Working with friends is risky – it can either make or break your enterprise – and your relationship with each other as well. But the three co-founders of Friends’ Avenue Café – Davron Hamidov, Ziyovuddin Alikhonov and Fazliddin Kosimov- are going that route, and they are determined to make it work. Taking their experience from working in the hospitality sector in the U.S., the founders, who are all aged between 24 and 25 years old and are currently pursuing Master’s degrees, bootstrapped and set up their homegrown café in Dubai’s JLT neighborhood at the end of February this year.
While admitting that setting up shop in an unfamiliar place and market is challenging, Hamidov says it’s their “strong belief of turning our dreams into reality” that pushed them to move forward with their venture – despite them being only students. “We truly believe that your age does not define whether you can succeed or not as an entrepreneur,” Hamidov says. “Because what is more important is that you will feel more responsible towards [the] steps [you have] taken to build up your future.” Alikhonov adds that though it requires a lot of effort to be a student and entrepreneur, the innate experience they have from a “real business arena” is contributing to their academic final project.
But what about their dynamic as friends when managing Friends’ Avenue Café? Hamidov says the trick to making it work is all about knowing each other’s capabilities, delegating tasks and responsibilities, and mutual understanding. The café’s name was derived from their time in New York, reminiscent of its narrow, old fashioned streets for people to walk. The founders wanted to stimulate energy and passion to a place “where people can socialize, enjoy quality gourmet food and establish positive relationship with our entity. It is our avenue, an avenue of friends who love to gather over a casual breakfast, or delicious lunch, or a cup of coffee.”
And an avenue for friends it is. Friends’ Avenue Café’s interior design is cozy, with industrial décor and hipster hints, evident from its brick walls, wooden boards, crate shelves with antiques (“which takes us back to our memories from [the] avenues of Manhattan,” Alikhonov notes), and brightly colored bicycles from Chari Cycles – a UAE startup which upcycles bicycles- hanging from a side of the brick wall. Their visual branding was inspired from visits to small cafes in London, New York and Stockholm, with the aim to depict a comfortable, casual space with a warm ambience.
Besides indoor and outdoor seating, there’s also a communal table that Alikhonov says allows for people to actually gather around to eat and socialize. According to Kosimov, this is the outlet’s unique selling point: “Friends’ Avenue Café is not [a] fast food fuel stop, nor is it a fancy, special occasion restaurant. We are a casual, relaxed place, which forms part of your daily and weekly routines – somewhere to stop in for your morning coffee and breakfast on the way to work, to have [a] yummy lunch, to catch up with friends and your beloved ones for brunch at the weekend, or to indulge in a piece of cake and a pot of tea after work. We try to create [a] warm, comforting space that serve the type of food that you want to have with your friends, families and people close to you.” Next up for Friends’ Avenue Café is a new menu for the new season in the coming months. So friends, order up!
‘Trep Talk: Davron Hamidov
ON WORKING WITH FRIENDS
1. “Keep lines of communication open. The openness the team shares is a function of the respect they have for each other as business partners and friends. It is better to be open and transparent than to be less than forthcoming on something as important as your business for the sake of the friendship.
2. Don’t hold grudges. Grudges are unhealthy in any friendship, and are equally unhealthy in business. Air out grievances when they occur. Friends, like business partners, need to either move on or move out. It’s easier to move on when all friends/business partners learn from each other and the mistakes that they’ve made together. Ultimately, this will create a stronger and more successful company.
3. Build good companies like you build good friendships. Good companies are built upon the same principles as good friendships: Communication, collaboration and transparency. Just as friends value and respect each other’s personal interests, business partners must do the same-putting the company’s interests above their own.”
ON STARTING A BUSINESS IN THE MENA REGION
1. “Conduct an extensive research on existing market, internal and external business environment, such as political conditions, economic situation, competition and others. By not realizing and understanding the market, it is very unlikely to succeed with strategies which are constructed with lack of knowledge about people, current businesses and the area. The willingness to stand out in the market among others and succeed among competitors cannot be easily achieved without ample market knowledge.
2. Grasp the cultural differences among people who are your stakeholders (such as target market, government authorities, local population, etc.). Before establishing the business, it is very important to understand the values and norms of people whom you are going to cooperate and partner with. As an entrepreneur, you need to make decisions and strategies, such as marketing tactics, branding, and many others, in a way that all stakeholders’ values are appreciated.
3. Seize the opportunity by finding the gap in the specific market. Dubai is the city with full of opportunities, and this is true if you know what to offer and how to enter the market. By trying to imitate successful chains or home grown companies, you might lead yourself into early failure, as the market is developing very rapidly with many advancements. Therefore, finding the gap and trying to fulfill it can assist you in achieving success and build your future in Dubai’s rapidly growing business arena.”
PAMELLA DE LEON
Columnist, Entrepreneur Middle East