Support these local brands that are offering something different to international retail chains
In a world where globalisation means massive franchises with little charm, these UAE-based businesses are offering something unique.
You’re probably familiar with this funky furniture shop, but did you know it all started in Abu Dhabi? Since opening its first store in 1996, the company has catapulted to success with various new branches that sell its iconic ‘affordable luxury’ collections of unique furniture designed in-house. Now selling in nine countries, THE One features Junior, Basics and Fusion collections. Yas Mall. Visit: theone.com
It may feel like a gallery, but this beautifully laid out furniture boutique is indeed a shop and will have you saying ‘ohh, ahh’ at every turn. Created by Abu Dhabi resident Lama Qaddumi-Shahin, the store was a realised vision for a place to find unique, conversation starter pieces for your home. You’ll find everything from cribs by Lebanese brand Misk Nursery to camel leather cases by MKS Jewellery. Nation Galleria, Nation Towers, Corniche West. Contact: 02 665 5144, mymosaique.co
Forget about imported chains: this coffee shop at NYUAD is owned and operated by an Abu Dhabian – an NYUAD alumnus, to be exact – with a passion for a good brew. The flagship café on Saadiyat Island is popular with students as well as coffee lovers looking for a caffeine hit. The décor is spacious and modern: a sleek black bar, slate tiled flooring and minimalist grey and oak furniture. While there, grab a snack off the shelves from another local vendor like Nolu’s or The Raw Place, then sit back and enjoy the relaxing atmosphere. Saadiyat Island. Sun-Thu 8am-10pm, Fri 9am-8pm, Sat 9am-10pm. Contact: 02 642 2088, facebook.com/blacksmithcoffeescompany
There are heaps of talented people in Abu Dhabi and across the UAE who have set up their own small businesses selling imported gifts, upcycled furniture and unique handmade crafts. Little Majlis is an online platform – like the Etsy of the UAE – that brings many of these vendors together under one virtual roof. Browse fun items like jewellery and keychains as well as customised paintings, children’s toys and pet products. Visit: littlemajlis.com
Launched in Dubai, this online concept store boasts a fun and eclectic mix of products from homewares to travel accessories. That floating swan you keep seeing people swimming on in Instagram? Yup, you can get it here. You’ll also find lightboxes, floor pillows, tumblers, picnic sets, beach bags and more. Visit: boutique-nomads.com
There are just a handful of places in the UAE to stock up on outdoor equipment, but we’re big fans of this spot, and not only because it’s a homegrown brand. Adventure HQ has everything the outdoor lover could need from swim gear and cycling tools to hiking equipment and even snow gear. Since launching in Dubai in 2011, the company has grown to five outlets across the country, and now includes Adventure Zone play areas in its Dalma Mall and Yas Mall branches where you can rock climb, crawl through caves, zip line and test your nerves on the rope course. Visit: adventurehq.ae
Perhaps one of the most well-known local brands, this shop arguably kicked off the organic food trend in the UAE. From its farm, it provides fresh fruits, vegetables and herbs to people across the country. You can order everything from produce to dairy, local honey and gluten-free goodies, and get delivery to your door or visit one of the pop-up markets. Umm Al Emarat Park, Al Mushrif. Sat 3pm-9pm. Contact: ripeme.com
Originating in Dubai, this boutique concept store has since spread to the capital. Although it stocks international designer labels like Alice McCall, you can also find unique pieces by up-and-coming regional and local designers like Zayan the Label, exclusive collaborations with international designers and the brand’s own line of fashion, BY SAUCE. Visit the boutique in Marina Mall or shop online with free shipping across the country. Sun-Wed 10am-10pm, Thu-Sat 10am-11pm. Contact: 02 681 8650, shopatsauce.com
Based in the UAE, this skincare brand sources natural ingredients from around the world derived from the concepts of Ayuverda to create products that help your skin ‘heal itself’. Bestsellers include a papaya and honey face mask and cucumber and rose water toner. Visit: herbal-essentials.com
Competing against bigger children’s franchises, this independent centre was started by mom-preneur Amiri, who not only created the colourful concept but designed everything from the factory décor to the website and marketing material – with the now iconic mascot, Zumba the zebra. A haven for artsy children, the centre offers various activities to keep them busy from painting on T-shirts to digital graffiti and a splash zone. Dalma Mall, 19th Street, Musaffah. 10.30am-3pm. Contact: 052 978 5982, kidzfactory-uae.com
Becky Balderstone, founder of Ripe, tells us more about her venture and the importance of supporting local farmers.
Tell us how Ripe came to be and how it’s grown today…
Ripe initially started when I realised I couldn’t source seasonal, organic, local, fresh produce in the UAE, like I could in the UK. After meeting my husband, we saw a gap in the market for locally produced, organic food, which was readily available from UAE farms, yet there were few retail channels bringing this to consumers. We now work with around 18 local farmers and are proud to support them and promote local agriculture.
What’s your main goal?
We aim to promote healthy eating among UAE residents by providing easy access to the best and freshest produce. We don’t think of ourselves as just a fruit and veg company. We’re about great food made with the best ingredients, about friends and family, fun and festivity, community living, health and wellbeing, adopting more sustainable habits and supporting local farmers and other local artisans and businesses.
What were your biggest challenges?
There have been many challenges along the way, but I believe if running your own business was easy then everyone would be doing it. There are so many advantages of being your own boss; I love being able to create my own vision and inspire people around me. I am also very grateful for the incredible team I have.
You’ve grown exponentially… Did you ever intend for it to get this big?
I am not a huge risk taker so I have grown the business slowly making sure that I can meet the demand while being true to what inspires me. Over the years we have grown organically and responded to our customers’ needs and wishes whether that was multiple market locations or home delivery seven days a week. I am extremely lucky that I have so many loyal customers who have supported me each step of the way.
Other than local farmers, you also promote local brands and artists at your markets. Why is this important to you?
Ripe’s client relationships are its strength. Through social media, direct marketing and face-to-face communication at markets and events, Ripe reaches thousands of like-minded individuals daily, all of whom share a mutual passion for the community and supporting local, fresh produce.
Launching the markets was a natural progression of this, as I wanted an informal setting not only where you could shop for organic produce but support local businesses. I wanted to create a relaxed atmosphere that was welcoming for everyone. I wanted people to come to the Ripe Markets and feel at home in some way and feel like they belong.
Why should the community support homegrown companies?
Without our relationships within the community, Ripe may not have expanded to where it is today. When you support your local businesses you are supporting not only the business owners, but their families too, and giving back to the community you live in.
WORDS Rachael Perrett