Mohamed El Kashashy, 35, is the chairman and founder of Think Food, which operates restaurant franchises including Eric Kayser, the Little More Cafe and Avec. The company operates seven restaurants in the UAE, with plans to open two more before the end of the year. Before founding Think Food in 2011, Mr El Kashashy, from Egypt, held a number of senior roles with companies including Coca-Cola, Proctor & Gamble, McKinsey and the Dubai Government.
What are your favourite things to do on the weekend?
Waking up very early and going for a morning stroll along the beach. I find it very relaxing, and what’s more it’s a great opportunity to reflect on the events of the previous week. With the busy life in Dubai, you rarely get such moments when you are alone to think clearly about where you are right now and where you want to be. The great thing about living in Dubai as opposed to a place like London or New York is that you have these great beaches and it makes sense to make use of them.
What do you consider to be your favourite hobby?
Swimming and after that listening to music. Both are my ways of escaping the rat race we are living in. For music I’m really into jazz and house music, both pretty different styles. In terms of favourites, the Village Vanguard Jazz Orchestra is right up there at the moment.
What can’t you live without?
Without a doubt my family and friends. If you’re talking material objects, I’d say my phone. I’ve actually got both a BlackBerry Passport and an iPhone. If push comes to shove I’d say I’d hold on to my BlackBerry; it’s more reliable for email, and it’s got a big screen as well, so I use it like I use my iPad Mini.
What do you consider the secret to your success?
It’s all about persistence, especially in the early days, putting your head down and above all surrounding yourself with the right team. At the end of the day, success is all about the people. Finding the right people is the most important and the most difficult task – really finding the right calibre of people to work with. I’ve sometimes observed people working for up to four months without them knowing it before I’m sure that I want to recruit them.
What advice would you offer other budding entrepreneurs?
Leave your ego aside, don’t take no for an answer, don’t give up and finally if you don’t love it then don’t do it. If you don’t feel that it’s right deep down in your gut, then it’s not right. Also, when it comes to finding the right people, don’t mistake people who can talk the talk with those that can do the job.
How do you achieve a work-life balance?
It’s a really tough question, especially when you’re in the start up phase of your business. I have to admit that I don’t think I really have that balance in my life right now. For me it’s particularly tough as my family, which is the most important thing in my life, live in three different cities - Cairo, Geneva, and London. I do my best, however, to spend all my free time either talking to them or visiting them. They are my source of achieving balance. As for the rest, I keep juggling to my best efforts in order to not miss out on the beauty of things in life.
How do you relax after the working day?
Spending time with friends and laughing, while sipping a great cup of coffee, is the best way to unwind after long hectic days. There’s a company in Dubai, Raw Coffee, who do really good coffee that they roast themselves.
If you weren’t running your business, what else would you be doing?
I’d really want to work with the leadership of the Government of Dubai. It’s amazing work they’re doing and I’d really love to be in a position to help them build and achieve their vision for this great city.
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