Five Minutes With Entrepreneur Vera Futorjanski, Co-Founder, Vaniday Vaniday founder and Managing Director Vera Futorjanski says that while there's an on-demand booking app for "virtually every kind of product or service," there was a gap in the market when it came to discovering and booking beauty and wellness services- which is now filled by her app.

By Pamella de Leon

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Vaniday founder Vera Futorjanski

Vaniday co-founder and Managing Director Vera Futorjanski says that while there's an on-demand booking app for "virtually every kind of product or service," there was a gap in the market when it came to discovering and booking beauty and wellness services- which is now filled by her app. Founded in Brazil in March this year by co-founder Maxime Legardez, Vera Futorjanski -along with co-founder Nitin Reen- launched Vaniday in UAE in June, with the app also available in Russia, Italy, France and Australia on Android and iOS devices. The company's headquarters is in Berlin, with offices in each of its local markets.

The Vaniday platform, which lets people find their ideal salon or spa match, view customer-generated reviews and book their appointments in a quick and seamless way, is now ready to expand further throughout Middle East. And based on their recent funding of €15 million, others seem to think so too- Vaniday's main investor is Rocket Internet.

Motivating their team is also a focus for the startup. As they treat every employee as a brand ambassador of Vaniday, Futorjanski says that besides open communication –the one thing that the founder does to make sure Vaniday runs efficiently-, "we [also] like to keep hierarchies flat and encourage honest feedback." On the region's entrepreneurial ecosystem, Futorjanski finds KSA's Easytaxi as a startup that has made an impact on women's lives in the country, as it gives women the accessibility with a click to book a car. With incubators, she highlights Imago for being an F&B accelerator catered for the region and its restaurant industry- a USP for this entity.

What makes Vaniday stand out among its regional and local competition?

The market of online beauty and/or wellness is very fragmented, and we can now see a few small players entering the market, which demonstrates the potential growth of the sector. However, there are no major global players offering the vast choice of beauty and wellness services that Vaniday offers. We are not limited to a country, a continent or a particular service, but depending on the needs of each market, we offer a wide choice of specialized services in this sector and aim to reach customers all around the world, forging a reputation as the go-to online platform for the beauty sector.

What would you say is the region's biggest challenge for entrepreneurs?

I think the biggest challenge for entrepreneurs in the region is the fragmentation of the market and the particularities of the regulations of each. Another challenge is targeting very diverse groups in the same market, such as expats with different cultural backgrounds, needs and habits, and of course, targeting the locals.

What advice would you give to startup founders when pitching to seek funding?

1. Select investors whose ethos matches or complements that of your own business or brand.
2. Prepare a thorough pitch that includes statistics and information about predicted growth and what investors can expect in return for their investment.
3. Make sure that you keep any promises that you make to investors. This will ensure they have confidence in you and your brand and they will continue to support you.

What are your top three tips for an entrepreneur to start a business in MENA?

For now I can only speak for the UAE, not yet for the whole MENA region. I would say the top three tips are:

1. Have someone who is well versed and confident with local business practices and legalities and who you trust implicitly on your side.
2. Make sure you hire the right talent.
3. And last but not least, provide a superb customer service.

What were the biggest lessons from your endeavors? How did you learn them?

One of the most important lessons I have learned is to have the right partner to work with. It makes a tremendous difference when you go through ups and downs to have a partner next to you that you can rely on.

What apps do you often use?

I use Salesforce to monitor our sales process, Expensify to keep track of our expenses. And in my private life, I use TripAdvisor, the iTunes University app and Spotify quite regularly.

Pamella de Leon

Startup Section Editor, Entrepreneur Middle East

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.

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