Entrepreneur Middle East's Achieving Women 2021: Mae Romero Do-Thanh, Owner And CEO, The Branding Room
"What I have learned to overcome is the feeling of frustration that is associated with those pre-conceived notions."
This article is a part of the 2021 installment of Entrepreneur Middle East's annual Achieving Women series, in which we profile female leaders of note in the MENA region. The full series can be seen in our October 2021 issue here.
When Mae Romero Do-Thanh was venturing into entrepreneurship, she didn’t have to look too hard for inspiration- after all, her father is someone who built an enterprise from the ground up, and it remains a thriving business even after four decades. And as someone who’s been encouraged to pursue her passions and be enterprising in life from a very early age, it should therefore come as no surprise that Do-Thanh chose the beauty industry and the world of aesthetic treatments to start a business in. “I personally like getting treatments done,” she says. “But aside from that, I also like learning about the concepts and methods, and that made me do all sorts of experiments on myself, family, and friends.” Indeed, it’s this drive that has led her to today become the owner and CEO of The Branding Room, a Dubai-based aesthetic clinic located in the Emirate’s Jumeirah Village Circle (JVC) neighborhood.
Launched in 2020, The Branding Room started out as a beauty lounge, but it soon pivoted to an aesthetic clinic providing elevated skincare, slimming, laser, and dermatological services. Driven by its mission of “approachable luxury,” The Branding Room aims to provide luxurious treatments that is accessible and affordable for all. “At first, I was working on the premise of putting up something based on what I love doing,” Do-Thanh says. “But as we were going along the process, we also realized that we have this great opportunity to bring a concept that doesn’t yet exist in the community and neighboring areas of JVC.”
As it is the “first” enterprise of its kind in the community, Do-Thanh believes that her business has quite an advantage as the premier specialized provider of face and body treatments in the area. Do-Thanh has also made it a point to hire relatively younger staff at her enterprise, which she believes adds on to the business’ ethos. “I believe that it makes us bring a fresh perspective into the field, which flows into my belief that, we as persons, and The Branding Room as a business, exist, so we may be able to help others be the best version of themselves.”
Mae Romero Do-Thanh, Owner and CEO, The Branding Room
Being the best version one can be, despite what the naysayers may think, also seeps into how Do-Thanh takes on hurdles she faces as an entrepreneur in the UAE. “It is a lot of whammies in my case,” she says. “Not only am I a woman, but I am also an Asian woman, and specifically, a Filipino… I have been boxed into stereotypes associated with my profile multiple times. How many times have people expressed their surprise that I am the owner of The Branding Room? I’ve already lost count. As well as the number of times that others do not take me too seriously, because of my gender and my physical appearance. It somewhat seems to them that I am just this silly, tiny thing, who is trying to wiggle her way into a league that is not of her own.”
According to Do-Thanh, this perception exists because though there are several Filipino and Filipina business owners in the UAE and in the wider MENA region, their contributions are often sidelined or ignored. “It’s still somewhat considered uncommon, just because we are still outnumbered by other nationalities in terms of being business owners,” she notes. “The majority of the population are categorizing us, generally, as being in the UAE as hired hands. Because of that, it does seem like we are out every day to prove that not only Filipinos are good employees, but we can be good business owners too.”
Do-Thanh is clearly fighting a lot of racial connotations as she goes about building her business in the UAE, but she also refuses to let it affect the vision she has for her enterprise- and it’s a paradigm that she recommends her fellow Filipino entrepreneurs in the UAE to follow as well. “If we do put up businesses here, rarely would they be elevated enough to be able to compete with other concepts. I stand together with other Filipino entrepreneurs and professionals, who are constantly proving that we, as well, can bring forth establishments that are refined.”
And while it may seem like an uphill battle, Do-Thanh says that she has figured out a way to get through all of the assumptions that are thrown her way. “What I have learned to overcome is the feeling of frustration that is associated with those pre-conceived notions,” she says. “I do that by simply taking everything with a grain of salt. I try to look ahead, so I would not dwell on certain thoughts and events that I know I would just laugh about eventually.” At the end of the day, Do-Thanh always makes sure she stays true to herself- and that’s what keeps her going, no matter what. “One must adjust according to the situation, but that shouldn’t mean that you should lose who you are in the process,” she concludes. “Keep being honorable, even when you’re thrown in the den of thieves."
Source: The Branding Room
THE EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: Mae Romero Do-Thanh’s tips for women in business
1. Be patient. “I really had to learn that patience is key. I am sure that the topic of patience as a lesson learned has been said countless times, but it truly is something an entrepreneur who’s starting out must learn. In business, a lot of important and joyous milestones and experiences do not happen overnight. You just have to keep persevering with your best effort.”
2. Trust your gut. “Trust has to be tempered with cautiousness. I, generally, am a trusting person, and I think the environment in the UAE, wherein the idea that it is a safe place, will heighten that confidence that one can have in other people. I did learn that others, even those who you can ‘trust,’ like consultants, landlords, partners in business, or employees, can take advantage of you. At the end of the day, everything is a business, and so, you must not forget to look out for yourself as well.”
3. Research the ins and outs. “Always strive to be knowledgeable about policies and your rights in relation to your business and your job, so you may be able to speak up when the circumstances call for it. I had to learn to let go of my habit of suffering in silence. I have realized that often times, I am not doing myself and others a favor by not bringing up certain points, just because I want to avoid a discussion or a possible confrontation. I always remind myself that a way for certain changes or expectations to come is to talk about them.”
Pamella de Leon is the Startup Section Editor at Entrepreneur Middle East. She is keen on the MENA region’s entrepreneurship potential, with a specific interest to support enterprises and individuals creating an impact.