Dunia Othman, MrUsta | Be Your Own Boss

We have lovely Dunia Othman, Co-founder of MrUsta and a brilliant mum entrepreneur in our series of #beyourownboss, she shares with us her inspiration, challenges and advice…

About Dubia Othman

I’m a proud Iraqi-Kiwi engineer, wife, and mother of a beautiful one-year old daughter. I’ve spent a majority of my life in the UAE, but my professional life has seen me to travel to a host of countries such as New Zealand, Canada, and Iraq work with brands like Microsoft and Nokia. I consider myself somewhat of a geek and I absolutely numbers; so you’ll always find spreadsheets open on my laptop at any time of day or night. In addition to my family and business obligations, I spend a lot of time mentoring and supporting women entrepreneurs in the UAE, and am active in a number of women’s groups in the country.

Along with my husband and two other friends, we co-founded mrUsta, region’s largest online service provider marketplace, in 2014. mrUsta connects customers directly to ‘Ustas’ (what we call our service providers) in over 200 categories, like AC repair, pest control, plumbing, house cleaning, painting, and so forth. mrUstais free to use for customers, and gives them the option of finding their jobs in two manners: either by posting a job and getting multiple offers from a number of Ustas, or directly booking a job through Instant Booking where a top-tiered Usta iss automatically assigned to them depending on the details provided.

Dunia’s inspiration for going it alone

A few years back (before we got married), my husband’s air conditioner broke down in the middle of August. The building’s management promised to get it fixed, but never showed up. He called around for service providers in Dubai who were willing to work in short notice – it wasted hours of his time, with more broken promises, and atrocious rates. After talking to several friends and colleagues, he realized that this was a common story in Dubai and the UAE and that there needed to be a solution.

In parallel, I was facing a similar situation. I had moved to a new apartment in the heart of Dubai and struggled to find someone who would make and put up my curtains. Again, phone calls made, promises broken, and for months I woke up to the morning sun’s rays as I had nothing to block the light!

So when my husband pitched the idea to me, without hesitation, I said ‘let’s do it.’

My typical day

I usually get up at the crack of dawn to feed and play with my daughter, before getting ready to head to the office, however, I don’t have the normal office experience that most do. As I also mentor budding female entrepreneurs in the UAE, I spend a lot of time meeting with them and talking at events hosted by women’s groups all over the country. My mentoring continues in the office, where I have taken the younger members of the mrUsta family under my wing

Although busy with my obligations at work, at home, and with my mentoring, I believe I’ve found the perfect balance.

And you know what? I love it. I have absolutely no regrets. No woman should sacrifice one aspect of her and should always be able ot life the choices she prefers.

Greatest challenge of setting up and running my own business

Starting your own business is always a risk – you have to essentially quit your comfortable 9-6 job and the financial security that comes with it to pretty much ‘gamble’ on an idea that can make you rich, or alternatively, flat-out broke.

What I found the biggest challenge to be is raising the initial seed funds for our startup (we initially bootstrapped the entire operation). It’s not enough to believe 100% that your business model will work; it’s the art – and the skill – of making investors believe it. Once we got over that hurdle, we worked on our challenges of hiring the right team and getting our marketing right.

My 3 tips for budding entreprenuers

First, find investors in the same field as they can mentor you through your entire business process and has a vested – other than financial interest – in your field.

Second, never lose your passion for your business. Over time you will learn that you may need to pivot or tweak your model, but that’s not a lack of confidence in your business – it’s just there may be a better way to do things. Don’t let this affect you – keep your drive and keep on going.

Thirdly, one word – CASH: be confident, be assertive, be smart, but most importantly, be humble.