Five Minutes With Entrepreneur Christianna Tsiterou, Founder, The Gift Concierge
"The Gift Concierge was born out of my personal need and desire to make the experience special for friends and loved ones, " says Christianna Tsiterou, founder and Creative Director of The Gift Concierge, a service which launched in June this year offering VIP personal gift shopping, experience packages and wedding registry. Tstiterou found that consumers who enjoyed giving gifts like herself would need to source and organize certain elements to different services, as their requirements varies. "That's what The Gift Concierge is all about: a special, dedicated, bespoke and luxurious celebratory experience."
No stranger to the entrepreneurial ecosystem, the marketing and business administration grad also holds a Diploma in Teaching and is a U.S. Certified Life Coach and mentor, and she is the co-founder and Managing Partner of Innoverto, a corporate training and event management company based in UAE. Her tips to starting a business in MENA, she says, is what she would advise to anyone in any other country: research the market diligently, have patience and don't rush in building a project's foundation, and believing in what you're doing and ensuring your actions reflect it.
"Generally, I believe that the UAE encourages entrepreneurship and the support and availability of resources are continuously increasing. What I would like -and hope to see- in the near future, is a bit more diversity on the type of incubators and startup support across multiple industries." Any lessons from her ventures she'd like to impart? "There is an opportunity in every crisis," says Tsiterou, adding how the recent financial crisis was a "learning curve." And of course, the one thing she finds is needed to run a company efficiently? Effective time management.
How do you motivate your team?
The concept of our business is a very strong motivator in itself: we work with people on celebrating some of their most important occasions. We share in their joy! Not much can compare to that I think. On a personal level, I would say through leading by example. I am a perfectionist and I like to think that my team gets inspired by the results this brings not only to our clients, but also to the overall company culture.
What would you say is the region's biggest challenge for entrepreneurs?
I think the biggest challenge is the misconception of it being easier here than it is anywhere else in the world. It is great that the region, and specifically the UAE, is encouraging entrepreneurship. Geographically, it's a major hub and getting through the red tape can be easier here than it is in other parts of the world. However, once you get started, the amount of work and effort you need to put in are the same, if not more, than in other parts of the world. You need to understand both the regional and international cultures that you will be catering to and let's not forget that competition is becoming increasingly high, as everyone wants a piece of the pie.
Which MENA-based startup initiative do you think has been making a difference in encouraging and supporting business endeavors in the region?
I think Dubai Silicon Oasis has made a tremendous difference in the digital/tech world with the comprehensive support they provide. Another one is Turn8; I specifically like the fact that this accelerator is designed to merge startups with the real corporate world. It helps them test the waters in a more real-life environment and get to the next stage so much faster.
What is your source of personal motivation?
My personal motivators are creativity and the constant need for change. I am what you would call "restless" and need challenges. If a challenge is there, great. If there isn't one, I will create one in the form of a new project, goal or business.
How do you manage your time?
Time management is probably one of my strongest traits and also something I look for in the people I work with. A to-do list from the night before helps me plan my day, divided between the tasks that definitely need to be completed during the day and the ones that can be moved over to the next if necessary. Secondly, I don't interrupt to read emails. While I do check my emails throughout the day, I will not interrupt a specific task to check my inbox. Thirdly, I avoid unnecessary meetings, and when I do have meetings I try to group them, both in terms of location and timings, so as not to split the productive hours of the day. And finally, unless there is a specific project at hand that requires it, I don't work weekends. Work-life balance is extremely important to me.