From funding and technology to expansion and winning Etisalat’s Hello Business Pitch Please, Samer Al-Nimr of Deliver 2 Mum takes us through the various stages of his start-up life. Here are exclusive excerpts from the budding entrepreneur’s personal diary…
The idea of Deliver 2 Mum came with the birth of our first born in October 2013. As two working parents, we wanted to spend as much time as possible with our daughter. With no support system in terms of extended families (like is the case for most expatriates in the UAE), it was difficult to find quality time with her. Thus, there was a market need to have all available leading baby consumable brands found in one place instead of different categories of baby products being found in various places, and a convenient delivery system directly to the mum, thus saving her time – the most precious commodity she needs. With the help of an initial capital investment of AED 125,000 acquired through bootstrapping, Deliver 2 Mum was conceived.
We are still working with this funding and from the profit that the business has generated. It took around six months to build the initial platform and have it ready for the soft launch in August 2015. During the next four months, we fine-tuned the offer and had it ready by the start of the New Year. In the digital age with rapid developments, we have to continue to innovate and evolve; this has become part of our ethos. The development of our products and services is constant and is part of the company’s DNA.
One of the biggest challenges was building up a repertoire with the mums and spreading the word about our service via word of mouth. The UAE is composed of different nationalities and the lack of funds to conduct mass advertising. Thus, it was imperative for us to rely on our current customers to spread the word about our company. We were fortunate to have great customers who loved our service and utilised their networks to raise awareness about us.
Using the traditional approach of Steve Blanks’ Lean Launchpad programme, we asked for feedback and listened to our customers. And we were flexible enough to pivot and tweak our business model. We added new products and enhanced our delivery system to make it faster and more agile. Of course, these improvements are still ongoing.
Perseverance is key. When we were only getting an order every couple of days, it was a low point and there was thoughts of returning back to the corporate world. In fact, I had a meeting with another online baby store which is well-established. However, it was my belief in my business which helped me through that difficult time.
Surviving in a competitive market
We focus on being close to our customers and exceeding their expectations. With around 70 per cent of our business being from recurring customers, we have seen that our principle of “imagine that this order is for your own baby” drives our team to go above and beyond the call of duty. For example, one customer (from Qatar) ordered some infant formula due to this particular brand being non-available in Qatar temporarily. We had someone personally carry it with them on a plane to Qatar! Believe it or not but our Managing Director has done deliveries himself as well. It is this personal touch which resonates with our consumers and helps us create a bond with them.
The growth curve
Our month-on-month revenue growth has been +38 per cent. Our average basket size has increased from AED 100 to over AED 390. New customers are registering every day. We broke even (on an operational profit level) in July 2016 (within 12 months of launching). And, the best part? With a market share of less than 0.3 per cent, we still have tremendous upside potential.
Our strategy at the beginning was to build up some traction and ensure that our back-end was working smoothly and effectively. Now that we have established the platform and brand, and can operate profitably, we are seeking strategic investors to be able to scale our business and achieve significant growth.
Our entry into the Etisalat’s Hello Business Pitch Competition, alongside other impressive start-ups, was necessary as we felt the need to seek affirmation by the start-up ecosystem.
Winning was beyond our dreams and provided us with the confirmation that we are ready to pitch to investors and think about the next stage of growing the company and building up a full team. Moreover, we’ve been approached with some business opportunities that require funding and heavy investment. So, we are on the lookout for the right investor.
The role of technology
Technology has made business easier, faster and more convenient. There are a multitude of online tools that are free which help you grow your business. Not being from a technology background, we carefully assess which tools to use, experiment with them, then apply them if relevant to our business on a step by step basis, slowly but surely.
On the horizon
Like the city of Dubai, and the UAE in general, we, as a start-up, are young and nimble to experiment with different processes. We want things done and believe there is a lot more that we can do. With 81,000 live births in the UAE alone and with favourable demographic trends, we believe that we still have not scratched the surface of where we can go with Deliver 2 Mum. The opportunity to build a business with your own hands is something that drives us. And the fact that we are helping mums fulfill the hardest and most important job in the world gives us immense satisfaction and purpose.
In the short-term, our goal is to continue raising awareness about Deliver 2 Mum, revamp the website and optimise our product portfolio.
In the long-term, we want to move upstream by becoming a distributor of leading international brands that don’t have a presence in the UAE and move towards a B2B service offering for corporates and nurseries. We are also working on a four hour express service as well as other features – they will be announced in due time.
Watch this space!