06/06/2018 - 14:09

New arrivals find a fit with local business culture

06/06/2018 - 14:09

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Immigrants behind three businesses have overcome a range of cultural and commercial challenges in order to build successful lives in Perth.

Sandrine (left) and Rizwan Syed now own 30 brow bars and say their staff culture is key to their success. Photo: Attila Csaszar

Rizwan and Sandrine Syed know all too well the difficulties faced by those trying to start a business in a city where they have no professional networks, no credit history and an idea few people are familiar with.

That’s the scenario the husband-and-wife team faced when they set out to launch their eyebrow threading business, having moved to Perth from India and France.

Mr Syed said that, before establishing Zubias Threading in 2008, to the best of his knowledge the traditional Indian hair removal process was not available in Australia.

“When it’s something brand new, people go, ‘Oh, don’t know, don’t want to know’,” Mr Syed told Business News.

However, the Syeds were determined to persevere, despite having few connections, little knowledge of the local business culture, and a growing pile of rejections from landlords, banks, and insurers.

Eventually Mr and Mrs Syed locked down an insurer after a local Chinese businessperson offered them the opportunity to rent a tight pathway space along Fremantle’s E-Shed market.

So with just $5,000, Mr and Mrs Syed established the first Zubias Threading outlet.

Today, they own 30 brow bars across Perth with plans to expand into Melbourne and Sydney.

“Our loyal customers, either myself or my wife had to teach and show each and every one of them what we do, and once we built their trust and confidence, that’s when they became our advocates,” Mr Syed told Business News.

Zubias now has eight franchise outlets, all of which are run by immigrants who had been long-serving staff in the business.

“From virtually nothing, we now employ 150 staff who are mostly immigrants … they are already so grateful to be here,” Mr Syed said.

“Many could not get work elsewhere in Perth, or if they had, had been exploited. I believe that we are all working together and I have a responsibility to help others.

“Due to that I have a very strong culture in my company of people who want to make a future here.”

Columbia-born Alba Gomez has also found success building her own business in Perth, having originally moved with intentions to continue her career as an engineer before establishing an image consultancy.

“When moving here, the language and cultural differences were so big,” Ms Gomez said.

“Culturally speaking, in Columbia men and women are seen as the same in the corporate world, where as in Australia it’s more of a male-dominated sector.

“People were surprised knowing I was an engineer.”

Having decided her passions lay elsewhere, Ms Gomez said developing relationships and not isolating herself had been the key to her success in building a business.

“I started completely from zero and now I do corporate training and on-on-one consultation; I just finished a presentation with the recruitment agency Michael Page,” Ms Gomez told Business News.

“Probably in the last three years I doubled by income and exposure.”

Also looking to make a future in Perth, for the sake of their children’s education, South African immigrants Preegi Soni and Bindya Patel settled in Perth in 2011 and 2014, respectively, before buying the Belmont Coffee Club franchise.

With their husbands continuing to operate hardware businesses in South Africa, the women bought in at a busy time, with the hospitality industry growing 20 per cent year on year when they bought the franchise in 2014.

Mrs Patel said the Small Business Development Corporation had provided them with valuable assistance as they grew their business.

“Preegi and I ended up winning the franchisee of the year award for WA (in 2016), which indicated our hard work had paid off,” Mrs Patel said.

“We were very fortunate that we had a good broker who introduced us to a lawyer and accountant, and I think that is a very crucial part of buying a business and can make or break you at that point.

“Unfortunately, after we won the award our store had to be closed for refurb and that was a huge challenge and it’s currently still closed.”

Mrs Patel said a misunderstanding with the franchisor regarding their lease had also put them on the back foot, meaning they would have to start their bookkeeping from scratch once the business reopened in July.

“We didn’t get anything in writing and that is one of the things we’ve learned,” she said.

STANDING BY BUSINESS. TRUSTED BY BUSINESS.

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