The Abu Dhabi SME Hub is conducting a series of interviews with SMEs that, with support from the Khalifa Fund, are excelling within their respective industries.
The SME showcased this time is Baaqah, an e-commerce platform launched in early 2020, specializing in the retail of floral products.
We spoke with AlReem AlAmmari, the young founder of Baaqah, to learn more about her company and entrepreneurial journey.
While building their website and technical infrastructure, AlAmmari explained that they focused on B2B clients to support themselves and get a feel for the market. During October of that year, Baaqah was finally able to transition to a B2C model, and AlAmmari quickly came to an important conclusion:
“Customers are extremely difficult to understand, but once you do, that’s when your business blooms,” she noted. “With B2B customers, you’re mainly dealing with one type of customer, one that understands business like you do.”
“Once we give customers what they need before they ask for it, that’s really when you make the difference. It’s definitely more challenging and more interesting versus B2B which is a bit more uneventful and stable.”
As to how AlAmmari came up with the idea to start Baaqah, she mentioned that she always had a passion for entrepreneurship from a young age. However, she lacked the know-how required.
“Going into university, I always thought: ‘Okay, maybe I’ll be an entrepreneur at 40 years old or when I’m older.’”
She quickly realized, however, that like her, “A lot of people wait until they have enough experience to be an entrepreneur, but the truth is, you will never have enough experience.”
As such, she decided to take a leap of faith. Thanks to support mechanisms like the incubator program at Sharjah Entrepreneurship Center (Sheraa) as well as significant support from the Khalifa Fund, AlAmmari was able to kickstart her entrepreneurial journey.
She reminisced that the incubator program provided by Sheraa, which at the time was available at her university, was what truly helped convince her she could be an entrepreneur “today” if she wanted to.
Following that epiphany, she quickly bridged her passion for flowers and the floral industry with a notable market gap she had observed: the relative absence of floral products from e-commerce platforms, which was glaring considering consumers’ changing habits towards online shopping.
And thus, Baaqah was born.
The challenges that a young entrepreneur
As with any entrepreneurial endeavor, the challenges are plenty and demanding. Being a prospective entrepreneur with no background or know-how of essential knowledge such as the difference between trade licenses and such, she had her work cut out for her.
“I never really believed that these were things I would know at such a young age,” she said. “Just going into that ecosystem itself was challenging because I was always the youngest [among my peers]. I was always the one that was still learning [the basics].”
In terms of more grounded challenges, AlAmmari noted that setting up the e-commerce platform itself was fraught with difficulties, especially as a person with no background in coding and website development, though this did not stop her from taking the time to learn what’s required and to forge on.
Additionally, the logistics of facilitating delivery to clients were another hurdle to contend with. Solely to circumvent this, AlAmmari founded a secondary company called Wasla that served as a delivery platform aggregator, to support the operations of Baaqah as well as serve as an independent enterprise.
Another common challenge that entrepreneurs face is pressure from their friends and family, who might be skeptical about an undertaking as risky as starting a business. For Alammari, who was especially young with no experience to speak of, this pressure was compounded.
“A lot of people would belittle the idea or belittle me as an aspiring entrepreneur,” she stated. “These people would be family, these people would be your closest friends and they would be people that you need to partner up with. It is on you as an entrepreneur to prove that you believe in your idea enough that you don’t really need to wait for anyone’s approval.
“Believe in yourself long enough, and there will come a time when that’s not even a challenge anymore.”
Support programs such as those provided by the Khalifa Fund were instrumental to AlAmmari’s success
In addition to her perseverance and confidence, it was support programs like the aforementioned incubator program at Sheraa and the Khalifa Fund that truly helped put AlAmmari on the right track to success.
“I had no experience, so I had nowhere else to learn from,” she said. “Having access to free programs like the one that the Khalifa Fund offer was a blessing. [Those programs] are a learning opportunity for anyone that is interested in entrepreneurship. The support that the Khalifa Fund provided me with - the trust that they give to all entrepreneurs - is something that we really need to take advantage of as the younger generation and as Emiratis.”
“It is a foundation that I grew from and I have to say, without the Khalifa Fund’s support, I would probably be on a different career path today. The Khalifa Fund believed in Baaqah and in me as an individual before I even believed in myself, and I am extremely grateful.”
As for the benefits of setting up her business in Abu Dhabi, AlAmmari found that there are multiple support mechanisms that help ease the launch of an enterprise. From helpful licenses such as the eCommerce license (Tajer Abu Dhabi), to entities like the Khalifa Innovation Centre and the Abu Dhabi Chamber of Commerce that offer free programs for Emiratis, as well as organizations like the Khalifa Innovation Centre (KIC) and Krypto Labs that aid businesses with patents, for example.
Lessons learned, and plans for the future
“‘Keep pushing through, because it is worth it in the end.’”
This was a motivational line used in many business guru books and during endless panels and TED talks. AlAmmari knew that, years before becoming an entrepreneur. Yet, cliché as it sounded, she was surprised to discover that it was resonantly true after she herself had become a business owner.
“I felt like I’ve heard this a million and one times,” she said, reminiscing. “I never truly believed it as a person until I went through it myself and it was only then that I truly realized what they meant. This is why they kept repeating that lesson so much.”
With this in mind, her future plans hinge on her expanding Baaqah’s market coverage to the rest of the GCC.
“The floral industry is growing everyday and there are a lot of opportunities and gaps in the market that we can still capitalize on. This is our focus in the very near future.”
Baaqah is a platform that brings all your favorite florists together. Browse, pick your preferred bouquet and get it delivered at your convenience. Redefine gifting, only a click away! To learn more: https://www.baaqah.com/