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Journey of a hobby turning to a profitable profession

HelenThe Robust RAK spoke to Helen Kay, owner of Helen Kay Gifts on her journey of entrepreneurship.

TIS: How did Helen Kay Gifts come into being?

HK: The reason I took up the idea of Helen Kay Gifts and gave it shape was because it was a hobby for my children and I wanted them to have something of their own. Being UAE citizens, we have the opportunity of applying for an Intelaq license, where one can carry on a trade in the comfort of
one’s home.

I then joined the artisans at Arte Dubai in June 2011. I was actually learning how to make pom-poms at the time! The summer was coming, the kids were finishing school, I thought I didn’t want them to spend so much time in front of the television. I thought of doing something with jewellery or so, just as a hobby for the children. But then they got so good at it that eventually I sold my car and gold to raise funds for this business, because I wanted to embark on this journey on my own. I got cabinets, stock, and the Intelaq licence, printed roll-ups, flyers and other marketing material. The initial investment I would say is, close to AED30,000 – 50,000 to set up the business. It all began with simple jewellery, and we slowly diversified to prayer beads, spectacle holders and bookmarks and key chains. It was a struggle to go to potential clients who would buy my products. I often walked in various malls with a trolley! But in the end it paid off, because I got my first client Books Plus, which houses my products in five of
their outlets. robust rak Ornaments

TIS: Where do you source your material from? 

HK: I source all my material from Dubai, as I have my part to play, as an entrepreneur, towards contributing to the economy of the emirate. It’s very rare that I do not get what I want in the local market.

chainTIS: Can you mention the positive and negative moments of your entrepreneurial journey?

HK: This business of mine is very therapeutic. If you have a very stressful life, this is definitely the way to go. I enjoy it when people select my artefacts, and when I see them using the products. Sometimes when I get a large order then it is a bit of a challenge because then I need the extra help and I have to round up my children. It would be great if we were given additional financial support during the initial years of setting up. But on the other hand, I know that I have started this from scratch by myself. It gives me a lot of satisfaction. And winning the Brand Creativity contest organised by Business Village and Dubai SME was a positive moment as well. It has been a struggle, but it was worth it, because I like being independent. I also took this up because I wanted my children to understand that nothing in life is free. I want them to know that not everything is going to come to us in a silver platter.

TIS: How do you deal with the competition in your industry?IMG_7123Pearl1

HK: Competition is always around. Having said that, you can’t make people come to your shop and force them to buy. It doesn’t work that way. You see, a major part of selling is customer service. Always be polite to your customers, no matter how demanding they are, because they are your bread and butter. I have my share of trying customers. But there are many customers who do come back,and actually look for me, which is very encouraging.

TIS: Do you have any future plans?

HK: My future plan is to open up a fancy store and then expand slowly to six shops; one shop for each of my children. I also make baby baskets for first-time mothers. But this is on the back burner because I would rather focus on the jewellery business. In the near future I will be supplying my pieces to about 40 ENOC stations. On National Day, I display many of my pieces at fairs and exhibitions. I also displayed my pieces at the Princess Haya bint Hussein Islamic Centre during the month of Ramadan.

TIS: Where do you distribute your products?

HK: I distribute to the Dolphinarium, Ski Dubai, and Book Plus. But there’s more to be done – I would like to have my pieces in the aquarium, Dubai Mall. I had record sales last month, because the students and teachers purchased them as gifts. I go to Arte Dubai and I sell no end of my sets there. My biggest sellers are, in fact, the bookmarks, which I make with cut stones.




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