By making technology part of its process, Omasi is looking to boost customer service and productivity.
As we sit down with Finnish expats Hanne Ripsaluoma and Terhi Pinnington, the Co-founders of Omasi, its not hard to see the passion in their eyes. They are driven, ambitious and have a strong vision for the future.
“We have both been in Dubai for well over 10 years and we are big lovers of the beach, outdoors and fashion. Omasi fills a gap that we identified in the market for stylish, trendy and good quality products that combine our Nordic roots with the way of life in the UAE. Omasi in Finnish (our mother tongue) means yours or your own and all our products are designed keeping in mind the different shapes, forms and requirements of our clientele and the practicalities required for the outdoor, beachy lifestyle,” they open up.
With very few resources at their disposal, the duo was well aware of the challenge they were faced with. But, they remained unfazed.
“Given the level of standards at which Omasi was set out to be, the monetary value was significant, at least for us as we funded the company ourselves. It was not in the millions, however it was not very low either. This is not even accounting for the opportunity cost of our daily jobs that we gave up to pursue this dream. But, as is the case with any entrepreneur, we made the sacrifice to go after our passion.”
“What came next was the initial set up of the business. The design phase was the most critical part at the start of setting up Omasi. We invested a significant amount of time and money to test the market and really identify what works and what doesn’t. Irrespective of how much you try to get it perfect the first time, sometimes risks must be taken and you need to launch before you feel ready; this is the life of the entrepreneur, right? Since the start of this dream, many things have worked well and others not, but more importantly we have learnt from our mistakes and Omasi is thriving based on our experience,” they admit.
A stitch in time
Omasi is an up and coming fashion retailer, targeting the right audience is vital for its growth. One of the biggest challenges for us has been to identify the optimal distribution channels for our products. Considering that our broad range of products cater to different market segments (e.g. kids, beach lovers, fashionistas), to open the different channels of distribution has not been that easy. Sometimes the timelines from signing the contract to getting the products to the shelves is not as quick as we would like it to be, say Hanne and Terhi.
When the going gets tough, the tough get going. This couldn’t be truer in the case of the Omasi team.
As an entrepreneur, you have to be persistent and never take no for an answer. That has worked for us. The quality standards and the differentiated proposition of Omasi has opened doors for us at major retailers and hospitality outlets. Working closely with our partners and clients has shown the dedication and attention to detail that Omasi stands for. This speaks for itself and helps us overcome issues.
And this positive attitude is helping fuel Omasis growth. Omasi has grown tremendously since our humble beginning just over two years ago. Omasi started as an idea between us but now we are placed in over 20 stores, revenues continue to grow in the double digit range month after month, profitability is also on the rise and being cash flow positive really provides us with the unique platform to continue to grow and expand. We are quite pleased and very proud with the results. In terms of financials, Omasis product range can be found in over 20 stores in the UAE and we are currently searching for new retail points of sale across the GCC. The expansion is enabling us to leverage economies of scale for the procurement of materials and production, but always keeping quality standards to the highest levels. Dubai is a very entrepreneurial city with a lot of opportunities, but the start-up cost can be challenging for a small company. It all adds up before you can even start to operate and get any revenue in. Omasi is a very optimistic brand at heart and the challenges can always be turned into positive elements.
Riding the technology wave
Given the nature of their business, Hanne and Terhi know that technology will be one of their biggest assets. They explain: Attention to detail, flexibility and a collaborative approach to deeply understand our partners and end users has provided us with a unique selling point. Furthermore, Omasi is a very friendly, technology savvy entity that transmits its values not only through its products but also the way that we communicate with our customers. We keep our social media channels constantly active and open for communication. We highly value excellent customer service and believe that if you create a fabulous product and make the customer experience unique and superb, the clientele will come. This might sound like Apple jargon, but it has really worked for Omasi.
And, the results are for everyone to see. We are proud to say that our product designs and quality have gained the attention of some of the leading hotel brands in the UAE and has enabled us to be part of their VVIP promotions and hotel launches. We were also shortlisted finalists at the Stars of Business Awards this year which gave us a great sense of achievement.
Tailored for success
Looking to the future, Hanne and Terhi plan to start their expansion across the GCC and then take over the world! We are also looking at more collaborations with the corporate clients and hotel groups. Is external funding on the cards? We self-funded Omasi, have grown organically and the company is now cash flow positive. Thus, in terms of funding, rather than looking for cash investment, Omasi could be open to strategic investors that could support our growth in strategic markets, combined with the appropriate financial appetite to be part of this fantastic journey with us, they respond.
Any parting words of advice? They always say the first step is the hardest and in most cases this is true. Even if you are not an expert in everything you will be guaranteed to learn on the way. Always stay true to yourself and concentrate on your end goal. And, for Hanne and Terhi, the end goal is nothing short of being the best.