For the Women, From a Woman
Amanda Perry – CEO and owner of Vitality, a women-focused business accelerator firm which helps female-led businesses of all sizes achieve their goals, talks about her journey and hurdles faced by her on her way to achieving her dreams and how that led to her thinking of empowering women in business.
From an off-shore financial sector employee in the small isle town of Guernsey to a CEO in Dubai, what has been the journey that led you to start Vitality?
Ten years ago, when my business took off in Dubai, I realized there was something else that was needed. Something that was more of a hands-on consultative approach for the clients who wanted more structuring in their businesses, access to a larger team, advice, guidance and, support to grow those businesses. That is how we launched Vitality two and a half years ago, which is the region’s first female-focused business accelerator.
As I was born on a tiny little island called Guernsey, my career started in the off-shore financial sector before it took me to the Cayman Islands when I was 22 years old. That is where I really started building on my international experience of building companies around the world. It included advising clients in structuring, how to plan assets for their future, and also how to expand their businesses into new markets. After working there and the Bahamas, I was head-hunted to work at the DIFC.
I had been advising clients on owning and operating their businesses for so long, that now I wanted to do it for myself. I wanted independence and flexibility because of family.I wanted something that fit my plan for business along with my plan for personal life and family. With the onset of digitization and remote access, we were coming in an age where physical presence was no longer a requirement to operate. Hence I took the job with the DIFC and it gave me a chance to understand the new market. My plan was to be with DIFC while getting my business off the ground, but also get to learn how the Middle East workedand how I could incorporate that knowledge with the knowledge that I already had.
A couple of years later, I set up my own business whereby I could deliver what I was already skilled at, building businesses, but apply it to this region. It was during this period that I did extensive research on how and where to place my start-up. Because of the enormous amount of information on various licensing laws, my original business model to set up a company here and helping clients set up companies around the world changed as I had learned a whole new skill set, which was knowledge oflicensing authorities here and how they worked. This was the beginning of the initial seeds for Vitality.
How does Vitality help the women looking for business consultancy services?
At Vitality, things are done in a different and unique way. We work over an eight-week period wherein we go over all the pillars of their business and we refine and build their business model depending upon what stage they’re at. At the end of those eight weeks, we are left with a solid execution plan, that determines their course of action over the decided period of time and we stick with them making sure they stick to the plan, essentially becoming a part of their team. Sometimes clients do not know what goals they are looking for, and we work with them on finding the goals as well. What our clients walk away with is not just the support or accountability, but they get the result and it is done in a way that suits them.
Normally in the case of a business accelerator, it is a classroom style with information being more generic, but there is a lot of value in building relationships and teamwork along with no cost to the client other than giving equity in their business. While in the case of business consultancy, there is a very high cost to the client but the value provided is immense and is delivered in a private and confidential way on a one-to-one basis, and you are left with a plan of action. Hence what we do is different, we accelerate your business but we do it one-to-one.
What are some gaps you witnessed in the UAE market which are being addressed by Vitality?
As I said, we work very differently from other business consultants. Many of them will come in, evaluate your business, tell you what needs to be done and leave you with it. We don’t do that and we stay for the duration. We do that because many of the female-led businesses in this market are still young. So most of our clients are either micro to small businesses or early-stage start-ups. Even the larger businesses tend to be having small leadership teams resulting in a lack of peer-to-peer support and accountability. So when it comes to the gap in resources, we work together to bridge the gap as resources are not just capital or financial, but intellectual. Hence we look to onboard our intellectual resources in the client leadership team to help them grow the way they want.In the end, it all comes down to action and accountability.
Have you worked with any local clients as there has been a surge of local Arabian entrepreneurs, especially women, in recent times?
We have, and we are very pleased about that fact. When we launched Vitality and planned our target market, it was mostly expats. But what we are seeing is a lovely blended mix. Almost all of our business comes from referrals, and we took on our first local client six months back which snowballed from there. Having such a mix of clients gives us a chance to show diversity in what we offer here.
What are some of the sectors that the women entrepreneurs are getting into?
Creative industries, particularly the fashion industry, have a lot of women being interested in fashion designing. A lot of local fashion designers, along with British and Italian stylists and fashionistas are coming up. E-commerce is also seeing huge industrial growth for obvious reasons such as digitization, networking and remote working. Being able to use automation in your business allows a lot of flexibility and women work smart that way as women are better at multi-tasking. We are also seeing a lot of health awareness and we are kind of becoming the go-to place to accelerate business on health awareness as even in our own company, we stress on a healthy lifestyle.
Why do you think the tech field has not seen many women entrepreneurs?What are the reasons in your opinion that this is happening? Is the government in the UAE is doing something in this matter?
I think the government is doing a lot to change this. When you look at the initiatives for the coming decade, you can see a lot of changes there specifically related to the women in the technological field. I have done quite a lot of work with schools as part of our campaigns, where we have noticed more and more girls taking tech-focused classes. The school where my son goes has no barriers at all for girls to choose any subjects. While we are not seeing enough women in the tech field at present, wait for 10 more years and there will be a shift. Women of tomorrow will not just enter the field but will be leaders.
Three tips for budding women entrepreneurs to ensure they get where they want to be.
A clear direction is needed where you wish to go and get. A clear direction comes down to the goal setting, where you break your goal into smaller tasks and hold yourself accountable to finish those tasks or achieve those smaller goals. The best way to do that is to find someone on the same path as you, someone who supports you and you can support them and create collective accountability.