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MENA Entrepreneur Profiles: The Al Awadhi brothers of Wild Peeta

Posted on June 26, 2011 by Active

Anyone who actively socializes online in and around the UAE has probably heard of Wild Peeta and the brothers behind this re-mixed Shawarma business concept: Mohamed and Peyman Al Awadhi.

When I first came to Dubai as a bewildered expat it didn’t take me long to realize these brothers were some sort of local cause célèbre of the UAE business leaders community. Case in point, when their shawarma franchise brand name isn’t flitting across my Tweedeck, I am catching the brothers on some billboard, magazine page or taking up the stage at some well-attended conference.

I have to admit that prior to meeting them, I was quite skeptical of some of the hype that accompanies the Wild Peeta brand – thinking that these guys were being propped by a system that is eager to show the faces of home-grown Emirati entrepreneurs.

They are, after all, products of the Mohammed Bin Rashid Establishment for SME Development, a start-up incubator of sorts for young Emirati entrepreneurs. And now they have three locations in Dubai with investor funded plans to reach 100 outlets in the GCC by 2015. Predictably, my mind searches for all the milestones that would make them the “first Emiratis” to try a certain thing – like using Twitter as a CRM tool.

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Experiment: does publishing in a big magazine get you tons of Twitter followers?

Posted on June 13, 2011 by Active

I have sometimes wondered whether good content published in a big publication automatically leads to authors scoring a tidal wave of friends on Twitter.

Well, I was able to stumble upon a very excellent article published in Fast Company Magazine (whose Twitter account alone can reach out to upwards of 340,000 people).

The article just so happens to be written by a very unkown dude (by Twitter standards). Interestingly enough, the author of the article only had 183 followers on the day of the article being published.

Jeremy Jackson the day his Fast Co. article was published

I then waited to see if there if there would be any kind of jump in his follower count as a result of the article being published. Should the follower count have jumped significantly, I, of course, would not be able to prove causation of a big magazine’s impact on his follower count. But if there was no jump at all– then that says something pretty interesting in its own right!

So check out Jeremy’s follower count one week after the article got published. What do you think this says about the ability for good content to automatically propel the development and size of your social media following?

Jeremy Jackson a week after his Fast Co. article was published

MENA Entrepreneur Profiles: Mohamed Hassan of ArabLance

Posted on June 12, 2011 by Active

MENA Entrepreneur Profile: ArabLance

My assignment for this feature required me to profile the founder of ArabLance. It’s a service that Sudanese born, Mohamed Hassan, will readily admit is the Arab world’s version of Elance, the world’s largest website for brokering freelance work that gets performed online.

However, to say that Mohamed Hassan is another opportunist whose simply copied and pasted a trendy business model out of Silicon Valley has never obviously met him.

“Unemployment,” says Mohamed flatly.  “It’s all about unemployment”.

“We developed this marketplace to connect clients who are seeking completion of certain projects and tasks, such as translation, web development, marketing, business support, etc. The service providers just happen to be the jobless individuals, the freelancers, SMEs and even employed people who can achieve this task for them.

See, Mohamed thinks that creating this online marketplace will be a part of the solution to curing some of the world’s most notorious unemployment rates here in the Middle East.

“But how does creating an online marketplace create additional earned wages for the economy?” I ask, hoping to stump him.

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5 PR Misconceptions

Posted on June 6, 2011 by Active

On numerous occasions I have been asked ‘What exactly, is PR? Is it like Samantha from Sex and The City?’ To this I have answered, ‘Something like that, and a whole lot more!’

One purpose of PR is to get good press and avoid bad press, but PR itself has had pretty bad press over the years. The public image of PR has been created by corporate consultants who made their living covering up toxic spills and celebrity rehab stunts.

It is important to note that the first step toward becoming a successful PR consultant is to separate misconception from reality. PR is in fact the practice of managing communications between a particular organization, the media and the general public, ultimately building a healthy relationship.

PR consultants use a number of different strategies to build awareness and drive their organization’s growth in a particular marketplace. Because of this, there isn’t a straight or singular approach that can be taken, which in turn results in confusion about PR, what exactly works and how each organization can benefit.

Some of the most common misconceptions of PR are as follows:

1. PR and Advertising are the same. The truth is, PR is persuasive and communicated through third parties such as news media, whereas advertising consists of paid placements of controlled messaging. Since PR consultants go through third parties the messages portrayed are considered more credible by the public.

2. All PR Professionals are Publicists. As a matter of fact, comprehensive PR campaigns always require more than simply working with the media. Publicists mostly manage the reputation of an individual or small company in the media, whereas, PR consultants use various strategies including media relations, social media, interviews, crisis management and reporting in order to communicate relevant messages to the general public.

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MENA Entrepreneur Profiles: Kim Thompson’s Raw Coffee

Posted on June 4, 2011 by Active

MENA Entrepreneur Profiles: Kim Thompson's Raw Coffee

I hadn’t had breakfast yet but was already well into my 10 AM interview with Kim Thompson in the Dubai Garden Centre when a caffè latte was placed in front of me.

I cannot lie about the fact that I had been thinking about my inevitable coffee drink all week long, even as I am notoriously unappreciative of the bean once I get going with my work, or this busy interview with Kim which involved all kinds of technical dimensions to the story as there are ethical and philosophical and business ones.

To properly describe this disruptive cup of coffee, though, I would probably need to take you on a journey to Colombia or East Timor, through some of the places where these fair trade coffee beans are hand-picked. I would probably also need to discuss proper roasting temperatures and preparation techniques, but to be honest the whole interview and tour soon went over my head, requiring effort to simply give the appearance of attentiveness and understanding in the face of Kim’s details-friendly roastery tour (passionate entrepreneurs: can you really blame them?).

MENA Entrepreneur Profiles: Kim Thompson's Raw Coffee

All I know is that once I took that first sip, it hit me like a ton of bricks how every cup of coffee or espresso I’ve had in Dubai so far has been too acidic, acrid even– in retrospect leaving my mouth needlessly desiccated and needing some type of carb to balance it out. Don’t believe me? Stop into Raw Coffee and discover the crux of the story yourself. You will ask yourself why you may have never heard of them yet.

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