Five Minutes with Entrepreneur Raki Phillips, Co-founder of SugarMoo
In a perfect world, we should be able to have desserts all day, virtually anywhere. This startup is, perhaps, a step towards that. SugarMoo comes with a promise that you can order any of its desserts online, have it delivered anywhere in Dubai in 90 minutes or less. Launched in November 2014, the startup is an original concept by 36-year-old Raki Phillips, a hotelier by trade, and 36-year-old Jawad Yehia, who has an engineering and business development background.
Interestingly enough, the SugarMoo enterprise began after the founders hit a block when looking for a franchise concept to execute- they wanted to focus on desserts, as it’s a personal passion for both of them, and they felt that from a business margin point of view, it would be viable in the F&B sector. The two flew to New York to meet with several operators, but were met with “ridiculous conditions” upon hearing they were from Dubai. Phillips says that this frustration pushed them to develop and execute SugarMoo.
“Starting your own concept is both financially and creatively so rewarding that I couldn’t imagine doing it differently,” he says, adding that they relished being involved with everything across branding to conceptual development, to what the business is today. From their research phase, the co-founders established that existing dessert options came in two extremes of cupcakes and Arabic sweets. They decided to position themselves as the “anti-cupcake” establishment with a focus on “out-of-the-box creative hybrid desserts,” referring to their creations as “a mix of East meets West, and funky concoctions that taste just as good as they look and sound,” with some healthier dessert alternatives on the menu as well.
To fund the enterprise, 40% of their seed investment came from Philipps and co-founder Yehia, while the remaining 60% was raised from investors. And for those of you who think startups can’t do CSR, SugarMoo donates 5% of revenues and 2% of profits to charities focused on health, community, children, and education. In terms of the MENA entrepreneurial ecosystem, Phillips likes the camaraderie of entrepreneurs getting advice from each other, recommending in5 and AstroLabs as incubators with affordable and accessible facilities. As for funding platforms, the co-founder suggests Eureeca and Envestors for up-and coming-startups. He also applauds Nabbesh and Namshi for their success, and is impressed with startups MoveSouq.com and Laundrybox for aspects of customer service and ease of use, as he’s a client of both companies.
What are your top three tips for MENA entrepreneur looking to start a business?
First, take your time with your business plan. Develop a concept and work on it over and over until you feel it’s perfect, then work on it some more. Your business plan has to have a solid core and defined purpose, yet fluid enough to adapt to the several changes it may need to become a viable business. Also, get good legal advice, as it’s so important to have that tightly buttoned-up. Secondly, review the financials! Make sure you are well-funded and your business plan makes sense financially. Raising capital can be much easier with a solid financial model. Have a buffer in your working capital, as you will be hit with expenses you are not prepared for. And finally, hire the right team. They will get you to your goal faster. I always believed in hiring people that are better than you! They will only drive you to elevate yourself to the next level. If someone is not working out, then don’t let them hold you back. Make sure you surround yourself with a team that has one vision and endless passion.
How do you guarantee to deliver in 90 minutes?
It’s a secret of our trade and a logistics game. But it took a long time to perfect this process before we launched. Delivering desserts is quiet intricate, as the desserts are delicate and how you produce, package and deliver has to remain consistent. All our desserts are made fresh and only with natural ingredients, so how it comes out of the oven is how we want it to reach your home. We met with several industry experts who offered F&B delivery and learnt the tricks of the trade [from them]. We realized this was an opportunity to differentiate ourselves, and then worked on the right packaging and product to ensure it is perfected.
What were the biggest lessons from your endeavors?
The biggest lesson is [to] know who you are doing business with. Having the right partners is the greatest joy of any business because you go through the ride together, and the ups and downs are much better with the right person by your side. I’m lucky to have someone like Jawad who is as passionate as I am, and we balance each other out positively.
What devices and apps do you often use?
I love the ADCB app, it’s the easiest I’ve come about and it makes banking so convenient that I don’t remember the last time I had to visit a branch. I’m also a big foodie, so I’m constantly looking at all the food apps out there like Zomato and Talabat. The most used app I have is SiriusXM radio which gives my hundreds of satellite radio channels to listen to and keep in touch with all my favorite shows stateside!