My name is Viktoria AWANA EBODE, I am French. After having studied and worked in international cooperation for charities, NGOs, and the French government, and lived in several countries (Spain, Tunisia, United Kingdom, Germany), I settled in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates where I created in February 2022 an online store called La Cotonnerie. I offer a wide range of quality fabrics, with natural fibers and modern designs as well as handmade traditional textiles.
Tell us about your childhood and where you grew up?
I was born in a little town of 30 000 inhabitants in the Drome department in southern France, to a German mother and a Cameroonian father. I grew up in a working-class district outside the town center. This neighborhood was culturally really diverse and all my friends had origins from places around the world such as North Africa, Cambodia, Southern Europe, etc. Having lived with all those different cultures around me whilst being the daughter of foreigners definitely had an influence on me. It is not surprising that I ended up studying languages and international cooperation!
How did you get started as an entrepreneur?
As I mentioned above, I studied and started a career in international cooperation. My various professional experiences have led me to travel and live in different countries as well as work for associations, NGOs, and the French government. When I arrived in Dubai in February 2020, I encountered a major difficulty: the outbreak of Covid! It was therefore very complicated to find a job and especially in my field. But I always had in mind to work for myself at some point. This turned out to be the perfect opportunity. When one door closes, always try to open another one! But starting my own business was not straightforward. It took me months before saying “Let’s do it”. Firstly, I was still trying to get a job, and getting job interviews here and there, waiting to see where it would lead me. At the same time, I was writing down some business ideas, thinking that I should try to launch my own business. Therefore, I was only half-involved in both projects. Secondly, I didn’t even know how to start a business. Nobody around me had done that before. It was something really difficult to consider. “Where do I start? Am I capable to do it? “. After months of hesitation, and thanks to the support of my family and the lucky encounter with a woman who became my friend and mentor, my store La Cotonnerie was launched in February 2022. I wanted to sell online quality fabrics made of natural fibers as I found difficult it to find that in Dubai. I also sell handmade traditional fabrics from different countries made by craftsmen and women. I loved working in the field of international cooperation and it was, therefore, essential for me to link to my project the solidarity and the cross-cultural part.
What is one business lesson you would tell a startup founder?
Although my business is the result of many independent events and circumstances, the eventual trigger was my encounter with my mentor. She showed me that starting a business is not a big deal, and she made me realize that I have the right skills and mindset to get started. Hence the main lesson I would tell a startup founder is to always be surrounded by benevolent people who believe in you and who will support you because they want you to succeed. Be open to feedback, especially from people who have more experience than you. You can learn a lot just by listening to others. Also, don’t ask yourself too many questions. It is important to judge the risk appropriately, but it should not scare you from trying to launch your business.