The United Arab Emirates is fast becoming one of the most innovative and futuristic cities in the world, with both the local Emiratis and expatriates moving to Dubai for entrepreneurship opportunities. With such an international scene and the diversity of people, ideas and creativity, it is no wonder that the UAE is home to some of the most talented people in the world!
One of such is Natali Budzei, an entrepreneur, lawyer, and multi-business owner. We wonder how she finds the time to run three businesses and keep up her vibrant social media presence.
Natali is one of the most diverse entrepreneurs to have emerged out of the UAE. Gaining recognition as a pianist, she has since propelled herself to an award-winning business owner, mentor, and international event consultant.
Though from Ukraine, Natali launched Gulf Art Advisory, a leading art consultancy firm that is promoting emerging artists and connecting them with galleries and collectors. The beautiful Ukrainian, who lives in Dubai, is the epitome of the UAE’s entrepreneur culture. Moving to the UAE seven years ago for her MBA in International Hospitality Business, she later set up her company in 2014 and has since become one of the most successful entrepreneurs in the country.
Her career as an entrepreneur has seen her work with leading luxury brands such as Bulgari, Hermes, Cartier, Jumeirah Group, Amazonico, and many more.
Always full of energy and ideas, Natali shares with PLEASURES MAGAZINE everything from taking leaps and managing company growth to remembering the importance of your own creative side and the realities of running your own brand. The young Ukrainian also dishes out some pieces of advice to those who have that bold entrepreneurial spirit.
It is nice to have you on Pleasures Magazine. Please, what brief information can you give about yourself?
My name is Natali Budzei. I am from Ukraine, and an entrepreneur based in Dubai.
How long have you been in Dubai?
For the first time I visited Dubai in 2010, and it was just for a short vacation in between getting my masters in International Law in Ukraine. Dubai looked quite challenging and safe at the same time, and I was looking for another place to reside in after my graduation. I considered New York and London among the most established places in education, art and business. But it did not take me too long, probably just an hour after I landed, to know that I would live here one day and I’ve been a resident since 2013.
Why did you choose to set up your business in Dubai and not UK, United States, or your country?
At first, I moved in as a student and was working on my MBA in International Hospitality Business. I still had no idea how I would like to be established in the region and if I will stay here after my education. With some understanding from my entrepreneur friends of setting a business in Free Zones, I decided to try on my own. Comparing procedures for expatriates in US or UK to the UAE, there was a huge difference. Also, as United Arab Emirates’ population is made up of more than 90 per cent foreigners, you don’t feel foreign.
Now, with a historic move of new citizenship, which allows residents under certain criteria to get the UAE passport, the country is opening the door wider to people of all nationalities to truly embrace the UAE as their own.
How did your upbringing prepare you for the world of business?
My father was a head of police department dealing with organized crimes. When he retired, he started a few businesses in oil, petrochemicals, coal, security and others. No one taught him how
to manage it, he had to figure that out on his own. My mother used to be a primary school teacher, until she established a private school and nursery.
My parents taught me that we all have the confidence in us to take chances and bet on ourselves.
Going through your social media posts, what stands out is the positiveness and energy emanating from you. Do you believe it is something inborn in you? How can one incorporate gratefulness into one’s life?
Thank you. I do believe that energy is extremely important. We “read” each other not as much by looks, but by energy. It’s the most honest way to connect.
I don’t think we should aim to incorporate gratefulness or anything else into one’s life. Just be grateful, it’s the best way to inspire others by your own example. It’s also okay to be grateful and still want more.
Five years ago, you started your first business and today you run three successful businesses. What has this journey been like?
Entrepreneurship is a long way of ups and downs. What I have now is not success that came overnight.
I love art a lot and my first company was the Art Advisory firm. That was one of my best experiences – attending art fairs all over the world, meeting artists and collectors. I was still doing it after I stepped out of this business and probably will continue once the world recovers from the pandemic.
Through my career I have been involved in different sorts of businesses and I can say that no matter what you do, the two most important qualities you need to focus on are how good you are doing your job and how advanced your communication skills are.
Have you always been entrepreneurial? What led you to taking that first step and setting up your own business?
When I was 12, during summer camp attendance, I organized café for our teachers and hired my classmates. We were selling chips and cola. I am clearly not a corporate person type.
Could you tell us how your yoga journey began?
I decided to extend my business profile just before the lockdown started. And I googled the most selling products on Amazon. Yoga mat was in Top 10. I checked lots of products and brands but did not find something cool or what I would really like. I knew I could make it better. Then, I was looking for reliable factories, best quality materials, actual designs, branding, packaging, and more. The fact is I arranged the whole business only on WhatsApp. Without being able to travel obviously due to the global pandemic. This has totally changed my views on the nature of business and opened so much more opportunities in my mind for my future ventures.
You have recently launched Budzy Mats. What sets Budzy apart from other yoga mats in the market? How are Budzy Mats ecologically made and why is this so important to you?
Great question. I do believe people care about global warming and climate change. It is really happening right at this moment, and our goal as humanity is to save our beautiful planet if possible. And right here the quest for my purpose became much deeper.
Usually, when you see recyclable products, most of the time they look quite boring in terms of design. Yes, you buy them. But then, you never really use them. So, they hang somewhere in your house gathering dust.
I wanted to create a product, which will be fashionable and eco-friendly at the same time. So, once you purchase, you WANT to use it daily.
Made from the highest quality of rubber, Budzy mats are free from PVC materials, which contain dangerous chemical additives including phthalates, lead, cadmium, which can be toxic to one’s health. They are also bigger than standard mat and don’t slip.
How is the sales process like; do you sell Budzy mats online or in physical shops?
Now we are selling via our website, Instagram, Amazon.ae and one of the leading gyms and fitness centres in the UAE – Train Beach Club. We are planning to sell via luxury online platforms as well as local and international concept stores in future.
You are also into events. What can you tell us about it?
I have recently launched BALLOONSIAGA. It is a company based on luxury balloons/flowers décor for events, big or small. I’m also operating as an event planner, which is a separate thing. Of course, it is all connected at the end.
What other business are you into?
I am currently finalizing second collection for BUDZY mats. At the same time, I am working on resistant bands line and candles collection. My mind is constantly full with ideas, and I hope I will make at least some of them a reality.
Prior to corona era, from time to time I used to perform at events as a professional piano player, in particular for Rolls Royce, Emirates Women Magazine, Panerai, Meraas, and others. It is a hobby grown into a small business. I do miss being on stage.
If any, what challenges have you experienced as a woman in business?
I love being a woman and I love business. Challenges and competition are always there. I choose to think it is a good thing, not letting you get too relaxed and pushing you to be more creative and more professional. That is what actually makes us better.
What is a typical day like to you?
Due to my work, responsibilities, and lifestyle there is no typical schedule for every day. I can easily work 16 hours a day. I do not go out a lot. I am usually having an early start and my days are always on the go.
Let us take today, for instance, I had a couple of clients in the morning. I went to the gym, listened to some interesting podcasts while exercising, like Jordan Peterson’s or Joe Rogan’s podcasts, while on the treadmill, stopped by my life coach for a session, then attended my good friend’s birthday lunch time.
After an hour I was back to work and signed up a contract with new suppliers. Then I arranged a couple of more events in the evening in different parts of town and arrived back home around 11:30 pm. In free time I like to practice piano, and from time to time catch up with friends.
How do you balance running three businesses at the same time?
Basically, I am working even when I am eating, training, meeting with friends, going to spa or shopping. I am constantly on the phone and work non-stop all the time. Events, especially, require my involvement 24/7 as people have tendency to plan everything at the last moment. We usually have extremely limited time to prepare and organize events. I am incredibly lucky with my team that can react very fast while not diminishing the quality.
What are some make or break moments in your career especially in such areas as important client meetings, presentations, procurement, and pitches?
Just today in the morning we have done some work for Conor McGregor and his family. It was at the very last moment. I was literally sleeping when I had a call. It is important to be flexible and creative.
Some of my clients really surprised me. For example, Diana, a 5-year-old girl from Ukraine. On her last birthday, which we helped to organize, she was celebrating 50 million followers on YouTube. After just 6 months it was already 70 million! Just to compare, Beyonce has only 22 million followers and Canadian artiste ‘The Weekend’ 23 million.
We had opened less than a month before Covid-19 pandemic took over, but have already worked with Bulgari, SEPHORA, Hermes, Cartier, Kempinski, Maison des Fleur, Coya, ShanghaiMe, Laloge, Jumeirah Group, Amazonico and many more.
I also advice young entrepreneurs in Africa. Recently we helped to set up a company in Mauritania. Giving back never goes out of fashion.
What one piece of advice would you give any aspiring female business leaders reading this?
Do not underestimate yourself. Let me rephrase it. Do not overestimate yourself now, but do not underestimate who you can be.
I believe the most effective way of operating in the world is to conceptualize the highest good that you can conceive and then commit yourself to it. Your aim sets the world around you.
On a separate note, I would like to mention that it is quite important to choose the career which leaves you fulfilled. It is also important to discover, as early as possible, that there are other dimensions to fulfillment.
What would be the one piece of advice you would share with entrepreneurs who want to launch a new yoga product?
Whatever you are about to launch also think what it stands for. People more likely go for meaningfulness. If you have a sustaining meaning then, ‘he who has a why can bear any how’. Nobility of purpose, that is it.
Also check who is your target audience, and their values. Find out what they want from the product/service and offer it to them in the best possible way you can.
How do you unwind?
Before the global pandemic, I used to travel. Exploring new cultures and new places is a great way to switch off.
I also do acupuncture, different breathing techniques and, most important, meeting like-minded people (this is quite beneficial for mental health and emotionally stable life).
What is your beauty routine?
I take a really good care of body and my skin. I am always keen to try new facial products. Recently, I switched to Biologique Recherche, and I am really happy. My top three treatments: Nuface microcurrent, hydrofacials and micro needling.
It is also particularly important to keep your skin clean. Always take off make up at night, no matter how tired you are.
What fashion item can you not do without?
I am not that attached to things. I can easily replace or buy new items.
What basically informs the way you dress?
If you enter my wardrobe you will see lots of silk and velvet, animal cat/snake prints. I like to stand out in the way I dress and at the same time remain elegant.
Five tips on how to lead a balanced life in today’s world:
There are some fundamental things in life like work, family, network of friends or things you do besides your work, which you think are important, and much more. The more you strive to balance these things the less is a chance that you will be exceptionally successful in one of them. If you want to be the best in what you are doing, it means you have to work harder than anyone else.
There is no balance in it, but I like the idea that the optimal for a human being is not in chaos or in order. The balance is right on the line, when you are one foot in order, where you are fairly stable and another in chaos, where new, interesting, and compelling things are happening to you. And your nervous system can tell quite precisely when you are on the line; basically, When you are interested and engaged in what you are doing.
But I do believe it is still possible to organize your life and be successful. Get a routine and set up your social structure. Work on your discipline every day (this is especially hard for creative people). Watch out whom you are spending the most time with. And set meaningful goals in life.
If you had to carry just 3 essentials on a trip what would it be?
Passport (with lots of empty pages in a case trip will be extended), phone (with apple pay), and a friend.
The best place to practice yoga.
Anywhere in the nature, jungle or mountain, sunrise or sunset. Where you can connect with yourself more.
Beach holiday or city adventure?
I live in a city with a beach! So probably mountains or jungle for a change.
Coffee or herbal tea?
Fun fact, I can drink both at the same time.
Cars or hikes?
I spend lots of time driving.
Bags or shoes?
Home practice or class practice?
Class practice, where I am not allowed to use my phone.
Thank you so much for taking the time to share your story with us.
The pleasure’s all mine.
How may you be contacted?
Tel: +971 56 265 8388