Our Journey towards Enlightenment
After working in the Middle East for nine years, Thomas Lundgren, the Swedish-born inventor of THE One, had a dream in 1993 in which an angel came to him with a mission - a message that sparked the idea of THE One and was actually more like a curse: to "save the world from IKEA."
Well one can't ignore an angel, so for the next two years Thomas worked on his business plan – according to which he needed US$ 4 million to get THE One off the ground – and tried to get every bank and business family in the region to understand his fantastic vision and help him realise it. But all he managed to do was collect a bunch of rejection letters, which today adorn the walls of THE Office reception…
By a stroke of luck in December 1995, Thomas got US$2.5million together with the help of two guys he never dreamt of as possible business partners - Rashed Al Mazroui and Shakir Abal - who went on to become his 'partners in crime' and very dear friends.
With at least some of the money in place, Thomas gathered a small team of family, friends and early believers who proceeded to eat, sleep and breathe THE One 24/7 for the next 7 months. Finally, in the summer of 1996, the blood, sweat and tears paid-off when the very first THE One Theatre opened in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. But it was oh so NOT Thomas and his team's dream. In fact, it was his worst nightmare come true, looking and feeling like a home furnishings supermarket… A little bit like IKEA, actually! When the endless hordes of adoring customers Thomas expected didn't materialise, he realised that the location was also all wrong. Luckily, his early optimism had led him to overstaff and overstock the Abu Dhabi store to such an extent that when he found another location in Dubai, he transferred half the staff and half the stock to the new Jumeirah store, which ultimately secured the brand's survival.
But THE One's troubles were far from over. Fires, floods, cash flow problems, stock problems, people problems, heart problems, love problems, psychological problems… You name it and we had been through it. But as they say, what doesn't kill you makes you stronger.
By the beginning of 2005, THE One had proven that things DO grow in the desert… With a network of nine Theatres in five countries across the Middle East (UAE, Kuwait, Qatar, Jordan and Bahrain) we had become the leading home fashion brand in the region (well at least, in our own minds)!
Then, in November 2005, just in time for the upcoming celebration of our 10th anniversary, we opened our 10th Theatre in the Middle East in Dubai’s Mall of the Emirates. We followed this with the launch of three new Boutique Theatres in Kuwait, Qatar and the UAE in the summer of 2007 and opened THE One Outlet in Dubai’s Outlet Mall in August 2008, bringing our total number of stores to 14 and our staff complement to over 600.
While August 2011 witnessed the closure of our Sharjah Theatre, we launched an exciting new concept store, THE One Fusion, in Dubai in October of the same year as well as venturing into Lebanon, opening a Boutique Theatre in Jnah, Beirut in December. This brought our 2012 total to 15 Theatres and 650 staff.
So far in 2013 it’s been a case of one step forward, one step back. While we decided to close our BurJuman Boutique Theatre in Dubai, we are happy to announce our entrance into the Tunisian market with the opening of our fully-fledged Theatre in the capital, Tunis!
Sounds good doesn't it? A cool story, successful company, great people and a brand loved by many. But so freaking what?! We don’t believe the world needs another retailer. We believe we need a better world. We feel THE One has a much larger role to play than merely selling stuff no one really needs. We have a responsibility to ourselves and our customers, to try to improve the world we live in. To Do Good. Be the Good Company.
Watch this space and remember: THE Journey is what brings us happiness, not the destination.