With an extraordinary aesthetic gift and a breathtaking sense of beauty, Nahla Al-Mahmoud is changing the face of the events industry in Bahrain—and she’s doing it with a drive and individuality rarely seen in the field.
Could you please introduce yourself and your business?
My name is Nahla Al-Mahmood, and I’m the founder and general manager of LalaBella. Lalabella is an Events Management Boutique, and flower and chocolate shop. We also serve all sorts of occasions by creating giveaways, and gift-wrapping.
Do you focus on certain kinds of events?
Mostly social events: weddings and baby receptions, but we do corporate events based on demand. Al Dana Expo is one of our events too which is an annual fashion exhibition run by LalaBella.
Tell us about the inspiration behind LalaBella. When and how did it start?
It just came out of the moment, I always had the passion to do beautiful things and I officially started LalaBella beginning of 2013.
What about your flower-arranging workshops?
They are very recent. The idea came to me early in 2015, when I met Jaqueline, president of Boerma Institution Holland at the Bahrain International Garden Show. I was looking for flower-arranging workshops for myself, as I wanted to enhance my skills in order to understand the techniques I wanted to explain to my florist. Later, and during my research, I decided why not to host Boerma Institute here in Bahrain and open the opportunity to other flower shop owners to learn. So we decided to introduce a new business line to LalaBella family in collaboration with Singapore flowers to be a partner in this initiative.
So workshops line specialty is flowers?
What about Boerma Institute, Do they give classes?
Yes. Jacqueline’s father was taught by his father. She was taught by her father, and she is currently teaching her son. They have another branch in Japan. That’s what got me interested. My future plan is to bring trainers from Japan to give lessons here in Bahrain under the auspices of the Boerma Institute—to bring in different floral cultures.
Are you guys partnered?
We are working on this now. When we started last November preparations, it was going to be an unofficial event, just one-off-event; but then I thought that if we wanted to do this, we needed to do it right. I wanted to make sure that if I was going to do this, it has to be the right way, an official way to be the pioneer of bringing this type of expertise to Bahrain, and spread such knowledge around through LalaBella.
OUR CUSTOMERS LIKE THE FACT THAT I AM ON-SITE DURING THE PLANNING AND EXECUTION PHASE.
Will participants in this workshop become certified florists?
of course; November batch’s was certified already by the Boerma Institute. Students attended a final gala dinner which included their work they learned at the course which was “Floristry for events”. It was absolutely an amazing experience and successful workshop, and the instructors from the Boerma Institute were very pleased.
Moving forward, there are lots of plans running around and lots of ideas for the future workshops, and we’re happy to announce that UNIDO and the Supreme Council for Women have adopted this initiative and soon to announce great news for interested participants.
We’re happy to hear this, will UNIDO help you with the legal work?
They will help to bring in additional instructors through LalaBella and we are into negotiations of hosting institutes from Italy and the U.S.
What do you think makes Lalabella unique?
It’s our personal touch. Our customers like the fact that I am on-site during the planning and execution phase. And when we work on an idea, we try to be as unique as possible—not just repeating ideas back to back.
I can’t forget our first baby reception trend In 2013, it was the first and the grandest baby reception people knew they could do; what happened is that we had a customer who wanted everything done lavishly and gave me the freedom to do whatever I want in here first baby reception, and we did. It was one of the most memorable baby deliveries ever— because it was so perfect, so elegant and first of its kind. I remember when I first uploaded the pictures on Instagram, it got the highest comment, and after that, we had many customers approaching us to do something similar, so I’m happy that we set the trend for that.
Were you able to get any financial support from Tamkeen or BDB when you started?
When I started, I had my savings, which was very basic. I used that, and it wasn’t enough; so I took out a loan from one of the banks, which was a very simple amount, as well. All my savings went into our décor and organizing the place. The loan from the bank helped me cover my costs, but what really, really helped was Tamkeen. It was a major, tremendous help.
How was it dealing with Tamkeen?
I had no issue whatsoever because the agency used to do all the work. All I had to do was pay. Now, things have changed; in a better way, and more transparent. I was very happy with the procedure.
What was your biggest challenge during the process of establishing LalaBella?
I wasn’t at all aware about the procedures, to be honest, and I used to ask my father—but the problem is some information were not accurate because they are outdated, out rules been changed. I remember how I used to run around with my papers in order to get the CR approved from one sector to another. Now things have changed and all these become online.
I REMEMBER HOW I USED TO RUN AROUND WITH MY PAPERS IN ORDER TO GET THE CR APPROVED FROM ONE SECTOR TO ANOTHER.
The problem is, when you plan to open a business, the basic information you need to establish this business is not provided, you need to find the right entity to advise you, and because you’re ignorant, you’ll not know who you should approach—it’s a big sit down.
From all of the lessons you’ve learned, what can you tell entrepreneurs?
they have to have a proper accounting system. This is the most important thing. Second would be to understand market updates with regard to legalities. And of course, never stop learning. Taking courses related to your business would help them to flourish in their business. Some people don’t like that, because they feel it’s a waste of time; but to me, I find it really useful—when I brought flower-arranging course to Bahrain, I felt that as an owner of such a business, I needed a technical background to help me improve in my business, and I’m sure many other owners would feel the same in this sector or any other, never stop learning.
Fix your own problems first.
Exactly. So you can then help others.
Most of the time, I see that kind of success as a result of the owner putting his or her own hands into the work. Like the owner of a restaurant being the chef, for example, or the ice-cream shop owner scooping the ice cream.
Exactly. I’d tell people that if they want to start something, they need to start it out of passion because, in the end, you’re not going to open a business and have other jobs on the side. You should dedicate your full time to it. That’s what being an entrepreneur is all about.
Thank you, Nahla.
Thank you Bader!