In this month’s “Women To Admire” we’re heading back to Dubai to interview the founder of Alma Retreat, a weekend escape in Ras Al Khaimah. Sarah Arnold has had an incredible career with over 18 years of experience in senior IT leadership, strategy and sales for the likes of BMI and Microsoft.
In 2016, Sarah took her passion for yoga and opened up Alma, a beautiful little camp just an hour outside of Dubai, and whose programme includes yoga, meditation, fitness and amazing food.
What made you want to start Alma Retreat?
Due to my own busy travel and work schedule, I kept searching for places near Dubai to recharge. I felt there is no holistic boutique place in the region and so became passionate to try to build one.
What obstacles did you face along the way?
The biggest obstacle was finding the right land to suit all of Alma’s needs.
Also, convincing people of the idea of ’boutique’. In Dubai, everyone thinks big and nobody wants below 50 rooms. So access to funds and investors that share the vision and help to build a sustainable team became a challenge.
How have you found working in Dubai compared to other places?
I have found working in Dubai to be incredibly inspiring, due to the multi-nationality and boldness this place has. There are so many opportunities and room for growth, the only thing missing is part-time work 😉
If you could only keep 5 items what would they be?
- Ice cream maker
- Family pictures
What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given, and what would you advise to another female looking to start their own business?
Just lately I learned more about MVP which stands for Minimum Viable Product. The idea is that you create a product that has just enough features to satisfy early customers and therefore provide feedback for future product development. We applied this to our first season at Alma, and from that feedback, we are able to change and adapt the Alma experience to suit what our customers want.
To anyone looking to start their own business, I would say think, learn and find proof of concept before you go big. Then continuously test the market and adjust.
You’re a new addition to the crayon box. What colour are you and why?
I would definitely be green as it represents hope, harmony and nature.
What inspires you?
So many things inspire me. But most of all, people that don’t give up and that keep trying until it works – like Ford or Edison.
You’ve had such an incredible career, what do you feel most proud of?
Thank you. I’d say I’m most proud to have taken the risk with Alma, and to get out of the comfort zone of being an employee only. Being an entrepreneur is a completely different mindset and one I am really enjoying.
What does a perfect day look like to you?
Hmm…waking up next to the person I love with a smile. Maybe doing a nature morning walk and meditation. Going to a market or farm to get fresh ingredients for the day ahead. Attending an inspiring art class followed by a salsa class or helping out at an orphanage and spending time with children. Ending the evening with a bonfire in Alma and meeting the guests of the day and listening to their stories.
What are your hopes for Alma?
We are working hard to upgrade the current place. But we hope to find the perfect permanent location and cooperation partners to establish Alma long-term – ideally even with a farm on ground.
To find out more about Alma Retreat, click here