How this Filipina expat built a community of small business owners in the UAE

Women’s Entrepreneurship Day is celebrated globally on November 19 and we want to take time to celebrate and honour the entrepreneurs, business owners, change-makers, and innovators who took a leap of faith, took risks, and chartered their own course to create a business, big or small, that helps make the world a better place to live. 

Ethel Bruwer knows a thing or two about running a business. She has established multiple businesses in Dubai including marketing agency, BxSeen and women’s shoes line Cloud Famous, which recently opened a store in DIFC’s Gate Avenue. 

She is also singlehandedly doing wonders for fellow Filipino business owners in the country. Ethel is key to growing an entrepreneurial community called the ‘Fearless Fab Flamingos’, committed to supporting and bringing together UAE-based Filipino women and men in business, done through social media, in-person events and WhatsApp groups.

  Ethel wearing ACRO's Biker Set in Black

How did you become an entrepreneur? Can you tell us a bit about yourself?

I’ve always have been an entrepreneur since I was a kid! I used to sell my Aunties’ homemade candies in my class. I guess I got it from my Mama who has been my number one influence ever since I was a kid. I saw her hustling so hard with different businesses whilst sending us to universities. My mom used to take me to suppliers, vendors and other businesses she worked with, haggling with buy and sell products. I guess that was the start!


What is FFF and how exactly does it support Filipino entrepreneurs?

FFF is a Filipino Women Circle of Small Business Owners, Freelancers, & Professionals whose sole mission to elevate the community and support each other in terms of collaborations, whilst making connections and creating opportunities.


How did the idea of FFF come about and what drove you to start it? How many businesses have signed up with you so far?

The idea came to me when I was looking for people who share the same passion. Entrepreneurship can be a lonely and isolating path and being around people who can understand your drive, support your vision and relate to your situation is a relief. Your conversations are different with them and they give you a different boost too! Somehow a fellow entrepreneur gives you a different kind of energy. At the moment, we have 124 official members.


Are you the only one managing the business or do you have staff?

I currently have three people in my staff with assisting both for FFF and also for my personal businesses.


I have personally witnessed how much the FFF community has grown over the past year. What do you put this success down to?

I think the most important thing is being unselfish, building a community requires being genuine. More giving, more helping, more values - it is not just about getting what you want out of it rather, what you can do to make a difference for your business and for others. I think we grow so fast because people see the value we instil and build inside the community. The honesty, the trust, the feeling that the community has your back. I think that’s what draw people in.


What are the core values of FFF and what is something the entrepreneurs have in common?

The core value really, is to co-create. And by doing this I mean, connect with people, collaborate, and just create opportunities together - helping one business to another, refer someone in the community, utilise each other business if needed. You create sustainable environment within the group as well as you are helping your business grow. I think Entrepreneurs have in common is the fire, passion. When you have that, you don’t stop, there is no stopping, you just keep going.


What are some of the barriers in front of small business owners in the UAE?

I think majority of business owners would say it's the finances. Business set up alone is a setback, the amount of money you need to produce in the initial stage can be frustrating, and if you are not prepared for this - it’s can be an uphill battle.


What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs who are starting out?

Having an entrepreneur mindset is not enough. You also need to skill up.

Learn skills, marketing, social media, digital, anything you think can help your business especially if you are start-up. There is no loss, its only gain. And also, execute! Your idea is nothing if you dont execute, passion + execution is everything!


Why is it important for other Filipinos to support local Filipino-owned businesses?

Lot of factors, but mainly you support your own fellowmen, thriving in this foreign country. Secondly, you navigate easy with them and the trust is easily build.


Finally, what do you hope to see happen in the near future for Filipino-owned small businesses in the UAE? What are your future plans for FFF?

I see a lot of things in the future for FFF. We would love to have an official Headquarters office or workspace where everyone can collaborate and work together. Among other things, we would love to see a concept store that showcases Filipino Concept Brands. And so many  more! The possibilities are endless.


Godspeed on your FFF venture, Ethel! A huge thank you for all your support with the Filipino community in the UAE.

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