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Setting Your Company Up For Success In The UAE: The How-To From being immersed in the needs of the customer base you choose to serve, to studying your competition, here are five essential things to consider before setting up your own business.

By Mark Aitchison Edited by Aby Thomas

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

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

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Starting your own business is not an easy task- a lot of work is needed to bring your passion to life purposefully in a commercially viable way. Venturing out on your own forces you to face your limitations, test out ideas, accept that some may fail, but eventually land small successes that will give you the confidence to keep moving forward. Building a successful startup requires wholehearted commitment, dedication and tenacious self-belief, and there is no better place to start than the UAE.

According to the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor's 2022 report, the UAE has been ranked first globally as the best ecosystem for startups and entrepreneurs in 2022. Home to leading business incubators, Dubai is continuously incentivizing and pushing the agenda to support entrepreneurs in achieving their vision. Additionally, government-led strategies such as the National Agenda for Entrepreneurship aiming to establish the UAE as an entrepreneurial nation by 2031 aid in creating bigger opportunities for setting up and scaling up businesses. Through the initiative, the government is curating packages of incentives that will help increase the number of startups, incubate unicorns, and achieve a strong partnership between the public and private sectors.

So, the question now becomes, what can you, as an entrepreneur, do to ensure success when setting up your company? Here are what I believe to be five most essential things you need to consider before setting up your own business.

1. Have a clear company vision and proposition. To create a successful company, you should have a very clear vision and carefully consider what is the value it will bring to customers. Where does your passion lie as a founder? What is your area of expertise? Where can you relate to your business and customers? When I launched my private equity company in the UAE, EIGHTClouds Private Equity, I decided to have the enterprise focus on consumer brands, because I have seen a gap in the market for consumer-facing brands, but more importantly because I have a passion for the sector, and the expertise, vision, and hunger to expand ideas beyond the region.

Related: Four Ways Established Entities Can Support Small Businesses In The UAE

2. Build a brand that resonates. Today, more than ever, consumers are following brands that add to the community, have a purpose, and share similar values. Rather than just a product, brands today need to become brands that resonate with the audience, and have a cause and mission to attract and retain the attention of consumers and investors alike.

3. Study your competition. But don't fall into the trap of obsessing over it as well, as you need to stay true to your values. It is important to assess the market's current trends and the high-performing brands to understand what they are doing, and how the customer is reacting to it. In doing that, you can play on what the competition is lacking. and build your services based on that need. When my partners and I launched Chaps & Co in 2015, it was because we studied the market, and saw a need for an upscale male grooming brand. Today, that same company has expanded into 10 stores across the UAE and Saudi Arabia, and has become the first homegrown UAE brand to open in New York City, USA.

4. Be immersed in the community. Understand what the customer wants, and why they are not finding it. Review your target audience's needs, and follow the values that resonate. For instance, nowadays, environmental awareness is not a can-have, but a must-have for individuals, corporations, and government entities. Brands should be leading eco-conscious efforts, and embed sustainability in its purpose and operations. Mental and physical wellbeing has also become more prominent as consumers bring a spotlight on the importance of mental health, and its impact on your overall performance and wellbeing.

5. A collaborative approach will take you far. The UAE is the land of opportunities, and there is an immense pool of partners for potential collaborations. To enhance your brand and boost your presence, you should look for like-minded entities, and create strong affiliations that'll springboard your passion, idea, and business. As an ecosystem for startups, the UAE has also initiated various government-led efforts that help like-minded entities to collaborate and benefit simultaneously. Nonetheless, you should always keep an eye out for competition. To maintain a strong market share, it is important to ensure your brand is not repetitive, and offers an added value to the market. It's also imperative to stay up to date with the latest trends as consumer habits are ever-changing, especially with the dominating presence of social media.

Related: Doing It All: Running A Business, While Also Studying At Oxford

Mark Aitchison

Founder and CEO, EIGHTClouds Private Equity

Mark Aitchison is the founder and CEO of EIGHTClouds, a private equity company based in the UAE that focuses on empowering the product, brand, and founder’s story for the consumer market.  

Born and raised in the UK, Mark has called Dubai home for nearly 14 years, and has led an ambitious and versatile career prior to founding EIGHTClouds in the UAE. With a passion for entrepreneurship, Mark saw the immense potential in startups and innovative concepts specifically for consumer-facing brands. He thus set up a consultancy business in 2004 to provide corporate services for overseas businesses looking to access and set up operations within the GCC and Asia. Bringing a wealth of knowledge in multiple fields, Mark began investing in businesses to build a diverse portfolio of equity stakes, including construction, property development and retail, leading him to co-found the successful barbershop brand, Chaps & Co, in 2015. Today, Chaps & Co has expanded to 10 locations across the UAE, Saudi Arabia and the USA.  

As the founder and CEO of EIGHTClouds, Aitchison guides and empowers the team to achieve the vision of the company. He takes charge of all elements of the business, from managing high-level corporate strategy and positioning, to managing the organization’s structure and communication with executives and board members. Believing in leading by example as a cultural cornerstone, he continues to build trust and transparency among his team members and the board committee. With EIGHTClouds, Mark hopes to continue building brands that last and provide a platform for entrepreneurs to innovate and take their vision global. Believing in building strong relationships with his partners, he looks to further expand with new avenues such as franchising, partnerships, or joint ventures across the fields of apparel, beauty and wellness, hospitality, real estate, technology, sustainability, and beyond. 

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