Wejdan BinJassim Al Mutairi is the entrepreneur who combined her passion for fashion with business in the form of Boutique 17, a multi-brand outlet spotlighting both established and emerging regional designers. We caught up with the Emirati girl boss on the importance of supporting local talent, the influence of her family and the ups and downs of starting out in business.
Harper's BAZAAR Arabia: Where did the idea behind Boutique 17 come from?
Wejdan BinJassim Al Mutairi: It came to me a few years ago when I noticed a lack of local boutiques in Abu Dhabi. My aim was to provide consumers with a larger pool of options to choose from when it came to purchasing clothing and accessories. We're all very familiar with the international brands currently available in the region, which have taken up a large share of the market. but being Emirati myself, I know that women love unique clothes and accessories, which led me to create Boutique 17 - a marketplace that hosts local and regional designers. Thus, the designers would have a larger customer base, whilst the customers would get a hands-on experience - allowing them to see, touch, and try on the pieces instead of relying on pictures off Instagram or other forms of social media.
HBA: Who inspires you?
WA: My parents are my true inspiration. My father has always taught me that to be successful you need to work hard and earn the respect of people around you. My mother taught me to acknowledge times when I have to be strict and disciplined and times when I have to be lenient and learn to let things go.
HBA: How did your business acumen develop?
WA: I graduated with an International Affairs Bachelors Degree from Zayed University and went on to join Abu Dhabi Police in 2009 as an HR Excellence Branch Manager. In under a year, I was also assigned the task of HR Strategy Branch Manager. During this time, I had developed a wide network of contacts, as well as business skills, because of the large amount of responsibility I was given - everything from managing staff to setting targets. During the first few years, the management was so impressed with the level of commitment I demonstrated that they selected me for a full Master’s Degree scholarship. In 2012, I started my course for the Executive Master of Business Administration at Zayed University and by 2014, I had graduated from both Zayed University and Police College. I really enjoy the feeling of setting myself a target and then achieving it.
HBA: What’s been the most challenging part of starting your own business?
WA: The fashion market is full of large international businesses, capable of overpowering SMBs and taking up market share. The customers are also more compelled to trust these bigger brands which makes our work even harder.
HBA: What hopes do you have for the future of Boutique 17?
WA: The Boutique is in its first year, so we're currently focusing on growing our customer base. Since the appeal of a boutique lies in it being one of a kind, we're hesitant to open more Boutique 17 branches in the future, but we're looking into opening a Boutique 17 that offers unique fashion pieces for men.
HBA: What advice would you give to young fashion-lovers who want to come up with their own unique business concept?
WA: Nothing in life comes easy - success requires hours of hard work and effort. If you have a dream, pursue it and don’t let anyone pull you down. Also, I'd say that failures are part of the journey to arrive at where you need to be.