Today I wrote about a small New York chocolate company that’s rapidly expanding in the Middle East, instead of opening new locations closer to home. When company founder Alison Nelson teamed up with a Dubai partner and signed a licensing deal, the two figured it would take about a year to get up and running in Dubai, the first of 30 planned store locations in the region. Instead, two years later, the first one is almost ready to open.
Ms. Nelson and her partner say getting started in the Middle East has been harder than they ever imagined. Ordering an espresso grinder took days – no one in the area even knew what one was. Cookies and baked goods didn’t turn out right because basic ingredients like flour didn’t taste quite the same. Restaurants had to be redesigned to accommodate subtle cultural differences – like Middle Easterners’ aversion to sharing a table with strangers. Not least, Ms. Nelson has to face the idea that when she goes to open her Saudi Arabia location, she won’t even be permitted to drive a car in the male-dominated country.
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