Ex-banker channels her passion into fashion

August 5, 2018
Shaden Bushnaq runs the multi-brand Boutique Ayla

The volte-face move from a career in banking to fashion was an amazing step in Shaden Bushnaq's life.

Always wanting to have her own business, Shaden, a graduate in business/managerial economics from the American University in Cairo, used her background in banking to seamlessly set up her business - Boutique Ayla.

The challenge came in finding the right avenue that would ultimately add value in a competitive market while also allowing Shaden to pursue her passion for style and fashion. She set out to give women a shopping destination that would not only fit their varying body types, tastes and budgets but also help each customer create her dream wardrobe for all of life's special occasions.

'I am passionate about style and I enjoy having stylish women around me. We are what we wear and if we wear what suits us, we will look natural, unique and simply ourselves,' explains the founder.

'A banker by profession, my ultimate goal was to build the right experience in the corporate world and then start my entrepreneurial journey. An idea that was a few years in the making finally became a reality when I found a unique conscept that spoke to me. I am a person who is passionate about fashion and style,' she says.

Boutique Ayla, a multi-brand boutique, offers a curated selection of designs for special occasions. With a focus on showcasing emerging local and international talent, Boutique Ayla brings on-trend and unique options to its clientele. Providing a one-stop shopping experience, the boutique offers a selection of evening wear, cocktail dresses, kaftans and accessories at prices to fit any budget.

Empowering clients
'Our ethos is simple, but unique. We love what we do and we do it with love. We believe that love and passion must be embedded in the core of every element/decision/choice made at the boutique. Not only are these elements evident in everything we offer, but we also believe that they can translate into our clients' style choices, leaving them empowered and more confident in how they present themselves to the world,' she says.

Explaining the boutique's name, Shaden says: 'Deriving from ancient origins, Ayla translates as the halo surrounding the moon or more commonly known as 'moonlight' which captures the essence of the woman it caters to. The Ayla woman shines from within. She is modest and beautifully natural, choosing to embrace life with positivity.'

Shaden says her business model revolves around the most important factor: Ayla's customers.

'We handpick every piece that we bring into the store, pieces that not only reflect the latest trends and styles, but also cater to the varying style choices, body types and budgets our clients may have,' she elaborates.

'We put our heart and soul into running the boutique with the aim that every client that walks through our doors leaves with the satisfaction and confidence that she has put together an outfit that is her own,' she adds.

Supporting fresh talent
Shaden believes the UAE has grown to be a strong supporter of fresh talent, encouraging entrepreneurial journeys and facilitating startups.

'I have been an active participant in the Entrepreneurs Organisation Accelerator Programme [EOA programme]. The supportive environment exposes startups to professional learning sessions and works with members on scaling up their businesses to the next level through a well-planned and coached accountability group,' she says.

'The UAE offers a competitive market with unrivalled government support to entrepreneurs. There are also several networking groups and organisations like the EOA that offer diversified support, advice, coaching to scale up and fund-raising guidance,' she continues.

Explaining her entrepreneurial experience, Shaden says that unlike job careers, which are interesting yet easy to pull out from, entrepreneurship is an empowering journey that is also full of ongoing challenges.

'If you stay positive, focused, alert and creative in the way you run your business and have the right support on your side, you will make it.

'In my case, I attribute my success to three factors: First, my curiosity. There is always more out there to be learnt, new ideas, new techniques and more opportunities to be sought. Second, my entrepreneurial experiences have been heightened by being part of different organisations, such as the EOA. And finally, my husband and loving family who are always there to proactively listen and brainstorm with me when the need arises,' she elaborates.

Shaden says new measures such as adding millennial blood to the management team and customer feedback have contributed to the success of her business.

'Our intentions will remain to be in the same industry and grow the business in the right direction,' she concludes.