Fitness and helping others has always been a passion for Emirati entrepreneur Asma Hilal Lootah. The 39-year-old George Washington University grad, who worked at Emirates Telecommunication Corporation prior to starting her own brand, was inspired by her passion for pilates to open a fitness studio for the same in 2008 at Healthcare City, which closed in 2014 to make way for her new enterprise, The Hundred Wellness Center, at Jumeirah.
The Hundred Wellness Center currently offers personalized wellness services, functional training, physiotherapy, and homeopathic specialists, as well as a cold-pressed juice and coffee bar. According to Lootah, the center ticks off the three factors she wants for a business she runs: it’s something that she loves, it’s something that she’s passionate about, and it’s something that she feels gives back to the community. “I am extremely passionate about leading a healthy lifestyle. Throughout my life, I have seen so many unhealthy people and have always wanted to reach out to them and help them, which I am able to do now. To be available to assist others in achieving a healthier lifestyle is a reward, and I always wanted to work with a rewarding business. It makes people happy, and that makes me happy too,” explained the founder.
Lootah believes that homegrown businesses are flourishing across industries in the MENA, and advises entrepreneurs wanting to start a business in the region to trust their gut, be passionate and determined about their enterprises. For Emiratis that needs help opening up their own business, she credits two associations for assisting her: the Abu Dhabi-based Khalifa Fund and Dubai SME. As for a fellow MENA-based entrepreneur that she personally admires, Lootah pointed toward Waleid Abdulkareim, founder of OnTime, a corporate service company dealing with legal paperwork, as having personally witnessed the growth and strength of the company over the years.
What are some interesting trends in your industry?
The fitness and wellness industry is booming in the UAE, which is good to see. There are more centers opening up, and I see that more and more people are going to yoga and meditation– due to our stressful lifestyle, people want to learn how to relax. I am happy to see growth within the local Emirati community as they are exercising more and living healthier lifestyles. I am extremely proud of the local women who want to become healthier and stronger and are taking up pilates, CrossFit training, and so much more.
What were the biggest lessons from your endeavors?
The biggest lesson was to be patient as everything takes time. As I am a very organized person, my biggest challenge was dealing with others who are not as organized, which used to make me really frustrated. Being your own boss means that you need to take care of everything, such as dealing with contractors, suppliers etc., and everyone has their own agenda, so dealing with that was very tricky. We stress over things, but what we need to remember is that at the end it gets done. I learned to be just calm, and everything eventually worked out. Sometimes things are slow– but we need to accept it, work with it and stress less. I really learned to have the patience and not to stress in the process, but instead I learned to enjoy it.
What devices and apps do you often use?
Sunrise App is a fantastic scheduling calendar app, which is like having your own personal assistant. It really helps you manage your time, and if you are like me, busy with both work and personal meetings on daily basis, it is a lifesaver. Wunderlist is another planning app, however, it helps you share your lists (both personal and business) with your colleagues or friends. For example, when working on a project you can share it between the team and all of you can work from it. This is a super-efficient app that helps us think and be organized in a fast-paced environment.