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Kuwait-born Jordanian turned his job loss, personal trouble into a smash-up start-up in the UAE

Dubai resident starts a business which helps people vent frustrations by smashing objects

Dubai: Ibrahim Abudyak best describes himself as “crazy about all things automotive”, which is why the mechanical engineer by profession spent the first seven years of his work career working at car dealerships. But this was right before he lost both his job and his marriage in a month’s time.

“One day, I walked into the office to receive the news that I was fired. Within about a month, I had to also go through a divorce. So you can imagine my situation after having lost a five-year corporate job and a five-year long marriage at the same time,” said the 35-year-old Kuwait-born Jordanian, who has been in the UAE for over 13 years, with the first two years in Abu Dhabi and the rest in Dubai.

“For me, I thought about it as the perfect opportunity to pursue the idea and start a new career from scratch. After being fired, I promised myself not to get another job and find my path in entrepreneurship. I was trying to start a couple of start-ups that never really got lots of traction.”

This is when Abudyak co-founded ‘The Smash Room’, a Dubai-born start-up that provides an outlet for people to release all their pent-up frustrations by destroying objects, with his business partner Hiba Balfaqih in early 2018.

Meeting a like-minded business partner

“I met Balfaqih at a support group in Dubai. We’ve been to a seminar by renowned life and leadership coach Tony Robbins in the UK. During that seminar, you basically learn about the power of your mind, and it includes activities such as walking on fire, knowing how to overcome any challenge and replace all these limiting beliefs that you have with empowering ones,” he added.

“Balfaqih mentioned how she lost her grandmother and tried dealing with it with yoga, kickboxing and even going to a psychiatrist. She studied psychology on her own, and yet nothing worked until she took a baseball bat and an old printer to her backyard and smashed it. She felt really good after that, and that was a lightbulb moment for her.”

However, when Balfaqih shared this idea with friends and family, everybody was either making fun of her or telling her that it’s silly and “Finding start-up funds was really challenging”that you can’t really make a business out of it, said Abudyak, when recalling the times before he partnered with Balfaqih to joint-start their ‘rage room’ venture.

Over 60 ‘rage rooms’, also known as ‘anger rooms’, have opened in cities around the world as a type of stress relief called destruction, or rage therapy, has been rising in popularity. Firms offer access to such rooms on a rental basis, with the cost of a session ranging from Dh70 to Dh200 – depending on the type and amount of items you’re smashing.

“Finding start-up funds was really challenging”

“It was really challenging to funding the business at first because initially nobody really wanted to give us any money as the idea wasn’t taken seriously whenever we tried pitching it to them. So, we turned to our families and friends to ask for funding and we managed to raise just enough money to open our doors and that’s all,” added Abudyak, who revealed needing about Dh400,000 at the start.

“Even when getting a trade licence or getting the company registered, no bank wanted to believe that this is a serious business. We really didn’t have enough money for even salaries of our early employees; however we were received really well given our positive cash flow and a healthy profit margin in 2022, which allowed us to fund the business on its own.”

Abudyak added that business broke even and turned profitable last year, with the business’ profits distributed to their shareholders this year. When it comes to initial costs of starting the business, he said mechanical, electrical and plumbing took up 50 per cent of his total costs, rent made up 25 per cent, while marketing and PR cost the business about 25 per cent of their initial investment.

“Most of the initial set-up costs were related to the development of the actual place. We spent a lot of money on renting the warehouse and paying for a contractor to create the environment, paying for the AC setup in the warehouse and getting the place set up. The other major chunk of the cost was marketing and PR, and later on, salaries, the cost of items to smash etc.,” he said.

Money lessons learnt as an entrepreneur?

As an entrepreneur, Abudyak said that he primarily learnt a lot about managing money; both from a personal and a business perspective. “One of the biggest lessons for me was the detachment from the need that I have to get paid on a monthly basis or I have to feel secure about being able to receive that money every time because as an entrepreneur, that’s always uncertain,” he said.

“You have to be okay with being financially uncertain, especially when starting out as an entrepreneur. While financial uncertainty is unavoidable, the more you get accustomed to it, the more likely you’ll be able to overcome challenges you face on a routine basis.”

Before turning an entrepreneur, Abudyak first worked a short three-month stint with a Toyota dealer in Jordan before landing his first professional job in the UAE, with an Abu Dhabi-based Ford dealer service centre, which got him Dh8,000 per month. About two years later, he landed a job at an international automotive company in Dubai, which paid him about Dh32,000 before he was fired.

“Not a fan of saving much in a bank”

“As my salary was limited at my first job, it taught me how to adjust my lifestyle and my budget. The idea of putting money on the side and saving it in a bank is not something I am a fan of, but having some sort of emergency fund saved on the side is a must as an entrepreneur. While I don’t believe in saving a lot of money, I do invest money where I would get better returns,” Abudyak added.

“I tried handing over my money to others to invest it on my behalf, and that proved to be a really wrong decision for me personally. I realised that I’m really good with investing my own money into my own projects so I want to either put in money to grow an existing project or start one from scratch. I believe that this way, I’ll have control over how I invest and also shows my belief in in my own ideas before I ask anybody else to invest in them.”

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