AstroLabs Community Spotlight: Maaz Shaffi

 

The AstroLabs Co-working Community in JLT is a thriving hub for entrepreneurs. We sat down with one of our members to learn more about their journey.

Would you like to introduce yourself?

Sure! My name is Maaz Shaffi and I’m the Head of Partner Success and Operations at Fresha.com. I’ve been with Fresha for over 3.5 years and I manage the UAE marketplace.

Can you tell us a little bit about your business?

Fresha.com is a marketplace, a Point of Sales(POS) system and a payment gateway for the beauty and wellness sector. For the end user, we’re a booking platform where they can find a beauty shop, a barber’s salon or a spa online and book an appointment. We’re currently also moving into the fitness and gym space. From a business standpoint, our core model is the POS system, in other words a mini ERP solution. We offer a booking calendar, SMS notifications, a marketing suite and even inventory control reporting; in short we’re the operational software one needs to run their entire business. From a payments point of view, we want to connect the end-user and the business by having a seamless payment option. For that reason, we’ve partnered with a global payment gateway called Ayden internationally and within the UAE we collaborate with Checkout. With over 50,000 businesses using the platform worldwide, we have built a fortress in the UAE and continued to dominate markets here.

Where do you see Fresha moving to?

I see Fresha as not just a software but a lifestyle. It could be a community where hairstylists can give recommendations to clients, an academy for people who want to learn more about beauty and wellness or even a coworking space where stylists can come and book appointments with customers without having their own brand. So essentially, we want to build a network for beauty and wellness.

What brought Fresha to Dubai?

The credit for that goes to our CEO – William Zeqiri. When he was working in Abu Dhabi, his vision of the company was supported by shareholders in Dubai. They believed in him to build a company that provided support to the beauty and wellness sector, and thus Fresha’s initial funding came from Dubai. Strategically we have our headquarters in London, yet Dubai is the commercial hub for the company. The VCs in Dubai believe in the vision more than the unit economics which is a great motivation for any business.

What attracted you to AstroLabs?

As a business, Fresha encourages the ideology of work from wherever you can. We don’t want to box our team into a certain office space but rather push freedom of movement which is what AstroLabs provides. It’s a great community hub, to meet like minded people and facilitate conversations to help understand what else we can do and how. Also with our community discount for the AstroLabs Academy courses, we have been able to enhance our skills and leverage our team. 

What did Fresha achieve in the past year?

The highlight for Fresha would be that in the UAE we have successfully managed COVID in the past year. Our biggest accomplishment was that we supported our businesses, we have more than 1000 partners here and none of them left us. In these inconsistent times, our churn rates are the lowest, less than 1%; we have in fact gained more businesses. The credit for that goes to our excellent customer experience support systems.

Has someone in the community inspired you?

Acquisit has been very inspirational; their local office was established in the UAE and they have branches all over the world. As a digital marketing agency, they are visionary and cutting edge in terms of all digital marketing efforts. We were neighbours at the AstroLabs community and that led to us partnering with them 3.5 years ago. With all the latest and most efficient approaches, they’ve helped us grow to 50,000 businesses organically through Google Search Engine and Google Ad campaigns. It is truly exhilarating how they’ve turned into a business partner for us.

What were the biggest challenges that you faced?

Aside from Covid, our biggest challenge I would say is that we’re at a phase where we’re upscaling with speed, expanding in the North American market. We’ve hired 25 employees in Vancouver this quarter. Bringing the culture into the onboarding has been very challenging as everyone has their own unique workflow, even more so when hiring remotely. A personal challenge for me was hiring the general manager in the regions, since good leadership is important when you are building a team from the ground up.

3 learnings as an entrepreneur that you would like to share.

  1. Find people who are experts in their own field: A key to Fresha’s success is that we’ve partnered with experts, be it payment gateways or digital marketing, they know what they do best. We also work with an accounting company, who do bookkeeping and account management; this helps us give more than we can offer as a business.
  2. Correctly delegate: A common mistake that entrepreneurs make is lack of delegation. They love what they do and often nurture their projects like their children. However they need to somehow let go of the attachment. The trick is to hire right and then delegate better.
  3. Connect with industry professionals: I make it a point to connect with people I meet from all spaces of the business world, from Google, Oracle to Deliveroo. Discussing ideas with them can lead you to see how you can leverage those ideas to grow. 

What is the goal for Fresha for 2021?

In 2021, Fresha is moving into fitness. We are aiming to build a strong product that targets fitness studios, gyms in essence anything to do with fitness classes and memberships. For this goal we’re hiring a completely different commercial unit.

How did Fresha ‘make it happen’?

  • Right investors: We had a strong backbone with our investors who truly believed in the vision of the company.
  • Right people: A helpful tip is to hire strong core personnel for each department to build a solid foundation
  • Right product: Lead with the vision to help customers, Fresha is a customer centric company. We create a product roadmap from the feedback that we receive everyday.

What hour of the day are you most productive?

Always in the morning, when it’s dead silent and no one is around you. 7am – 12pm are the hours where I power through all my heavy lifting for the day. After that, my schedule is typically delegation and follow ups.

One thing about the community that no one knows?

The secret to getting around at the community is knowing whom within the AstroLabs team to approach for which task. It could be booking a room, having a printer issue or needing to organise an event, if you know who to speak to, it’s as easy as snapping your fingers. Especially now with Deliveroo, getting the right address to have them come to your space. I’ve finally cracked that code now!

3 things about the community that you love.

  1. Location: I love that the space is all on the ground floor, having everyone on the same floor to mingle and meet is great. No boxed up offices and no lifts, you can just step out to get some fresh air and then come back to work refreshed.
  2. Events: Community events are great opportunities that bring different people together, where everyone can learn and grow together
  3. People: I enjoy meeting new people from different parts of the community. I met Harry Bishop from the AstroLabs Talent Team at the community football event, and eventually he helped us with recruitment at Fresha.

If you would like to join the community or learn more about the co-working space, reach out to us at community@astrolabs.com.

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