The business of style
"Opening a boutique at the age of 22 was a big challenge, especially for a female in Saudi Arabia. I am a very hands on person, so I decided to do it all completely on my own."
Dana Malhas has always had a passion for style and fashion, so it makes sense that she’s now the Co-Owner, creative director and head buyer of CREAM boutique in Jeddah, one of the most stylish and inspiring destinations in the Middle East.
Dana was just 22 when she made the decision to open her own business, but really, with her love for all things stylish, it was inevitable. “I had just graduated from the American University in Beirut,” recalls Dana. “And I’d just moved back to my hometown, Jeddah. I was full of enthusiasm about bringing something new to the country. I wanted to do something with fashion, and something I love, because I believe this is when you perform best.”
Finding your market
Dana’s inspiration came when she identified a gap in the market in Jeddah which she knew she had the skills and passion to fill. “It took me less than a month [after returning to Jeddah] to realise what was missing in the market. There were high-end brands and the lower-end brands, but nothing in between. Nothing that is exclusive, limited and unknown. And I personally love wearing items that are new and undiscovered.”
With her ambitions firmly set, Dana chose to invest some valuable time in training that would complement her existing fashion skills with the business savvy that would help her better run a successful operation. “I wanted to try the corporate world to learn discipline and proper work ethics,” she says, “so I worked at an investment bank for two years.” This practical foundation empowered Dana to confidently enter the world as an entrepreneur.
An eye on everything
Dana was involved in all aspects of CREAM Boutique from the start. “I wanted to be involved in every little step,” she says. “I used to sit on site for hours, reading interior design books, imaging how I would want my store to be like and sketching it until I got the complete picture and drew the whole design myself. Once it was ready, I refused to hire a contractor because I believed no one would do it faster than me, so I did everything myself. I hired the laborers and spent days and nights with them on site until the store was done. I also did all the paper work and legal processes, running from one office to another. Then, of course, I did the buying, the marketing, PR, and even our visual merchandising. It was a one woman show for three-years until the team started growing!”
From initial conception, to the opening of the store and onto its continued growth, Dana has seen the value of being connected from the start, and she is now a major voice of fashion in the Middle East.
“To me, Instagram is the most direct way of marketing. It is every businesses’ dream. Especially for us retailers, as our ultimate goal is to get our clients to see our new collections, and Instagram helps us achieve this goal. I try to make the CREAM account a mix of personal and business in order to better connect with our clients and make them feel they are with us on this journey. I think it’s very important to share your life, your work, your travel, your personal style. Especially for my boutique, as the concept is very exclusive and limited, so it is so important to my clients to get to know the person behind it and what I do to get them all these exclusive brands from all around the world.”
What’s in a name
Dana and CREAM Boutique’s success in the Middle East is undeniable. Sales continue to grow and CREAM has been named one of the top shopping destinations in the Middle East. Dana herself has worked with brands including Chanel, Dior, Fendi and Burberry, and regularly appears on best dressed lists in glossy fashion magazines. She was also named as one of the most influential young women in Saudi Arabia. Dana knows the value of her success and is keen to spread the word to other aspiring female entrepreneurs. “I speak at as many talks as I can to share my experience,” she says, “and hope this will encourage others.”
Learn more about Dana Malhas and CREAM Boutique