base among such fashionable red carpet walkers as Cate Blanchett, Sienna Miller, Alicia Keys and Beyoncé.
After a university education that combined the US with the ivory towers of Oxford, she cut her business teeth at one of London’s most established auction houses. “I love art and vintage jewellery and have always been good at drawing,” she says. “A role at Christie’s fitted the bill perfectly.”
It soon became clear that the surroundings – and perhaps the sale of the odd vintage Chanel clutch – were inspiring her own artistic aspirations as a handbag designer.
Zufi Alexander’s eponymous label now sells more than 10,000 bags a year to women across the world. Married to an Englishman and living between London and Dubai, she personifies the international woman she designs for.
“Dubai is a land of opportunity and that opportunity is not tied to a particular bracket or class of people,” she says. “At the same time, I love it because I get to experience all different types of people and culture.”
That vow has been superseded by her love of what she has achieved: “It’s all