“See rejection as a redirection,” said Saher Bhatti, 32, a British expat based in the United Arab Emirates, recalling how practicing law taught her to be realistic and to accept that detours and reroutings are very likely to occur when setting stretch goals.
Her career as a lawyer has made her resilient and persevering. Like the business world, she said the field of law is demanding, involving many setbacks and hard times (as well as late nights and lots of coffee). Therefore, maintaining a “when” and “never if” mindset has helped her stay focused and grounded even in difficult times.
She learned not to waste time and money from an early age and practiced saving money. “From my part-time jobs before working as a lawyer, I managed to save at least 10% of my income to cover unexpected expenses. I also took this approach in business, always trying to save or to reinvest the money to continuously develop the business in a simple and efficient way and reduce the risks.”
Before starting her business in the fashion industry, she worked as a commercial lawyer in London.
Bhatti worked in London for a few years before pursuing his first business venture. “Before starting Lawful London, I had no business experience; however, having worked in London in an international company, I have gained a broad understanding of various types of businesses of different sizes and across multiple industries.
“As a lawyer, I have worked in many industries, including those in finance, technology, pharmaceuticals and marketing. However, I have always been drawn to working with brands fashion and e-commerce. This helped me recognize my passion early on in my career and eventually led me to start a business in this field.
“While I haven’t had any specific experience in starting a retail business, I have had experience working with fashion and e-commerce brands. Working with such brands in a allowed me to develop my general business awareness and expose the challenges and goals of businesses of this nature.”
The idea of starting a handbag business was born out of her needs and struggles.
While working in London, Bhatti commuted for over an hour a day, carrying all her essentials and the necessary change of shoes on her journey. However, she struggled to find suitable, durable and thoughtfully designed work bags with a minimal appearance for use in a corporate environment.
She observed and identified a gap in the market in the form of minimalist, work-appropriate handbags explicitly designed for the working woman. She said a woman needed to carry (among other things) a laptop, notebook, drink bottle and shoes on the go, but wanted something versatile and mid-range suitable for use. daily.
Bhatti found the bags currently available on the market either lacking in functionality and style or retailing at an excessively high price. This inspired her to create a brand specifically designed for the modern woman who wanted a functional mid-range product without compromising on style.
Bhatti invested his savings in starting the business.
The initial capital she invested in launching the company in the UK in 2019 was Dh117,900 (£25,000). “This covered the costs of product design services, prototype manufacturing, testing of different factories to assess product quality, website design, marketing and the first bulk stock order, including the shipping to the UK.In addition to the initial UK stock order which totaled approximately Dh56,592 (£12,000), which included sea freight shipping to the UK, duties and taxes, the expense the most significant related to the design and marketing of the product.”
Bhatti’s brand has grown over the past two years and it has used capital from the company’s organic growth to expand in the Middle East.
“The initial outlay of expanding into the Middle East is getting the business license and registering the business name; this equates to approximately Dh23,408 (£5,000). To be effective in the Middle East, we We also needed to set up cost-effective logistics to ensure that we maintain high product and service quality despite customer orders now being processed by a local third party.
“Therefore, we met with a range of third party logistics providers in the UAE to find a center that could ship our products to the Middle East and was also able to offer same day shipping and cash on delivery for our clients.”
They chose to work with a fulfillment center called IQ Fulfillment, the first robotic fulfillment center in the UAE that offers a personal and tailored approach to businesses.
Bhatti added that working in the UAE is particularly lucrative compared to other markets in which they operate. Tax rates are significantly lower (only 5% VAT), making it a commercially more profitable and less administratively burdensome region. “Reducing tax liability in this region has helped cash flow and allowed us to grow in a way that we have not yet been able to do in the UK and EU, partly by due to higher expenses attributed to tax in these respective markets.
“Our business in Dubai, for example, enabled us to finance our next new collection launch event scheduled for June. We have not organized any brand events in other markets, as we do not have enough capital to fund this and our current overhead.”
Four lessons Saher Bhatti shared from her journey to entrepreneurship
Lesson 1: Focus on your niche business idea and deliver the highest quality product.
Bhatti has always focused on keeping the business going by not launching multiple products or ranges since the brand is still in its infancy.
“We have only launched one collection of products, available in limited classic colors. Therefore, our initial focus was to ensure that these products are of the highest quality and made in the best way possible before we launch. expand the range and explore new fashions.
“For the initial collection, we didn’t want to launch products that were too bold initially and for which there was no validation by the market. We selected classic style products because we knew they were already popular on the mainstream market – such as the “east/west tote” style.
“However, we chose to differentiate the products primarily on interior functionality rather than silhouette and measured the success of these products before considering more versatile and less traditional handbag styles.
“We are also committed to not holding too much stock at once – we order little and often, which has helped us generate cash flow and reduce our risk.”
Lesson 2: Success is not an overnight story, but growth happens gradually.
Bhatti has seen businesses of all sizes gradually grow during her career as a lawyer. “These are all very successful businesses, but they didn’t become overnight success – I learned that every business story is unique. The overnight success story spanned years with a lot of bumps along the way.
“As our brand has grown and received market validation, we have partnered with distribution centers around the world to serve customers profitably and are now in a position to begin growing our order volumes and to evolve gradually.”
Bhatti has worked alongside several companies going through funding rounds or receiving large sums of debt financing to promote their business ventures. She added that for effective growth, spending decisions must continue to be made calculatedly and with the same degree of care as when you first started the business.
Lesson 3: Cash is essential in running a business.
Bhatti added that large expenditures need to be staggered in the absence of investment to ensure cash flows are optimal to cover random and recurring (sometimes unexpected) costs.
“We adopted a lean strategy from the start whereby only limited large releases such as bulk stock orders, storage cost renewals and campaign photo shoots are scheduled at any time. This has allowed us to have sufficient funds available for month-to-month operating expenses.”
She added that you shouldn’t feel the pressure to conform to other brands and their way of doing things. “A particular strategy that worked for a brand; for example, it doesn’t mean it will work for yours or even suit your brand. It’s your journey, your brand and your direction, and you know better than anyone, so trust your instincts, and if something doesn’t feel quite right for your brand, you can change your mind and explore other options.”
Additionally, she sees long-term planning as key to deciding when/what to invest in, and you need to check out what has worked well in the past. She added that if you know that a particular feature, for example, has always worked well for the brand, then creating a product that includes that feature in a new style might be a sensible approach for a new product.
She also said it’s also essential to single out what didn’t work so well to remove it from plans and designs for the brand’s long-term success, helping you keep the business lean and avoid expensive inventory purchases.
Lesson #4: Listening to those who have already expressed an interest in your products (with existing customers) can derive value.
Bhatti said it was a warm audience; their voice is especially influential when making decisions about upcoming products because they haven’t purchased yet. “There could be a basic and common reason why they haven’t converted yet, such as a missing component of the product. Getting feedback from this audience is critical when considering investing in a product and new designs, and solving this problem could yield great results.”