“Five years ago, when I got pregnant with my first child, I decided to take a break from work for at least a year,” recounted Dubai-based Ashima Kakkar, who eventually left the dental clinic to pursue entrepreneurship.
During her time off from work, Kakkar realized that despite her dental degree and practice, there were other things she was more passionate about. Being someone who thrives in social interactions, Kakkar has decided to move from an active practice to a more managerial and operational role in the healthcare industry. She even led for a while the mother and child care program at a health care facility. After moving out of the healthcare industry, Kakkar joined her friend’s startup company called TurtleCard, an online platform that enabled parents to book activities for kids. When the pandemic hit, the startup was suspended for obvious reasons.
But another idea took off.
Turn a passionate project into a job offer
Nearly a decade ago, Kakkar and her best friend and business partner now used to enjoy making chutneys (or spreads) at home during weekends as a hobby and selling them in local markets in Dubai. They did this for a while but could not continue due to their full time jobs and family responsibilities. So, when the epidemic hit, and they spent more time at home, they started making their favorite sauces again. At a certain point they were introduced to the Spinneys Local Business Incubator program and decided to apply and were selected among the finalists.
What is the difference between “Business Incubator” and “Accelerator” programs?
Incubators focus on early stage startups that are in the product development stage and do not have a developed business model. Accelerators focus on accelerating the growth of existing companies that already have a product ready.
“I was seven months pregnant with my second child when we applied to participate in the programme. We made some sauces in our kitchens, placed cheese boards and clicked. We were chosen as one of the winners. At that moment our passion project turned into a business offer. That’s when BottledUp became a startup Real,” Kakkar recalled and shared some lessons from running her startup.
Lesson 1: Set realistic goals
Kakkar: “Whether it is in entrepreneurship or any field of work, you have to set realistic goals. Write these goals. Because on the days when you feel low, which is normal for any entrepreneur or stray from your chosen path, these goals will help you keep going. Focus on your long-term vision. Start with small but realistic goals and build on them.”
Lesson 2: Stick to your core values
Kakkar: “Anyone who comes up with a business idea has to have a certain set of values. For example, as a locally grown food company, our value is that no preservatives are used in our products while ensuring a one-year shelf life and ambient temperature stability. We could have launched the brand at least six months before our launch, but developing the product range with no preservatives was a non-negotiable for us. So, we waited until the product was ready.”
Lesson 3: Keep a close eye on finances
Kakkar: “Managing finances is one of the biggest responsibilities of any company, startup or otherwise. It is important to keep an eye on the incoming and outgoing cash. For any product-based startup, keeping tabs on the numbers is simple. In our case, we look at The numbers are monthly, and we do our calculations before moving on to the next month. There are also many accounting apps that help keep track of the numbers.”
“As a startup, we are fortunate to be part of the incubator program that helped us get listed on Spence and Waitrose, which in itself is an expensive proposition. [Shelf space in these supermarkets can cost upwards of Dh100,000]. Obtaining a license is another big expense. We spent about 15,000 dirhams to get a license that is renewable annually. If the entrepreneur has an appropriate amount of investment, he can consider setting up a licensed kitchen, which in the long run can reduce operating costs.”
Lesson 4: Assigning roles and responsibilities
Kakkar: “For any start-up with co-founders or partners, it is important to allocate roles and responsibilities based on areas of expertise. We did this exercise very early in the day. I handle day-to-day operations, marketing, sales and communications related activities while my partner is responsible for accounting and bookkeeping. and inventory management.Allocation of roles and responsibilities helps avoid friction, which is especially important if the co-founder is a friend or family member.Having seen that finances often tend to cause misunderstandings, we have established certain ground rules.There is a clear identification for our share of the business, along with a maximum expense which then we are obligated to consult with each other before making a decision. Since every penny counts in a small business, if we can avoid certain expenses, we do so without hurting each other’s feelings.”
Lesson 5: Make mistakes, but not big
Kakkar: “As a startup or a small business, it’s okay to make simple mistakes that often amount to learning. But don’t put too much money into anything that could turn into a major financial mistake. For example, any startup digital effort requires a certain amount of Spending, so allocate a marketing budget.In our case, that includes everything from social media ads to hosting contests and attending pop-up markets, among other things. [A monthly budget of Dh5,000 might be required for digital marketing efforts which might increase or decrease based on the business requirements.]”
Lesson 6: Never be shy about telling your story
Kakkar: “Everyone has a reason to start a business. This story is what differentiates one company from another. So whatever that push may have been in your life that propelled you towards entrepreneurship needs to be made clear. Never be shy about telling your story because that’s what people buy This is what will help you build a community around your brand.”
Lesson 7: Don’t give up easily
Kakkar: “If you are passionate about your business, and if you have a good product, keep developing it. Don’t give up easily because a business takes time to build. However, also be aware of your limitations, which most entrepreneurs know instinctively, to avoid reaching The point of no return. Sometimes the idea can be great, but the timing can go wrong. In such circumstances, it’s OK to put a hold on and go back to a certain point.”