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How To Ensure Your Survival As A Startup If you identify a need and offer a unique selling point (USP) with your business, people will still buy, regardless of what may be happening to the economy.

By Samar Nabulsi

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Whenever we want insight on the current economy to help us assess our business, we seem to always go back to history and read more about similar economical situations in the past. Whether you go back in time to as early as World War I and its subsequent effect on the global economy, or to maybe as recent as the 2008 market crash, we can easily conclude that industries rise and fall according to a myriad of factors that shape current markets.

Economists have referred to the 2008 financial crisis as "the 2008 bubble," and I couldn't agree more. While businesses everywhere were trying to save themselves with everything from cost cutting to layoffs, SMEs were drastically affected by this crisis. Several concepts closed before they even opened! I saw tons of people throw away their hard work and dreams, thinking they will revisit them in a few years when the markets pick up again.

Seven years later, I still don't see those concepts open for business. Is it because they are worried their concept will not survive the fierce competition today? Or is it because the economy did not quite recuperate from 2008? Is it too late for these businesses to launch? As it so happens, we have just completed a seven year cycle since the 2008 bubble- so are we about to embark on yet another cycle that may lead to another global financial crisis?

We may not be able to answer that particular question- but one can be proactive about it all the same by thinking long and hard about one's business model. Consider my own enterprise, Big On Children, as an example. I saw that if you identify a need and offer a unique selling point (USP) with your business, people will still buy, regardless of what may be happening to the economy. A financial crash doesn't change our impulse to purchase- we just become smarter shoppers. In 2012, we saw an opportunity in the children's retail business, and more specifically, the personalization industry. People are always looking to buy something that is out of the ordinary, not available in their market or just simply personalized- and that is how we identified that our business is, in fact, recession-proof.

The personalization business is worth over US$3 billion annually. Every industry today is jumping on the personalization bandwagon. It started with having your own personal shopper or personal trainer, and it's moved on to being associated with owning a $1000-dollar pen engraved with your initials, or something as simple and small as having a child's name on a blanket. The "personal" aspect makes it more defined as a product- that something is ultimately your own. It was made for you, manufactured for you and probably gifted to you.

The opportunity we thus saw for Big On Children started with an American brand called Sing Your Name that launched in early 2000, which was an enterprise that had proved time and time again that it was a solid, unique and profitable business. Using that as a model, we took personalization to a whole new level with Big On Children, and the beauty about our business is simple: there's no competition.

What we are experiencing now though, with the unfortunate events of migrants taking refuge in Europe, stock markets heading south and real estate losing its value, is that people are yet again worried about what is coming next. The only thing we are now sure of is education- which is why our next focus as Big On Children is finding the fun in educating our children, and help them discover their talents to prepare them for what is yet to come.

So how do you start or survive a market crash, a bubble or fierce competition? It really is simple: just go back to the basics! Recognize the need, understand the demand and supply, and find a solution that is unique and personal. That, in my opinion, is entrepreneurship at its best.

Samar Nabulsi

Co-founder and Managing Director, Big On Children

Samar Nabulsi, co-founder and managing director of Big On Children, has taken the company from a three-person start up to overseeing 1000 global distributors in the space of three years. Big On Children has carved its success by bringing products into the UAE that previously didn't exist here, and by offering affordable distribution packages that encourage others to become entrepreneurs themselves. The company won the SME of the Year award at the 2014 Arabian Business Start Up Awards, and it was also a finalist at the 2015 GREAT Business Award competition.
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