We’re meeting some of the shop keepers behind the small brands at saffronsouk.com throughout May and so we thought it’s high time you got to meet us, Anna & Annabelle, the faces behind Saffron Souk.
A few years ago you wouldn’t have seen a camera near us, let alone a photo of the two of us smiling like a couple of crazy cookies, with finger puppets stuffed on our fingers… so we have come a long way, and that is mainly down to our passion to do (almost) anything to help spread the word about our small business saffronsouk.com.
Yes, we are a couple of silly ladies, taking the hit for the rest of you on the making fools out of ourselves stakes! But we justify it as being all for the greater good…
2. – 6. We tell anyone who will listen about Saffron Souk and all the local designer-makers who own shops at saffronsouk.com. So keep up to date with our press page here; it’s got all the latest bits and pieces about what we and the Saffron Souk community are up to.
When and why did you decide to start your own business?
We started to hatch our plans for Saffron Souk back in 2011 before the physical market scene took off here in UAE. We loved the underground vibe of villa sales and home businesses and wanted to give all these creative people a legal platform to get themselves out there and make their products available to the wider community.
We also LOVE shopping for quirky finds, so we were being a bit selfish really, wanting all those goodies in one handy online location. It’s just a shame we are pouring our money into the website and not into the lovely finds – having said that, we often sneak in the odd purchase or two!
What’s the best thing about setting up your own brand?
Oh my word – how do you other shop keepers answer these questions? For us it has been challenging ourselves once again, and getting involved in the nitty gritty of the creative process. It’s also really lovely to see and hear from fellow shop keepers and understand the positive impact Saffron Souk has had on their own small business journey.
It’s been quite overwhelming to look back and realise how far we have come, and how much we have actually learnt. All a bit scary (in the best possible way!).
7. Our live radio debut on Dubai 92 way back when… Yes, remembering this experience we have come a long, long way (thank goodness!).
What are some of the challenges you’ve faced?
Running your own business is much more challenging than working for someone else and we face challenges on a regular basis.
We often have to be creative to overcome them but there’s an incredibly supportive entrepreneurial community in Dubai and there seems to always be someone to offer a word of advice and help us on our way.
What do you love about selling online?
Our shopfront is open 24 / 7 allowing people to make a purchase whenever they want. It also allows us to be slightly more flexible with our time – we do tend to work very random hours.
What top tips can you share with other saffronsouk.com shopkeepers?
We have soooo many, we would definitely bore the pants off you if we wrote them all here. However this little blog post here, was written in reaction to the frustration we were feeling of seeing so many fab shops opening, (with the most amazing products), yet they weren’t helping themselves in an online context. Based on the size of it – we think we let off all the necessary steam.
One thing we would like to highlight is the power of networking. You might have seen us randomly pop-up at events around town. Rarely at the same location twice in a row, we like to tell people all about saffronsouk.com and the amazing people and brands showcased on the shopping platform, but we want them to find it tricky to find us again because ideally we would like them to visit us online! The whole drive behind attending these events is spreading the word, and it works! We have definitely noticed an increase in online shopping following a trip out with our tear drop caravan.
8. – 14. The Saffron Souk tear drop caravan on the road, with our inhouse brand, spreading the saffronsouk.com LOVE…
What sets your products apart?
We try our very hardest to work with local suppliers to ensure that as much as possible our store stocks Saffron Souk ‘Made in the UAE‘ items – with a quirky twist. Typically we look to develop products that both residents and visitors want to take home with them, either as a momento of your time in the Gulf or as a token to share a part of the UAE with friends and family.
15. The Saffron Souk paper clips – a firm favourite around here!
Who’s your favourite designer?
Annabelle: I love Trisha Guild of Designers Guild fame.
Anna: Goodness, I have so many favourites across all the design fields. I have too say I have always had a soft spot for Sir Quentin Blake‘s illustrations.
What’s your favourite colour?
Annabelle: Blue, in any shade at all. At the moment, I have a particular thing for aqua and turquoise blues.
Anna: Turquoise is definitely flavour of the last 5 years in my Saffron Souk.
16. – 18. You would never know we both have a thing for turquoise based on the colour palette of the Saffron Souk in-house product range? (16. A camel leather bracelet with sterling silver clasp & charm; 17. Man on a bike wall decal; 18. Notecard set with embossed envelopes).
What’s your favourite film?
Annabelle: I’m a little bit embarrassed to admit it, but I love Seven Brides for Seven Brothers – an oldie but a goldie!
Anna: It used to be Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory but now I have to admit I find it all a bit weird! I have to say being away from home for so long I do get a kick out of watching some of those quirky small budget New Zealand films, like Boy & The Shark v’s the Eagle. I can’t imagine anyone else finding them funny but some of the one liners have me in stitches!
When did you last laugh?
We laugh a lot here at Saffron Souk, mostly at ourselves. It’s the perfect thing to diffuse stress and make a day of work fun.
Do you have any regrets?
There are things that maybe we would have done a little differently with hindsight, but certainly no regrets!
19. No regrets around here…
If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
Annabelle: I’d love curly hair 🙂
Anna: To not show exactly how I feel on my face. That would be very handy.
Do you have any pets?
Annabelle: We have a gorgeous gold fish who is a record breaking 4 years old! We’re also the proud new owners of 4 stray kittens who have taken up residence in our garden.
Anna: No, unfortunately our crazy cat died recently, so I am just annoying Annabelle’s kittens, as well as her and her kids.
What do you think you’d taste like?
Annabelle: Chocolate freckles. It’s what I eat most of!
Anna: mmm…. I am not sure but if you licked me at the moment, I would certainly taste of a very nasty flavour of bio-oil (think that might be a case of too much information).
Do you have a motto?
Annabelle: My old school principal used to say ‘do unto others as you would have them do unto you’ and I think this is a goodie to live by.
Anna: Simple is best!
Did you ever run away from home as a child?
Annabelle: No, but now I’m wondering why ever not! I might try it yet!
Anna: No, but we have been threatening our IT guys (and anyone else who will listen) that we are running off to Mexico. Watch this space….
What is your golden rule?
Annabelle: Look to the future and don’t dwell in the past.
Anna: Just do it. Not in the Nike sense, but that often it is just best to go with your gut instinct and not think too hard.
Who is the best super-hero? Superman, Batman or Spiderman?
Annabelle: Spidey is the number one hero in our Saffron Souk.
Anna: I have never really been into super heros. Sad but true.
What was your worst holiday?
No such thing as a bad holiday! Even the ones that don’t quite go to plan
How many foreign languages do you speak?
Shamefully, none with the exception of a few token words in Arabic and French.
What is the oddest habit you will admit to?
Annabelle: I’ve inherited my mothers nervous twitch about checking that the iron is turned off 10 times before leaving the house!
Anna: Annabelle sounds like she is turning into my mother!
When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?
Annabelle: Something to do with animals – a vet, farmer or zoo keeper.
Anna: You know, I really don’t know. I kind of fell into my career path (even though it was a conscious decision). I will need to have a chat with my parents and jog their memory.
I you could retire tomorrow what would you do?
Annabelle: Travel! I’d dust off my backpack and hop on a plane somewhere.
Anna: I am with Annabelle, although I think I would leave the backpack at home.
If you won the lottery what would be the first thing that you would buy?
Annabelle: I dream about this a lot and I have to admit it would probably be a flashy sports car!
Anna: I would probably step away from the computer for a bit and spend some $$$ celebrating with friends.
Do you like girl groups or boy bands?
Annabelle: Live bands. Any genre at all.
Anna: Good choice Annabelle. I quite fancy a spot of jumping up and down – it’s been too long.
What are your 5 favourite finds from the Saffron Souk market?
Our favourites can change on a daily basis, but these are some of our current must-haves:
- ChoiSi’s poufs,
- Made in the Desert skyline picture,
- ByAA bracelet,
- Everything from Les Cherubins,
- Roundie towels from The Corner Shop
Why do you find the Saffron Souk website appealing to shop at?
This is quite possibly the worst part of our job. Every day we spend hours sitting in front of a computer looking at gorgeous things to buy on saffronsouk.com. It’s best to leave the purse in another room at all times!
Having said that working on your own business leaves you little time, so it’s really handy to make an online purchase for friends birthdays, the arrival of babies, kids parties etc and get the item gift wrapped and delivered direct to the persons door. There is something quite special about them getting a surprise, unexpected gift!
Shop the Saffron Souk in-house brand here…