Day in the life: working together a gift for Dubai entrepreneur couple

British animal lover Sarah Parodi runs The Elephant Parade, a social enterprise which sells decorated elephant statues and donates part of the proceeds to elephant conservation projects and hospitals.

Sarah Parodi runs Hub Retail Gifts in Dubai with her husband. Jeffrey E Biteng / The National
Powered by automated translation

Sarah Parodi set up a retail business with Italian husband Fabrizio, Hub Retail Gifts, two years ago. It is the Mena partner for The Elephant Parade, a social enterprise which sells decorated elephant statues and gives part of the proceeds to elephant conservation projects and hospitals. The business has shops in Atlantis The Palm and the Souq Madinat Jumeirah, and stands at winter markets including Ripe and JBR Beach and events like Street Nights. Ms Parodi, 35, is British and has been in Dubai for eight years, with a year out in Bangalore, India, to set up an event sales office. A former corporate events organiser, she has also run her own events consultancy for the last four years.


I get up and take my Labrador dog, Sandy for a jog around Jumeirah Village Triangle. We bought our apartment here a year ago. It’s so nice to have time, walking, to think through the day ahead.


Fabrizio and I have breakfast – generally raisin bran and berries with an espresso – then check emails in our home office. We have an office in Downtown Jebel Ali, but use this as a second base. We’re in our third year working together: I tend to focus more on events during the summer and the retail business during winter months.


We have regular Skype calls with Elephant Parade in Thailand to discuss product development and marketing strategies – and, recently, to make repeat orders, as the start to the winter season has been so good this year. Fabrizio and I first saw the Elephant Parade in Copenhagen Airport on our way to a friend’s wedding in Sweden. We fell in love with the store and nearly missed our flight. He put the business card in the office of our apartment and one evening we decided to get in touch with the company to discuss working together. We wanted a project we could work on together and one we believed in and felt could make a positive difference.


A coffee meeting with The Urbanist store at the new Box Park on Al Wasl Road. They are one of our UAE distribution partners, and we’re discussing the new Elephant Parade catalogue. We go on to Alserkal Avenue in Al Quoz to make a payment for an upcoming design market event.


We drop into our Madinat Jumeirah shop to spend time with our staff and check if they need supplies or anything approved or signing. We have seven sales staff in all – once a month we have a team meeting and training session. We spend a lot of time driving, so the car is like a mobile office – with multiple chargers – and recently traded in a luxury car for a more practical Ford F150 pickup truck. Fabrizio and I work well together and have complimentary skills – I do sales, marketing, partnerships and contracts and he is excellent with numbers, communications and management. We often work shifts in our shops or at pop-up markets. With a start-up business, if we didn’t work together, we wouldn’t see each other.


We take time out to eat but it’s still a working lunch at a deli or cafe, generally over a salad with an iced latte. We show each other pictures for the exhibition we’re planning and follow up on submissions – then it’s on to the next appointment.


We head to Downtown Dubai to meet Emaar Leisure and sign the agreement for the Winter Festival Market. Then Fabrizio drops me home and he heads off to the warehouse at Al Quoz to oversee a delivery and do the weekly stock-take. I work on proposals and agreements with potential new distribution customers in the UAE, Qatar, Bahrain and Kuwait.


I take Sandy out for another walk. Having a dog keeps you down to earth and, when we’ve had a tough day, she lightens the mood. It’s beautiful to walk at this time of year and you notice the season change when you’re outside twice a day.


I go to the gym in our apartment block or go to the local gym for a class – it’s a great way to unwind. I also play tennis weekly on the courts near our apartment, and horse-ride in the desert at least once a month.


I put on some music while I prepare dinner and chat to Fabrizio. I generally cook something healthy, like grilled chicken salad or braised lentils. Fabrizio is a fantastic cook - but it will be a lasagne for a special occasion. During winter we’re so busy with markets and, as they’re generally at the weekend, our free time is limited.


We watch a bit of Italian TV – I like the travel programme Geo and the game shows are hilarious. I’m learning Italian and can speak fairly well now, although I still make mistakes. I lived in Barcelona and speak Spanish, so it’s an easier transition. I like being able to communicate with family in Genova and Italian friends here in Dubai. Generally, I’m in bed by 10 or 11pm during the week.

Follow The National's Business section on Twitter