How to start a small business in the UAE
The UAE takes small businesses seriously, and it’s little wonder why. In mid-2020, there were 350,000 small and medium enterprises (SMEs) recorded in the UAE, accounting for over 94% of all companies operating in the country. As a result, the government has introduced a whole string of incentives to help small businesses thrive, from tax cuts to networking opportunities.
For those who are considering setting up a small business in the UAE but don’t know where to begin, we will explore the following topics:
- How to grow a small business in the UAE
- Steps to starting a small business in the UAE
- How much does it cost to start a business in the UAE?
- Do small businesses need a licence in UAE?
- Why choose SPC Free Zone?
How to grow a small business in the UAE
There’s no cookie-cutter approach to growing a small business in the UAE, but there are a few routes you can take that will ensure a greater chance of success:
- Do the research before you take the plunge
You wouldn’t dream of buying a car or booking a holiday without researching first, so why treat a business any differently? First, you need to work out whether there is demand for your service or product, who your target audience is and how you can reach them. As well as competitor analysis, it’s wise to network, hold informal focus groups and invest time in researching online. Then, dig deeper. You need to ensure that your business is a unique proposition that has a competitive advantage.
- Prioritise partnerships
When it comes to good business, there’s no need to do it all alone. Spend time working on possible strategic partnerships with other businesses that can bring something new to your offering. It will give you the chance to tap into a much broader network of customers, too. Think outside the box; these strategic alliances don’t need to operate in your industry. In fact, it often works better if they’re operating in entirely different markets. Think of recent brand partnerships such as Uber and Spotify, BMW and Louis Vuitton, and even NASA and Lego.
- Focus on retaining your customers and clients
Acquiring new customers is great, but you need to make sure you’re holding onto your old ones, too. Why? Acquiring new customers can cost more than five times as much as retaining them. Plus, repeat customers are more likely to spend more than new customers. Leverage email marketing, personalise your communications and content and create customer loyalty programs that keep customers coming back for more. Using social media to build an online community can help boost loyalty, too. Good customer service is key, so it’s important to address customer issues and give them the best experience possible from the outset.
Regardless of your industry and business, networking is important. It helps you to increase your brand visibility, attract potential leads and gain insights into new business opportunities. Helpfully, networking in the UAE is much easier than in other pockets of the world. There are currently over 9.9 million expatriates living in the UAE, which accounts for approximately 89% of the population. Many of these individuals are business owners and entrepreneurs who are keen to connect with like-minded individuals. The UAE also hosts thousands of networking events throughout the year, from world-famous trade shows such as Dubai Expo 2021 to Business Groups and Councils. As one of the most digitally connected countries in the world, there’s no excuse not to use social media to your advantage, too.
- Diversify your services and products
Evolving is key to business success. Once you’re confident in the results from your main product or service, it might be time to consider what else you can offer your clients and customers. Can you identify new opportunities for new products? Or could you re-package your existing offering, perhaps as a subscription service or a membership? You should also consider moving into new markets, too. By leveraging the UAE’s strategic location between Asia, Africa and Europe, you could start tapping into some of the world’s most important emerging markets.
SPC Free Zone has worked with countless entrepreneurs and business owners over the years to transform their businesses into success stories. Why not get in touch?
Steps to starting a small business in the UAE
Setting up a small business in the UAE is simpler than you think. We’ve broken the process down into three important steps.
Step 1: Submit your application
First, you’ll need to apply for your business licence. Providing there are no issues with your documents, you can receive your licence in as little as two hours with SPC Free Zone.
Step 2: Apply for e-channel services
To help speed up the business setup process, you’ll need to apply for e-channel services. Once approved, you can apply for your entry permit, which will be valid for up to 60 days.
Step 3: Activate your status change
After receiving your entry permit, you can activate your status change. Then, you’ll need to undergo medical tests to acquire your Emirates ID card. All business owners require this to operate legally in the UAE.
While it might be simple, the process is far from straightforward. Many out-of-towners experience delays in the setup process due to missing documents and other unforeseen hurdles. To help make the process as easy as possible, reach out to SPC Free Zone.
How much does it cost to start a business in the UAE?
The cost of starting a business in the UAE starts at AED 5,750, though there are additional costs to take into consideration. You will need to consider factors such as the number of licence activities, number of shareholders, visa allocation requirements and whether you will need an office, warehouse or storage space. For a free and accurate quote tailored to your circumstances, get in touch with SPC Free Zone.
Do small businesses need a licence in the UAE?
Yes, all small businesses require a licence to operate legally in the UAE. However, the type of visa you require will depend on your business activity or activities. For instance, if you are planning on importing, exporting and trading commodities, you will need a commercial trading licence, which is also known as a general trading licence. If you are a skilled entrepreneur who is planning on launching a small business in a specific field of expertise, you will likely need a professional licence. If your business will be involved in the production and manufacture of new products, you will need to apply for an industrial licence.
If you’re unsure about which business licence you will need to apply for, our business advisors at SPC Free Zone will be happy to advise you on the most appropriate fit.
Why choose SPC Free Zone?
SPC Free Zone helps entrepreneurs and business owners with quick, affordable and flexible business setup in the UAE. Conveniently located in the heart of Sharjah with immigration services on-site, you can get your licence issued in just two hours. We also offer competitive incentives including 100% foreign ownership with zero-paid up capital and an option to expand your business with a dual-licence option that offers both mainland and free zone on the same licence. You can choose from over 1,500 business activities and get up to 20 visas under one licence, too.
Ready to launch your small business in the UAE? Get in touch with our friendly team at SPC Free Zone to kickstart the process today.
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