In 2020, life changed so quickly for many of us. Many in the aviation industry will never forget how they felt when they received that dreaded email, informing them they wouldn’t be flying any longer!

Last week, I met a few former airline cabin crew who have persevered during these difficult circumstances; they have shared their stories with me of how they began their own businesses. In turn I am sharing their inspiring stories with you here. I am very thankful to Kelsey Johnson's (@lipstickandluggage) inspiration and her support on helping other affected cabin crew members.

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Muhammed - Turkish Durum Restaurant

Muhammed had been flying as a Cabin Crew Supervisor for 9 years, until he was made redundant in August 2020. His last flight was to Osaka.

He introduced me to durum, which is a wrap with grilled meat and fresh vegetable inside. He was struggling to find good durum in Dubai, so he decided to start his own restaurant to sell them.

“I’ve always been fascinated by the lure of Turkish cuisine in the UAE. There’s so much choice available but I always thought hey why isn’t THE BEST DURUM available here?!”

Muhammed had zero restaurant experience, he had to attend many courses to get the certificates he need to run his small restaurant. There were lot of challenges; finding the right chef, sourcing the right meat, checking the prices of equipment etc. He had to do a lot of research.

“I spent almost 6 months in sleep mode during the pandemic, then I didn't sleep for 1.5 months to get my project going.”

Fortunately, Mohammed's business has finally been able to take-off, after lot of initial trouble getting set up. When I visited him in his restaurant he was attending to phone calls, all the while taking care of deliveries and curb side orders outside the restaurant.

“A small message to all the lovely crew, if you are dreaming it, work on it and make it happen. Don't wait!”

Visit Muhammed's Durum Restaurant in Dubai here.

Dhishni - Treats by Dhish

Next I went to visit Dhishni's house, Dhish had worked for Emirates for 18 years. Below is Dhish's story in her own words:

I am from Sri Lanka... and my business got started mainly because I was made redundant. My last flight was to Brisbane in March 2020.

I have always loved cooking. However baking is something that I did when I was a little girl and, to be honest, ever since I started flying I just stopped baking. A few years back I wanted to make desserts and sell them.... In fact in July 2019 I got labels printed, while out in Bangkok when I was on a flight, hoping to pursue a “dessert dream”; but between flying and the time I needed to devout to my son, I never really managed to get it off the ground.

The lock down gave me time to think and re-evaluate things. The more play dough and arts and crafts I did with my son, during this period to keep him busy, the more I was telling myself "I can do the same with icing and fondant too...". So I gave my first cakes a try, making them just for friends and family.

When I was made redundant, I knew I had to do something. I had to make a choice; between sitting and sulking, about having lost my job and letting my flying career define me, or make something of myself and follow the dream I had.

I am a home baker (for now) with dreams to open up a cute little café or bakery one day.

Also cooking and baking felt therapeutic, as I love what I do, and I really don’t see it as work... I put my heart and soul into it and gave it my best shot!

I would like to tell you that it’s never too late to start, don’t doubt yourself, don’t let your previous job define you! If you have a dream to be something, or to do something, dont be afraid to go out there and try to make it happen; maybe one cupcake at a time, but you have to start somewhere!!!! The more love you pour into your work then the more you will be able to see it in the end result! Don’t give up! 

Zoé - THE NEOD

Zoé came from a small authentic town called Loudun in Western France, Zoé grew up with the beauty and heritage of old France as her backdrop.

At the age of 24, Zoé moved to Dubai and worked with Emirates Airlines for 7 years; traveling and discovering the world. In seeing the seven continents Zoé very quickly became aware of the conditions of today’s world and ecosystem.


THE NEOD Sustainable Swimwear brand was born in the middle of the pandemic, April 2020, shortly after Zoé lost her position as Cabin Crew and started working on this passion of hers full time! Her last flight was to Nice, France in March 2020.

Many challenges got in Zoé's way; a bank loan to repay, a daily life to lead, having to choose whether to stay in Dubai or to go back to France and start her life from square one. With a project that is still to this day very financially very risky, struggles are a part of her everyday life.


She has set herself new goals, whilst all the time keeping on pushing through the challenges; getting more and more creative as she goes, shifting mindsets on public conscious consumerism and staying hopeful.

“Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. The important thing is not to stop questioning.”

Zoé

Jasmin - Giovanni Beauty Salon

Jasmin is from Jordan, but she lived in Austria before moving to Dubai. She speaks fluent German, Arabic, English and Turkish. Her energy was just amazing from the moment I met up with her, at her salon at Uptown Mirdif in Dubai.

Jasmin has worked with Austrian Airlines, Fly Niki, Lauda Motion and Emirates in the past. Her career with Emirates ended within just 1 year as cabin crew, when the pandemic hit. Her last flight was to Karachi in March 2020.

Jasmin with her family on her graduation ceremony.

"I have been a make-up artist since I was young, I attended make up schools and worked as a freelancer in Europe." When the pandemic hit, her dream to open a beauty salon became her new passion. I could sense just how enthused she was about her new life, as she was extremely proud to show us her salon and passionately talked about the products she has available.

“My family helped me a lot, we pulled our savings together to buy an existing salon. Other crew also pushed me a lot into this.....I promised them that I will work really really hard.”

Weiwei - CosyClan Furniture


Weiwei is from Guiyang, China and she was made redundant last June after 4 years of flying with Emirates


She bought a property in May but was made redundant the following month. With the need to keep up her mortgage payments she worked for another two companies, but at both she didn't really feel that was where she belonged. In the mean time, she had been busy looking for unique designs of furniture and home decor for her new house.

“I managed to source so many interesting pieces that all my friends love. That's when I realised that it might be a good chance for me to start such a business, by importing beautiful stuff and sharing it with everyone who's had enough of IKEA furniture. I'm from China and it is an advantage for me when it comes to building relationships with reputable factories, it also helps when making the order from them directly.”

Weiwei's new business is called CosyClan

Closing Words

I hope you have been inspired by reading their stories, maybe it might give you some motivation to take on a new challenge yourself. It is the passion and love that has propelled theses people to start their own business at a challenging time. They have all battled to overcome their different initial start-up challenges, but I am sure there is a long way to go from here. My goal here is to shine a spotlight on them and perhaps, through my blog mention here, they can broaden their social networks. Let's re-visit them in a year's time.

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