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Seven Lessons From My Entrepreneurial Journey Taking risks and making mistakes are the two parts of the learning process which have helped shape me to who I am today

By Rami Al Ali

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I started the Rami Al Ali Couture brand back in 2000, three years after moving from Damascus to Dubai, and to say the least, it was no easy feat.

Launching a business always comes with its own set of challenges, however, the market at that time was still in its infancy. Franchising larger international brands was common practice, whereas a local entrepreneurial concept was still largely uncharted territory. As there was no institute to support young talents then, I had to educate myself and learn more about the market, and as with anything that you do, taking risks and making mistakes are the two parts of the learning process which have helped shape me to who I am today.

Here are a few things that I believe every entrepreneur should consider:

1. Be passionate One of the main reasons behind every success is passion and finding the drive to push you to achieve your goals and the motivation to persevere. I have always had the drive to overcome obstacles and keep moving forward, however, your success will depend on how challenges are met.

2. Let's talk money Passion aside, you don't want to start your business with a huge debt. Grow from your own profit and, if you can, try to avoid any unnecessary financial commitments, such as loans and credits, in order to minimize added financial stress. Make sure you have developed a clear business and financial plan to follow, and that you have completed a detailed risk assessment prior to launching your brand to avoid making any costly mistakes.

Related: Fashion Focus: Nurturing Entrepreneurship In The MENA Region's Style Sector

3. Don't be like the others Assess your competition and recognize your point of difference by identifying your signature and what sets you apart. Investors, customers, and fashion critics are always looking for new, creative and authentic products and ideas, so developing something original will ensure the longevity of your brand.

4. Focus on your message Make sure that your message is clear and that it reflects your brand DNA. Remaining true to your original mission will maintain the integrity of your brand and help guide your future decisions. Also, make sure you understand the market and your target audience properly. Identify your point of difference in the market by analyzing your competitors, learning about the market, and its history. Also, focus on understanding the local buyer behaviour.

5. Ensure stability Stability is an important element in the growth of you brand. Sustaining all your pillars will guarantee a steady growth in the right market.

6. Invest in the right team Surround yourself with like-minded and passionate people that will work to elevate your brand. Having synergy and compatibility between team members will result in achieving a better outcome, and will be reflected in your brand image and its success. Collaborate with people creators and other brands that complement and elevate your product. It will assist in your brand development and create better brand awareness and credibility.

7. Control your expansion When growing your business you have to be mindful of how you expand. Avoid spreading yourself too thin, and allow yourself to grow organically. It's important not to rush expansion and over commit yourself as it can cause a huge financial strain. And, if you are planning to expand, make sure to study the market well. Unless it is a healthy market, put your expansion plan on hold and focus on what you have. Once you confirm that the new market is healthy and doing well, choose your timing and make sure you to expand at the right time and during the right season. Taking baby steps guarantees stability.

Related: The Couturier: Rami Al Ali

Rami Al Ali

Founder and Designer of Rami Al Ali

Rami Al Ali is the founder of the Rami Al Ali label. In 1991, Al Ali joined the College of Fine Arts in Syria’s capital city, Damascus, to study visual communications. Later, he knew had to think big to succeed so travelled to the United Arab Emirates to gain valuable international experience within the prestigious fashion houses. He quickly gained respect from the industry, resulting in an immediate, loyal client base, which ultimately led to the creation of the Rami Al Ali label in 2000. 

Through growing recognition of the brand, Al Ali’s designs soon caught the attention of international corporations including La Mode En Images, which led to the agency selecting Al Ali to participate, along with a select number of key international designers, at the 2006 Asian Olympic Games in Qatar. Global Austrian crystal brand Swarovski followed suit by choosing Al Ali to be a part of their book, UNBRIDALED, alongside revered couture veterans Giorgio Armani, Vivienne Westwood and John Galliano, amongst others. The collaboration demonstrated his ability to participate in an international market. In 2007, Al Ali was invited to showcase his collection at the launch of Abu Dhabi Fashion Week, where he was selected to feature alongside industry icon Valentino- the only designer from the region bestowed with this honor.

Al Ali’s ultimate breakthrough came in 2009, when his Spring/Summer couture collection graced the runway at Rome’s AltaRoma couture week. This was the first time Al Ali engaged professionally with the European fashion media, and was the first of six consecutive shows to take place during this prestigious fashion week. Further fashion shoots with high-profile celebrities extended Al Ali’s notoriety, with his designs being sought after by celebrities and socialites alike, adorning the likes of Beyoncé, Kelly Rowland, Kerry Washington, Chanel Iman, Carla Gugino, Natasha Bedingfield, Vanessa Mae, Ivana Trump, Youssra and Googoosh, amongst others. In January 2012, Ali Ali debuted at the Couture Fashion Week in Paris, showcasing his Spring/Summer 2012 collection amongst the crème de la crème of the fashion world, including Elie Saab, Chanel, Valentino and Dior. Now on his seventh consecutive season in Paris, and with the recent launch of his debut prêt-à-porter collection, Al Ali’s transition from daydreamer to global trendsetter is complete.

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