Did you ever think you’d be here right now with your own business. Did you always have an entrepreneurial mindset?
I’ve always wanted to start my own things and I lived in that kind of environment. The first thing I did to make my own money was selling chickens, breeding dogs and several things as I was growing up. I was always thinking of how to have a business and run it. Both my parents are entrepreneurs actually and I loved the entrepreneurial spirit that we had.
Let’s start with the beginning of Howayte and talk about the e-commerce website.
e-commerce website Howayte.com was published in late 2016. You had the trend of conventions starting at the time in Bahrain like Bahrain Comic Con, IGN and so forth. I was a big fan of the event and attended like everybody else but I wasn’t a vendor to sell anything but I wanted to try it out. I had plans to start something, and I wanted to leave my job to do that. At that time, it was roughly 8 years for me working for the Ministry.
The vision started from the thought that people didn’t have to go to conventions to get the items that they liked like card games, board games and etc. We started to reach out to the vendors to put their products on our website and we charged them commissions.
How did you start reaching out to vendors?
I asked myself this question “If I was going to get diverse products, how do I do that without spending so much money at first?” These events seemed like the best outlet so we went there to talk to artists and vendors, get to know their products and pitched the idea to put them on our website. Later on we even started to provide more services like creating t-shirts, outside shipping and other various logistics.
Later on I found it really hard for them in terms of vendor management so we focused on specific vendors that were more specialised like Bahraini Deal which actually got us a lot of traffic to the website and helped the us grow as a brand and business.
You hosted tournaments at home to play games like Yu – Gi –Oh! and then that led to you opening the Howayte store. Tell me about that
I used to play the game with a couple of friends but most of the times it would be larger groups. Later on someone suggested to host tournaments which sounded like a great idea but my house was the only place to host. It was actually in the hall of my house so we put up a lot of chairs and just played!
“It was really hard when I resigned to start my own thing. It was terrifying – It felt like breaking the chains”
How did you know that there was a market for this?
I’m in that circle and I’m passionate about it. I enjoy being around that community and I know that there is an interest, and a market for it. In addition, I would also say there is a curiosity for it in Bahrain as well. We even had people coming in that weren’t from Bahrain and they were shocked that there was a community. They were happy they found a place here away from home where they can share the same passion for playing these games.
Because I was part of the community – I know what they needed so I started my business to fill that gap and cater to them. Plus it was enjoyable because that area was what I was passionate about.
Why did you call it Howayte?
When anyone has a hobby, they always like to talk about it. You can feel their passion and excitement for it. I wanted to call it Howayte because this was a hobby I was passionate about, and others were too. I also go back to something my dad always said “Take your hobby and your experience which is something you’re good at – combine them together and build a business.
What is the culture or vibe like at Howayte?
We don’t allow two things – you can’t talk about work, can’t bring in your laptop with you, and It’s literally a place where just socialize and play tabletop games. You are there to unwind after a long day, after work and we targeted to become the "Third place" in their lives. People usually have 3 places they always go to, Home, work and a place they meet their freinds and relax.
“When anyone has a hobby, they always like to talk about it. You can feel their passion and excitement for it. I wanted to call it Howayte because this was a hobby I was passionate about, and others were too.”
How was the support initially for the shop?
Howayte had a lot of support and we had people wanting to help us grow and be there from the beginning. That meant a lot to us and its because of one main thing – they were so passionate about the community that this support came naturally.
Did you connect with other markets as well?
Yes of course. We have people visiting from Saudi as well to compete in our tournaments in Bahrain – there’s a market there and we host them here for championships. We also created a Whatsapp group where we added members of the community in Bahrain and Saudi to communicate. We’d discuss games on the group and strengthen our community by being on one platform.
“Because I was part of the community – I know what they needed so I started my business to fill that gap and cater to them. Plus it was enjoyable because that area was what I was passionate about.”
What is one thing you’re planning to do in the future?
I want to reach out to universities and get interns to work at Howayte to get experience because they would be doing a lot of things and get to see how a business runs from all aspects. A lot of students graduate and have no work experience and the best way is to be a challenging environment where they can put their hands into a lot of things and get that practical experience.
We also plan on reaching to schools that have their own board game club or even we help start one. we want tabletop games to become part of the culture of the newer generations. We don't plan on opening any other branches, since we like to have the communities be together in the same place.
Share us with 3 mini tips for others who want to start their own thing.
Start small and focus – don’t get too stressed by the “Go hard or go home” concept
Preferably start online and use those tools to connect people back to your platform
Don’t rush to get investors and try to have as much as ownership of your business or product
“I’m in that circle and I’m passionate about it. I enjoy being around that community and I know that there is an interest, and a market for it. In addition, I would also say there is a curiosity for it in Bahrain as well. We even had people coming in that weren’t from Bahrain and they were shocked that there was a community.”
What is one important aspect for running a business?
It is definitely focus. Just focus on what your good at and have one business to get income from that. People say that one business means just one way of making money but that’s not true. One business can have multiple streams of income especially if you focus on the core and then expand that to make money in different ways.
Thank you Fahad for having coffee with us and we will make sure to follow your journey. We are sure it will be epic - KEEP GOING