After visiting Italy’s Amalfi coast, Sharis Shiribabadi returned bursting with ideas on how to transform Abu Dhabi’s public beaches & founded Abu Dhabi based beach concept BAKE in 2009.
“I realised that although the beach is absolutely beautiful, there was nowhere to lie down comfortably,” explains Sharis. “Hotel beach access is too expensive if you just want to sunbathe for a few hours.” After hiring a two-kilometer stretch of coast from the municipality and investing in 600 loungers, Sharis opened BAKE beach club where patrons pay just AED 25 for a sunlounger, umbrella & table. She also opened two BAKE shops on the beach, selling everything from bikinis to SPF. BAKE opened its second location in Abu Dhabi on Al Bateen beach. So, it was almost a given that Saadiyat Beaches followed to be under the management by BAKE.
“The best part of my job is that I’m always on the beach. I come to work in a bikini and kaftan. Everyone comes to the beach to have a good time, so most of the people I deal with are in a great mood. I have made some amazing friends and I have met heaps of A-listers, who have also performed on the beach. I also get to travel around the world visiting other beach clubs – all in the name of research!”
“My day begins with a team huddle on the beach to update my staff on what’s happening in the city. I then do a walk along the beach to check everything is in order, check on the beach shops and order any new supplies. Then I’ll head to my office to reply to emails and work on potential new business opportunities, before returning to the beach to prepare for beach yoga in the evening. Now that we are expanding, I often get stuck in the office all day when I’d much rather be on the beach!”
Sharis is not only passionate about beaches. She is equally passionate about beauty and it is no wonder that she expanded her business skills and expertise in a top notch beauty boutique StudioXY that was just recently launched.
How did you start your business?
The idea for BAKE came about when I returned to the UAE after a vacation in Italy in 2008. I always admired the fabulous beach concepts European resorts have mastered and always envisioned the same for Abu Dhabi. So, I started BAKE with the idea to bring confortable and affordable sun loungers to the beautiful beaches of the Capital, so that residents could relax with their friends and family and ‘BAKE’ in comfort and style.
StudioXY, located on the NYU Abu Dhabi campus, is my latest venture. I wanted to mix 5 star service with the latest fashion and beauty trends in an urban, stylish salon surrounding, so that is exactly what we have done! We focus on the quality of our products and our treatments, having put so much time and effort into designing two magnificent spaces – StudioX just for women; StudioY exclusively for men.
What were the highs and lows of setting up your business? High and Low Moments
As with any business venture, there are always lows along the way. Setting up a business that is customer-focused, and especially something like StudioXY which is related to beauty and health, requires a lot of permissions and approvals from certain entities before things can progress. Although this is normal and expected, it can put a strain on your timeline and these things tend to over run.
However, when you have your finished product and can see how you have made a difference to the local community, everything falls into place! Starting your own business is such a blessing and although it requires a lot of dedication, perseverance and hard work, the highs definitely outweigh the lows in the end.
What was your best day at work?
For both businesses, the best day of work has to be the first time I saw customers enjoying the result of our hard work. When I head down to one of the BAKE beaches and see families relaxing, smiling and making happy memories I am filled with such pride! As StudioXY is a new brand (only having opened at the beginning of November), we have lots of great days ahead I’m sure!
What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs when setting up their businesses?
My main advice would be to do something you love. If you have a passion or an idea for a business that really excites you, take your gut instinct and run with it. Every day I wake up and can’t wait to start work and see my team and this is a result of having created brands that I really love and appreciate.
Another piece of advice I would give is to be patient. Nothing great happens over night. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither were any of the world’s successful businesses. With hard work, patience and a passion for your project, you will see great things come of being an entrepreneur.
Outline the reasons why your business succeeded and any particular factors that influenced your success.
For BAKE, I believe the reason we can call ourselves successful is because we never stopped listening to what our customers were saying. Many companies fail because they think they have the effect business model and become arrogant. They say the ‘customer is always right’ and living by this can really help your business to succeed and your brand to become respected. At the end of the day, without customers or clients there is no business, and everyone needs to remember this.
For StudioXY we are still in the early days, but as long as we stick to our business plan and stay true to our brand ethos we are confident in our future.
Outline your future plans for your business.
The sky is the limit for us! At StudioXY we are already sourcing new venues across the UAE, and the same for BAKE. I love having my own companies and to see them giving back to the local community, so if we get given the chance to expand and even develop more companies, we will grab all opportunities with both hands!
Explain why you set up your business in the UAE.
I moved to the UAE from the US in 2005 and instantly felt at home. Abu Dhabi has given me so many happy memories so it was only right that I start my company here. I also feel that for entrepreneurs there are so many opportunities in the UAE and small businesses are really respected and nurtured, something that was extremely important to me starting out.
What is the single most important decision you made that contributed to your business?
I think taking the first step to say, ‘Okay, I’m doing this’ is the most important decision you can make. Many people don’t start their own companies as they are afraid things will go wrong. As an entrepreneur, you should ask yourself one question: ‘What would you do if you knew you couldn’t fail?’ If the answer is to open a business, then go for it!
BAKE Beaches Management – Corporate Office
LinkedIn: Cristina Magallon
Company Page: UAE DNA