Fathiya Ahmed started Heritage for Henna in 2003 from the lobby of the Jumeirah Beach Hotel. Nine years later, it is in hotels and shops in the UAE and overseas. We last spoke with Ms Ahmed in March last year, and caught up with the 44-year-old Emirati this month to learn how her business has been doing since then.
Where do you plan to open this year?
Our master franchiser in the United Kingdom will open in Harrods by the end of the year and I plan to open one in Saadiyat Island. We also plan to enter India, Oman, Jordan and Qatar this year. I am attending a franchise exhibition in India this November.
In India, where henna is already popular, how do you plan to stand out?
I can open 150 franchises in India easily. Two to three clients have shown interest already. We have different designs and different quality of henna.
We do not use black henna. We do both Arabic and Indian designs. We have new designs every two to three months. Nowadays, young people like tattoos in henna, too.
Competition must have grown over the years.
Yes, but our line is different than salons and we do not do safaris and events.
They make henna fun, but it is an artistic job. Many people at the events do not do a good job, but they ought to show the real quality of henna because some people are using it for the first time in their life.
What happened to your plans to open in Egypt last year?
We had plans, but after what happened in Egypt, we have not yet opened any.
Last year, you said you operated from luxury hotels such as Jumeirah Beach Hotel in Dubai, Burj Al Arab and Le Royal Meridien, as well as near the entrance to Ferrari World Abu Dhabi. Have you opened any outlets in the UAE this year?
This year, we are going slow because the financial crisis is still there. But we opened in Dubai airport Terminal 1, Kempinski Hotel in Mall of the Emirates and Copthorne Hotel in Dubai.
Have you had an increase in employment since last year?
We now employ 66 people. Last year, it was around 40.
Does Heritage for Henna still operate as a franchise system?
Yes. I am focusing on franchises currently. I give training to staff of the franchises. We service more than 85 hotels and I run 32 shops of my own in the UAE. In 2006-2007 we had over 55 shops. I did not close any shop, but maintained the relations with the hotels where we go twice a week to service clients. We also opened five branches in the UK, including ones in Cambridge and Oxford, and one in Kuwait.