Dubai’s Miss Fab shares story of guts, grit and glory

Estimated read time 7 min read

Mary Grace Alzate is the owner of Miss Fab Jewellery & Diamond Trading in Dubai. JONATHAN YBERA/EXPAT MEDIA

UAE-based gold and diamond retailer Mary Grace Alzate says she never expected her business to sparkle, but she is thankful that it has, which is why she always makes it a point to share her blessings.

Mary Grace is the original Miss Fab of Miss Fab Jewellery & Diamond Trading in Dubai, a company that the enterprising Filipina built from scratch. She can’t help but be emotional as she shares her story of guts and grit in an interview with Expat Media at the Dubai outlet of her business that started in Al Ain. Later this year, she is set to open a three-storey outlet featuring products from her jewellery and fashion retail businesses.

The big-hearted entrepreneur is known for giving out big discounts and outrageous gifts to customers when she visits her shops or does “live selling” videos on Facebook, the unique sales technique that catapulted her to success in the UAE. She has given out cash, jewellery, and gold coins to customers in many of her live video streams.

“Sometimes, it feels like I fell for their budol!” Mary Grace jokes, referring to the Filipino word for being persuaded to do something impulsive. “I just really feel happy seeing the customers happy. It’s my way of giving back for the support they’ve given to my business. It’s all about give and take,” she explains.

Loyal customers rush to the store in Al Warba Center in Dubai’s Deira district when she says the first batch of customers to arrive will get a big discount. Her followers also tune in during her live streams, and won’t miss her birthday on December 12. “They really wait for it because they know I’ll sell any item for only Dh12. It makes them excited,” she shares.

From rags to riches

Mary Grace can now afford a luxurious life, a far cry from when she was a struggling single mother before flying to the UAE in 2009. “When my children were babies, it was hard to feed them and change their diapers all at once, and all by myself because they were born just a year apart,” she recalls. The children were aged 9 and 10 by the time she left to work abroad. “It was difficult for me to raise them with my salary as a travel agent in the Philippines. Not enough to give us a comfortable life,” she recalls.

Luckily, she was offered a job as travel agency consultant in Al Ain. She grabbed the chance. “I have heard good things about Dubai. I thought Al Ain was in Dubai! I actually applied for a job in the UK but the opportunity to work in the UAE came first so I took it,” she says.

Mary Grace said she barely survived with her salary of Dh1,400. Although it came with free accommodation, “I was sending money home for my children and was left with almost nothing,” she says.

This was when she turned to selling branded bags online to supplement her income. With limited capital, she bought bags during big sale in Dubai, and would resell them on Facebook and Instagram. Her customers were mostly Filipinos in Al Ain who didn’t have time to shop at the big malls.

In 2012, she found love and got married. However, she had to give up her job and become a stay-at-home wife. It was tough because she had credit card bills to pay and a car loan that she struggled to repay.

“Banks were calling me. I was scared I would end up in jail or get banned from the UAE,” she recalls, describing it as the “lowest point of her life”.

“I never considered quitting or going back to the Philippines as an option. I only knew I had to find a solution. It was during those trying times that God really showed me He never left me,” Mary Grace shares, in tears.

Not one to sit idle and mope, she jumped on the idea of working from home. She thought of selling second-hand clothes, popularly known as ukay-ukay among Filipinos.

“When Facebook launched their live video feature, I thought of selling items through that. I bought a bundle of used clothes from a supplier for Dh300. I sold each piece for Dh5 to Dh15. I sold out everything on my first day,” she says.

“I just tried it. I never imagined it would grow to be a big business for me,” Mary Grace shares. “I did everything myself, from doing the live video stream to taking orders, packing them and delivering them, then buying new stocks. Before I knew it, I already had so many orders and so many stocks. I expanded by selling shoes, bags and watches. Everything was always sold out,” she says.

Her popularity as a reputable online seller grew in Al Ain. However, she was forced to choose between her marriage and her growing business. “I chose my business,” she says, adding that even though life dealt her a difficult card, it turned out for the best in the end and that they are still good friends to this day.

Running her business was no walk in the park. “I worked from 8am until 3am every day. In the morning, I was doing the inventory, delivering orders and buying new stocks, and then after arriving home I would start online selling. It was tough. I lost weight, but I never felt exhausted selling items via my live video streams,” she shares.

“I focused on my business because I felt it was a blessing that saved me from further tragedy. I am thankful that I proved I could stand on my own. My business boomed in 2018,” she continues.

From her home office, Mary Grace was able to expand her fashion retail business by opening a store in Al Ain and hiring a dedicated team. Her growing business contacts also allowed her to expand further in gold and diamond jewellery trading, and eventually opening a store in Dubai that serves as her business hub for orders in the UAE and abroad.

Miss Fab Jewellery & Diamond Trading has set itself apart with its affordable gold and diamond jewellery. “We really wanted jewellery to be affordable without compromising on the quality,” Mary Grace says.

Now, she spends her time shuttling between her businesses in Dubai and Al Ain. “I now focus on business improvements, staff management and monitoring of our sales,” she says. During her free time, she unwinds by meeting good friends for coffee, lunch or dinner. She also still does “live selling” at least once a week just to connect with her online followers.

Her advice to aspiring entrepreneurs in the UAE? “Don’t be afraid to start, and if you encounter problems along the way, don’t stop. Keep going. Business is never going to be perfect, but the most important thing is to work on a solution,” she advises.

Don’t miss it: Miss Fab Jewellery & Diamond Trading is open daily from 12pm to 9pm in Al Warba Centre, Al Muraqqabat, Deira, Dubai.

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