By Sandhya D’Mello
Khaleej Times, Dubai, United Arab Emirates
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Meet Elena Weber, CEO and founder of “Icons Coffee Couture.” The company has evolved into an international coffee franchise chain that has outlets across the UAE and GCC. By 2020, “Icons” plan to be in 10 to 12 countries.
Meet bold and beautiful Elena Weber, CEO and founder of Icons Coffee Couture, who converted her passion into a successful business.
The former international model has set up the Icons Coffee Couture, a coffee shop that provides an assortment of foods which are high in micro nutrition and serves 100 per cent organic, German bio seal certified coffee and tea.
A special ingredient in most of the beverages and desserts served at Icons Coffee Couture is stevia.
Also known as honey herb, it is the first all-natural sweetener with zero calories. It is 300 times sweeter than sugar and unlike normal sweeteners, it is free from chemical enhancements.
Says Weber: “The idea is about having something healthy, yet joyful. Being a model, I always had to watch my diet.
For me, scrumptious desserts and rich drinks were a no-no. That’s what motivated me to introduce a concept that combines health with the goodness of sweet delights. Icons is a place where one doesn’t have to be on a restricted diet because of health reasons such as diabetes or weight concerns.
“We use stevia, organic and fresh ingredients, all of which help detox the body and improve the immune system to provide healthy options to our customers,” she adds.
Weber’s career started with modeling and she simultaneously completed her graduation before turning to entrepreneurship by starting Icons. “My one true dream was inspired by my charity month in Argentina. Five years later, here I am — the co-owner and CEO of Icons Worldwide and its franchise brand Icons Coffee Couture.”
As a girl who was in love with sweets, Weber found it a bit difficult being in the modeling industry since it involved a very strict diet and exercise regime. “It was my dream to create healthy goodies that I could eat with no regrets and that’s when the concept of Icons came about. Now, Icons has evolved into an international coffee franchise chain that has outlets across the UAE and GCC,” says Weber.
The former model suggests one could be an entrepreneur by oneself, but it’s best to do it with reliable people. Her advice: Focus on good people, a good team, take on your business one step at a time and keep moving forward. You’ll find a lot of roadblocks but once you overcome them, they’ll become milestones in a fantastic career, advises Weber.
The UAE, according to Weber, is an ideal place to harness business skills. “I was always very warmly welcomed and found great support that surpassed my every expectation. Though there is still a majority of male over female entrepreneurs here, I’ve always felt that a strong, entrepreneurial woman is refreshing.”
Icons plans to open 10 stores within the UAE and one in Bahrain. In Saudi Arabia, the company is set to launch the world’s biggest Icons branch in Riviera Mall Dammam, which is currently under construction. A second one will come up within 2017. Twenty-five more branches are planned in the next five years.
By 2020, Icons plan to be present in 10 to 12 countries. In the UAE alone, the brand plans to have 40 to 45 outlets across the country. The brand has already signed the master franchise rights for Saudi Arabia and Bahrain.
“We are also planning to announce the master franchise rights for Kuwait and Oman, and looking at entering the Chinese market,” adds Weber.
The Icons brand boasts of being an 80 per cent women-dominated team, with a good amount of strong men backing it up. “But, at the end of the day, we don’t recruit based on gender. A good fit in the team is a person with talent, knowledge and personality,” adds Weber.
Weber thinks what might work for one company/brand doesn’t automatically work for another. “While our competitors are doing their business differently, it did not fit into our concept and we diverted from the norm of the industry for this concept. The only thing that has worked with certainty is understanding the customer and delivering what is expected.”
The biggest challenge is to assure the same standards across all stores. But since there is a set template, you don’t need to waste your research and development on creating a concept that might backfire, concludes Weber.