Our Journey towards Enlightenment
After working in the Middle East for nine years, I had a dream in 1993 in which an angel came to me with a mission to "save the world from IKEA."
Well one can't ignore an angel, so for the next two years I worked on my business plan – according to which I needed US$4 million to get THE One off the ground – and tried to get every bank and business family in the region to understand my vision of a revolutionary home fashion brand. But all I managed to do was collect a bunch of rejection letters, which today adorn the walls of our Dubai Head Office reception…
By a stroke of luck in December 1995, I scraped together enough money with the help of two guys I never dreamt of as possible business partners - Rashed Al Mazroui, a UAE national and Shakir Abal, a Kuwaiti - who went on to become my 'partners in crime' and very dear friends.
With at least some of the money in place, I gathered a small team of early believers who proceeded to eat, sleep and breathe THE One 24/7 for the next 7 months. Finally, in the summer of 1996, the blood, sweat and tears paid-off when the very first THE One Theatre opened in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. But it was oh so NOT my dream. In fact, it was my worst nightmare come true, looking and feeling like a home furnishings supermarket… A little bit like IKEA, actually! When the endless hordes of adoring customers I expected didn't materialise, I realised that the location was also all wrong. Then I found another location in Dubai and this time one bank was prepared to lend me some money. Since my early optimism had led me to overstaff and overstock the Abu Dhabi store, I transferred half the staff and half the stock to the new Jumeirah store, which ultimately secured the brand's survival.
But THE One's troubles were far from over. Fires, floods, cash flow problems, stock problems, people problems, heart problems, bank problems, supplier problems, psychological problems… You name it and we had been through it. But as they say, what doesn't kill you makes you stronger.
Today, THE One has proven that things DO grow in the desert… We have twenty-three stores in nine countries across the Middle East and we’re not only growing, but also evolving! In 2012 we launched two new concepts: THE One Fusion and THE One Junior, which are both on show at THE One Fusion store in Dubai as well as in THE One Khalidiya in Abu Dhabi and THE One Marina Mall in Kuwait City. In 2014 we opened our first fully fledged THE One Junior Boutique in Doha’s Lagoona Mall, Qatar and followed that with another Junior Boutique in Al Ain Mall in July 2015. In April/May of the same year, we furthermore launched THE One Basics – our new no-frills cash-and-carry concept – with stores in Sharjah and Ras Al Khaimah, UAE.
Sounds good doesn't it? A cool story, successful company, great people and a brand loved by many. But so freaking what?! I don’t believe the world needs another retailer. We need a better world. I feel THE One has a much larger role to play than merely selling stuff no one really needs. We have a responsibility to ourselves and our customers, to try to improve the world we live in. To Do Good. Be THE Good Company.
Watch this space and remember: THE Journey is what brings us happiness, not the destination.