Sylvia Trifonova just recently started her own business in Dubai Media City.
She was born in Sofia, Bulgaria, where she completed School of Mathematics and the World and National Economy University. As many Bulgarians, she is fluent in a number of languages, including: Bulgarian, Russian, English, German and Dutch. Right now, Sylvia is living and works in Dubai as an art director and photographer.
In an exclusive interview for Dubai Chronicle, she reveals the pros and cons of being an entrepreneur in Dubai.
Q.: Since how long time you live in the United Arab Emirates?
A.: I am a resident of the UAE for already five years. Half of them, I spent in the capital Abu Dhabi and the other half in Dubai.
Q.: We know, you have worked for top German cars’ distributors in the Emirates, such as BMW and Mercedes Benz. What made you to abandon a stable career of professional marketing manager in favor of entrepreneurial venture without guaranteed outcome?
A.: I came in UAE in the summer of 2006 to join the local distributor of BMW, Mini, Alpina and Rolls-Royce in Abu Dhabi, responsible for their Marketing and PR. There was an advertisement in one Bulgarian newspaper for this position, and I applied without knowing anything about Abu Dhabi. I came alone directly from Sofia, where I was working for the Mercedes-Benz distributor Balkan Star for four years. In 2008, I joined Daimler Middle East and Levant in Dubai, where I worked hard for 2 and a half years as Senior Marketing Specialist. As you see, most of my career is in the automotive world, and petrol is already in my blood. Nevertheless, for a couple of years I had the urge to explore my creative side, not only as a hobby, but as a career too. Therefore, I have joined SAE Institute, where I studied Graphic Design. I also dedicated one year to obtaining a degree from the New York Institute of Photography. Then, I prepared very detailed business plan and submitted it to Dubai Media City. Once it was approved, I resigned from my office job and embraced the new challenge. My astrology sign is Aries, so I like new challenges and difficulties by nature.
Yes, you are right that once you start your own venture, you do not have a guaranteed outcome, especially in the beginning, but you receive so much more in return.
Q.: Do you think that Dubai’s business environment can be described as supportive and encouraging to start-ups?
A.: I registered with TECOM as a freelancer. The whole process is very transparent and does not take a lot of time. Once you collect all the documents needed and your business plan is approved, soon you will receive your permit. I have contacted only Dubai Media City and they are very co-operative and encouraging.
Q.: Dubai Media City, where your company is now located, is one of the most developed free zones in Dubai? Do you think that something could be improved in terms of services and fee structure in order to easy the process of business setup?
A.: I think that fees for a start up business in Dubai Media City and Dubai Studio City are very high comparing with starting a business in other countries. On the other hand, this is a very prestigious place to have your office, as most media and advertising companies are there. The place itself is very well developed with a lot of restaurants, cafes, shops and green areas. And not on the last place – you do not have to pay taxes as in other countries.
Q.: Do you find any difficulties doing business in Dubai, such as: receiving payments, paying too high fees for administrative services, finding unique supplies or something else?
A.: I have started six months ago, and every beginning is difficult. The first few months and even now 60 % of my time goes for very aggressive marketing. And yes, the administrative services’ fees are very high and most of them had to be paid in advance, together with the visa fee, personal insurance, etc. So, yes, the beginning was not easy. My suggestion would be to have a different fee payment plan for start-ups, for example, quarterly payments, instead of one or two payments yearly.
A.: I am an art director and photographer. As such, I design corporate identities, brochures, advertising campaigns and all kinds of promotional materials.Spending nine years in the advertising departments of the best automotive companies in the worldenabled me with a sound knowledge and experience to create the right products for my customers. Regarding my photography activities, in my studio in TECOM I take product photography and portraits. Upon requests, I am shooting also on location. My short term plan is to launch a stock photography section on my web site. Also, I would like to get into Fashion photography, which is really a very competitive field. Furthermore, I have few personal photography projects, which I plan to realize during my summer vacation in Bulgaria.
Q.: How do you keep yourself informed about developments and latest trends in your business? Where do you find the information you need to keep you on top?
A.: I am subscribed to different newsletters dedicated to the business of advertising and photography. My web site is part of the Photoshelter, which is also a great tool. Once you become a member, you can subscribe to the latest researches and participate in phone conferences with well-known worldwide photographers.
Q.: What are the essential characteristics of a great professional photographer?
A.: An eye for detail, creativity, personal style and point of view are imperative. Passion! And not to forget, very good marketing skills because, even if one is a great photographer if he can’t market himself, he will not succeed.