Jean-Charles Hameau is no stranger to the being a success. The 43 year old from the north of France, first arrived in Dubai in 1999 and after a 4 year stint at the French Consulate as a Commercial Attache, and set-up my first company with my business partner and friend, Sebastien Mouchet… He has never looked back, “My education was in Agriculture and Food Engineering. My passion for pets and animals started from a very young age. Growing up, we always had more aquariums than TV in our house (to the despair of my beloved mother). This passion is the drive behind SV Group – our pet food and accessories distribution business.”
You have grown the SV Group into a huge success and bring lots of big name brands into the region. What was the biggest challenge you overcame when doing this?
Cash flow has always been the greatest challenge. We keep more than 9,000 different items in our warehouses. In order to build the stock required to offer a good service level to our customers, we constantly needed new funds during the early years. My business partner’s strong financial background came in very handy in keeping the company lean to overcome this problem.
Your business is based on regional distribution. What are the unique challenges that you face in relation to these?
Our expansion in the Gulf has exposed us to a new set of rules and regulations. Projects as such require time and a deeper understanding of the business environment unique to each GCC country.
What would be your top tip to someone who is looking to bring a label to the UAE and would face an import/export business model?
A lot of homework must be done. Intuition, no matter how good it can be, will not replace thorough market studies and structured business plans. You can also learn a lot by interacting with other established entrepreneurs.
You have started another business called mygreenchapter.com. Tell us about this.
My Green Chapter is a new online garden center largely focused on urban farming. The idea is to import innovative products that are not readily available in this part of the world like grow lights, fancy chicken coops or vertical green walls. Our motto is “Live Urban, Love Farming” and we aim at doing the best to keep your fingers green all year long despite the hot summer we face in the United Arab Emirates.
What did you avoid doing when you started mygreenchapter.com that you had done previously with SV Group and why?
I can’t think of anything that we particularly avoided because today’s business environment is very different compared to 12 years ago. With My Green Chapter, we are still obsessed in keeping a good stock level as we believe it is the backbone of the consumer experience you will ultimately offer.
People always question the possible success of their business and this often holds people back from starting and Mygreenchapter.com has received great reviews in the press and amongst bloggers…
Any new business comes with a great amount of risk and there is no magic recipe, I am afraid. Not all my ventures went well, but you for sure learn more from your failures than your successes. Passion is the key. Money is its by-product.
Over time you must have experienced some ups and downs with the business. Please tell us one down and how you overcame it?
The terrible strike that paralyzed the French ports in 2006 and 2007. We struggled to get our shipment out of Europe for months. There weren’t any quick solutions although we imported tons of goods by air. We persevered during this challenging period and worked on different logistic solutions, thus strengthening our business.
Who do you most admire in business and why?
Without hesitation, Thomas Lundgren, founder and CEO of The One, the homegrown furniture retailer which has taken the market by storm in the Middle East. He opened his first shop in Abu Dhabi in 1995 after several months of “blood, sweat and tears” (in his own words). Then a fire gutted his retail outlet so he had to start all over again. The dramatic turn of events did not stop him from being successful. His story taught me to be determined and resilient.
What is the best piece of business advice you have been given and from whom?
The only place where success comes before work is in the dictionary. This has to be my favorite expression because this was how I was brought up.
If you could give the ‘start-up you’ (think of yourself as you were applying for the business license) one piece of advice that you have learnt over the years, what would that piece of advice be?
It is something I heard very recently but is great advice to anyone starting up and something I had to learn myself as naturally you want your business to be perfect from day 1: ‘If you launch a business and it is perfect, You have launched too late!’. This isn’t to say we don’t have a great business that is fully functioning, it means there is always more work to do to improve and grow.
What do you think has been your secret to success?
We recruited talents. And they will write the next page of our business story.
All the products shown are available to purchase on www.mygreenchapter.com
For more secrets, click here to read how Dusty Tourani, from Dusty’s Dubai successfully turned his restaurant/bar into the go to place in Dubai.