Gaby Malek is the chief executive of Better Sleep, a multi-brand sleep solution store he launched in March in Dubai’s Al Barsha area in conjunction with World Sleep Day. The former business director of the mattress brand Tempur decided to switch from employee to entrepreneur after noticing a gap in the market for those looking for a great night’s slumber. Here he explains what prompted him to go it alone.
Why launch your own store?
I was instrumental in opening two stand-alone stores for Tempur, the world’s leading mattress brand, and also responsible for the growth of the brand into an established and trusted entity in the region. My experience in this niche retail space made me realise there was a genuine lack of choice bearing in mind the variety of demographics that call the UAE their home. This prompted me to conceptualise Better Sleep to cater to all those who are sleep-deprived by providing a more personalised service and solutions.
What were the biggest challenges of switching from employee to entrepreneur?
As an employee, you have a job description, requiring a specific skill set. You can go on doing something you dislike just for the salary. But when you are an entrepreneur, you need to love your business because of the effort and long hours required. As an entrepreneur, you need to make big decisions about what must be done, when and how. You can’t wait for things to happen, or for someone to tell you what to do; you must make them happen. You have to think ahead, envision the potential pitfalls and opportunities that lie around the corner, and make decisions based on uncertainty. As an employee, you’re used to thinking “inside the box” rather than outside it. When you are an entrepreneur there is no box. You see what others don’t, test new ideas, seize new territories, take risks. This requires courage, a thick skin and the ability to keep going despite rejection and scepticism.
How do you plan to improve the sleep patterns of UAE residents?
All of our products are imported from Europe. Hence, approvals and certification of quality control are supported with every product imported. Most of the other brands in the market are produced locally – giving them a competitive edge in price but we can now offer certified quality products in a similar price range. The multi-brand aspect, convenience of a one-stop shop, free delivery in the UAE within 48 hours, bespoke options for sleep needs and free removal of your existing beds are just some of the aspects that set us apart.
What difficulties do you face running a bed shop?
In-store, we try to change the consumer mindset about the mattress salesman who in their mind is usually looking to just make a sale and take your money. We aspire to be consultants who care, committed to helping customers find the right solution no matter what their budget is. The other change we are trying to make in-store is to encourage customers to stay with us longer and truly experience the product by trying each bed or mattress for at least 10 to 15 minutes. In the back office and when it comes to management there are many challenges such as level of stocking. Being overstocked or having a shortage can have almost the same pressure on your business so it is imperative that you balance the demand versus the availability of the products and keep an eye on the expectation of potential growth.
Having the right team to convey the DNA of Better Sleep is very challenging as we are not only selling products but also the experience of a good night’s sleep. The costs have also increased due to a rise in rental prices. It’s a big challenge to maintain profitability and fuel sustainable growth.
How did you finance the venture?
We are two investors who are not only motivated by financial return but a desire to help others and have an impact.
Have you noticed extra demand in the run-up to Ramadan?
The sudden change in eating habits and timings, from day to night, does not really have a marked impact on the actual duration of sleep. Therefore, we don’t see any major changes in the buying habits of the consumers during Ramadan month.
Any plan for expansion?
We have ambitious expansion plans in the region starting with a store in the capital in the near future.
What is the secret to buying a good bed?
Don’t go shopping for a bed or mattress when you’re tired, because when you’re tired any bed or mattress will feel good. On a more serious note, the most important thing when buying a bed is comfort. So take your time – sit on each one for a while, lie down, experience the bed and then make an informed decision. The mattress is also the part of the purchase that you should spend the most time on. And a bed is a mattress and a base working together so always try them together.
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