Founded by 36-year-old Leslie Mallart, Dubai Confidential is a lifestyle website geared towards helping expat women “discover and explore hidden gems around the UAE.” Besides providing information on places, products and services that women in the UAE can check out, Dubai Confidential –along with its sister site Abu Dhabi Confidential- also hosts a career section that allows women to both advertise their businesses and look for partners for their enterprises. Though the owners started Dubai Confidential in 2011, it became a full-fledged business only two years ago when Abu Dhabi Confidential was launched, and according to Mallart, it reached 100k monthly visits. With a six-person team working in the company, which includes two other co-owners, its revenue stems mainly from advertising, with the founders making plans to raise funds to expand further and also launch an e-commerce platform by 2016. One thing she does to make sure her business runs efficiently? Clear communication is key, as the team is spread between Dubai and Abu Dhabi, along with weekly meetings and agreeing on a common strategy.
As an entrepreneur in the MENA ecosystem, Mallart considers the Dubai-based business incubator in5 as having been especially helpful in supporting UAE startups. She also commends Wamda as a platform to provide resources for ‘treps, and ImpactHub for offering useful conferences and workshops in Dubai. However, according to her, what is lacking in the ecosystem is more support, such as business consulting entities for all types of businesses, and not just startups and SMEs. “For instance, some organizations [could] provide core services to help businesses to grow,” she explains. “It could provide services to structure them, helping them raise funds or assess their business plan or provide mentorship programs.”
Other common hurdles, she says, are finding talent, cash flow problems and lack of regulations in the region. Advice-wise, based on her experience, Mallart says that what applies for any entrepreneur is to remember that resilience is key. In addition, she says one has to remember that what works elsewhere doesn’t necessarily have to work here: “[You need] to have a strong vision to know your market exactly and the demographics, because this market has [a] lot of specific features.”
What makes Dubai Confidential stand out among its regional and local competition?
Our social media reach is phenomenal- we have been picked by Facebook as one of the top three successful business stories in the UAE. A case study was carried out and published in April 2015 on Facebook about us. We also have a strong trust relationship with our readers, the open rate of our newsletter is in average around 30% and can go up to 50%- it is a lot higher than the average of a comparable media in this industry. Lastly, our content is very, very local; 90% of our traffic is from the UAE.
What were the biggest lessons from your endeavors? How did you learn them?
We are in a market that changes extremely rapidly and we have no grasp on it, so we have to be very flexible and adapt our business to the market and trends. It helps when you are a small company, because you make quick decisions. We test things, and if they don’t work as expected, we don’t pursue [it further]. We are quick to act.
What are some interesting trends and changes do you notice in your industry?
The importance of social media; it was always important, but it has become paramount to reach readers now. Also, more and more UAE users mainly use their mobile exclusively to browse the Internet, so having a mobile-friendly website is a priority.
What is your source of personal motivation?
To reach the goal we set when we started the website. It has been a fantastic journey so far. Seeing how we started and where we are now has fuelled our motivation.