Ebraheem Al Samadi has made a name for himself in the world of retail through his entrepreneurial skills and drive to succeed
There is something extraordinary about a rose that doesn’t wilt or dry, but remains fresh and velvety for months on end. “For me, it was love at first sight. The minute I first saw the ‘Forever Rose’ in London, I knew I just had to bring it into the Middle East,” says Ebraheem Al Samadi, the 28-year-old CEO of Al Samadi Group, a Dubai-based retail and hospitality group.
Intrigued by the Ecuadorean roses, which are treated under a secret process to extend their life, Al Samadi bought the UK-based company in 2014, turning it into a popular retail brand.
“Everything that I’ve lived for so far has all come down to this one brand. And luckily, the feedback has been just phenomenal.”
He continues: “I noticed quite early on that our customers were buying Cartier rings and other such jewellery as gifts, along with our roses. So, we decided to offer them a whole range of gift products from chocolates and perfumes to jewellery, a one-stop shop for presents. We started retailing some of Belgium’s finest chocolates, followed by Forever Oud, possibly the world’s longest-lasting oud perfume made out of the petals of these special roses and with no chemicals at all – completely organic.”
Forever Rose’s signature perfume, which was sold out within hours of its debut, contains some of the most expensive oud varieties grown in Thailand, and costs $243 for a 100-ml bottle.
Now, Al Samadi has launched a diamond jewellery line under the Forever Rose brand which is inspired by its logo. This exclusive jewellery line is available at the brand’s prime locations in Abu Dhabi Corniche and City Walk Dubai. It has been lovingly designed by a craftsman who has served the royal family for generations.
“Every year, we go in a crazy direction, leaving our competitors utterly confused. You see, Forever Rose is like a train that’s going faster and faster, but the stations are known only to me. The first stop was concept stores, the next stop is a Forever Rose cafe and the third is a Forever Rose hotel,” he says.
The hotel brand, he points out, will not just target couples but also be a family-friendly destination offering children’s activities “to give mom and dad some down time”.
A Kuwaiti-American, Al Samadi says he was destined for success in the world of business. At 14, he launched his very first venture out of his mother’s Florida apartment selling off-season clothing and items on eBay, a stint which eventually earned him one of eBay’s coveted “1000 Power Sellers” awards.
“When I started selling on eBay, I spent a lot of time understanding what customers want, how they want it and when. So I learned the nuances of business on my own.”
After succeeding in fast-tracking his secondary studies to earn a high school diploma in the ninth grade, Al Samadi worked 80-hour weeks to financially support his newly single mother and young sister. By age 17, he had enough liquid capital to invest in his first company, EHA.
By age 20, the entrepreneur was already a self-made millionaire.
“I remember wondering, so what’s next? Should I buy a yacht and party? No. I don’t want people to be around me for what I have, I want people to be around me for who I am. So, I don’t need these materialistic things.”
The American market had taken a nosedive and Al Samadi decided to go eastwards to work on his fortune. After a feasibility study across the GCC cities of Riyadh, Jeddah, Kuwait City, Doha and Bahrain, Dubai was chosen as the company’s headquarters, mainly because of the Jebel Ali port.
He established Al Samadi Group in 2010, buying office space in Regal Tower in Business Bay instead of renting it out because he was planning for the long haul. Six years on, the company has brought in boutique retail brands into the Middle East market with much success and now has a turnover of Dh80 million ($21.7 million).
“I am always finding new ways of being different. Remaining creative and passionate has allowed me to consistently offer new concepts and products which haven’t been seen on the market before,” he says. “For example, when we came here in Dubai there was a lack of luxury hair care products, so we saw the opportunity for Amika: a brand from Brooklyn, New York. Soon after, we launched Wired Up, a speciality jewellery store in Dubai Mall and followed it up with another hair care brand from the US called Juicy, which we sell on Citrus TV, leading up to our luxury edition, Forever Rose.”
Forever Rose has found passionate followers among the region’s elite, with franchises branching out in Kuwait City and Doha.
Creating a positive atmosphere, a healthy home for his employees and equal opportunity are very high up in the agenda of this young businessman. “My employees work with me, not for me – when fear is your motivator, you lack creativity. In order to be a good leader, you have to be a follower at one point. I try to set an example for my employees.
“I genuinely care for people. When I ask someone ‘How are you?’ I wait for the response.”
As of today, Al Samadi Group has never had to take a loan from any bank or financial institution and it will remain this way, says the entrepreneur. “We are self-funded from our previous businesses. We strongly believe in ‘don’t buy what you cannot afford’. Having said that, quality is our top concern, the price tag it comes with is just something we have to work around. Quality cannot be compromised. It is important for us to create something that is unique, something that is exclusive and not a copy of something else that already exists.”
“My memory has always served me right. When I see concepts that pique my interest, they stay with me. Randomly, I analyse what changes need to be made to them, to make them better, more successful. I like making things better. I have real life experience, not bookish knowledge.
“I don’t believe you have to be born with business acumen – many successful businessmen and women started out as employees. The most important requirement to succeed in business is will power and passion. I had the passion to support my mother and my sister. When my mother got divorced after 25 years of marriage I was the youngest son and the only son who went with her.”
When asked where he sees himself a decade from now, Al Samadi’s eyes light up. “I will be 50 times more successful in 10 years’ time,” he predicts.
And we know he’s serious.
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