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Value Attracts Value: Startups (Honestly) Walking The Community Talk Will See It Returned In Spades There is clearly value in the collective- but only if you dare to ask for it.

By Aby Sam Thomas Edited by Aby Sam Thomas

You're reading Entrepreneur Middle East, an international franchise of Entrepreneur Media.


While there have been many harrowing photos and videos showcasing the devastating impact of the record-breaking storm in the UAE in mid-April, I was particularly struck by one shared at the time by Dubai-based small business, Bookends.

A second-hand bookstore that functions with both online and offline components, Bookends found its brick-and-mortar store located in Dubai Silicon Oasis under a meter of water following the rains. Besides the damage to the property at large, the business also lost over 10,000 of its books in its collection, and in an image that can still be seen on the Bookends page on Instagram, one can almost feel the desolation its founders Grace Karim and Somia Anwar must have felt as they look upon their beloved space, with a huge pile of damaged books at the center of it all.

I have been following the Bookends journey from almost its very beginning- I was a mentor at the 2019 Startup Weekend event that Anwar and Karim participated and then won third place in, and the business went on to be featured in Entrepreneur Middle East in 2021 as well. I have also been a happy Bookends customer, and so, all of my personal touchpoints with the business led me to feel really moved by this dark episode in the enterprise's story. As it so happens, this could very well have been its final chapter- as Anwar later admitted during an interview with Dubai Eye 103.8FM, she was almost ready to call it quits as an entrepreneur. "After living through the nightmare, I said, 'I don't want to do this anymore,'" she said. "'I'm done with this.'"

Founders are known to have a tendency to share just about every aspect of their entrepreneurial journeys when things are going according to plan, or at least a semblance of it. But when a crisis hits, these same people clam up, and the community they've built are often left unaware of the difficulties they're facing in their enterprises. As to why they'd choose to do this, it can perhaps be drawn to their reluctance to showcase any kind of vulnerability, and an insistence on keeping a stiff upper lip through any troubles they might be facing.

But all of this should explain why I was so taken by Anwar and Karim's heartfelt admission of the crisis their business was going through at that point in time. And while one may have thought it as being a death knell for Bookends, it instead turned out to be a rallying point for support in all forms for the young enterprise. From the outpouring of love and concern that they have received, to the volunteers and well-wishers who have chipped in to help the business get back on its feet, Anwar and Karim now find themselves fueled by the community they had built around them.

In fact, Anwar told Dubai Eye 103.8FM, "I have been blessed by the support from the community, from my family, from my friends, everybody. The moment we put the message out [that] we are closed, [that] we are affected by the rains, the amount of love and support that has poured in has been amazing. And I came to a point [where] I'm like, I have no choice, I have to do this, not just for myself and my family, but for everyone who has supported us in these dark times."

Value really does attract value; it is a testament to the importance of resilience in entrepreneurship, but also as an example of the power of community in this realm. There is clearly value in the collective- but only if you dare to ask for it.

Related: It's Not You, It's Me: A Reminder That Communication Remains A Two-Way Street

Aby Sam Thomas

Entrepreneur Staff

Editor in Chief, Entrepreneur Middle East

Aby Sam Thomas is the Editor in Chief of Entrepreneur Middle East. In this role, Aby is responsible for leading the publication on its editorial front, while also working to build the brand and grow its presence across the MENA region through the development and execution of events and other programming, as well as through representation in conferences, media, etc.

Aby has been working in journalism since 2011, prior to which he was an analyst programmer with Accenture, where he worked with J. P. Morgan Chase's investment banking arm at offices in Mumbai, London, and New York. He holds a Master's Degree in Journalism from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism in New York.  

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