“Starting a social business venture has always been a dream of mine and I feel that what I’m doing with Colab is making a difference.” – Richard Wilson
Pursuing his goal to elevate creative design across the Middle East, Richard is the driving force behind the first purpose-built materials library in the UAE.
Business graduate, Richard Wilson, knew from early in his career that he wanted to be an entrepreneur. Though he started out in a very different field, Richard is now pursuing his dream as Founder and Creative Director of the UAE’s first purpose-built design library, Colab.
Having spent time studying at both UOWD and UOW Australia, Richard had already acquired a broad business perspective when he graduated with a Master of International Business from the Dubai Campus in 2003. Nevertheless, he still experienced the challenges that most graduates face in the initial stages of their career.
Richard explains, “No one is certain of the career path they want to follow. We may have an idea or an outline of the direction, but nothing is guaranteed. Whilst my university experience equipped me with the knowledge and skills, I ended up working in a completely different industry to the one I thought I would be in. This meant learning quite a lot on the job, more than what was traditionally expected. Looking back though, I’m happy to say that I’m still involved with the same industry – and with a few others too.”
Richard eventually took the leap of faith to pursue his passion and launch his own business and has not looked back since. He reveals, “I launched Colab – the UAE’s and perhaps the Middle East’s only material library – a few years back, and the potential for Colab is what excites me most moving forward. Taking the decision early on that I ultimately wanted to work for myself and on my terms, and seeing things work out, has probably been the most rewarding experience of my career to date.”
Explaining the thinking behind Colab Richard says, “Colab is a social business venture that functions primarily as a material library and inspiration and learning centre. The space aims to elevate design across the region by offering a platform to showcase the latest materials and design trends from around the globe whilst highlighting excellence in regional design as well.”
Discussing the journey and the challenges he has faced along the way, Richard reveals, “Starting a social business venture has always been a dream, however, the infrastructure in the region is not fully geared to support such initiatives. Challenges notwithstanding, Colab has been embraced by the community it serves and this is why we have been able to survive the tough economic situation we all find ourselves in. In all honesty, the entrepreneur life is not for everyone, but my advice is that if you have an idea and the ability/conviction to turn your idea into reality - just go for it!”
Reflecting on his higher education studies, Richard recalls, “University life takes you away from your comfort zone and is an integral part of one’s growth and development. My degree equipped me with the knowledge and confidence to go out into the job market and actively pursue opportunities. My university experience in Australia contributed to my all-round development as a person.”
Speaking about his inspirations in life, Richard says, “For me, working hard is the difference between success and failure. Anyone that is out there grinding every day and trying to do their very best, no matter what stage of their career, is a source of inspiration. The words of Albert Einstein – ‘The day we stop learning is the day we die’ – resonate very strongly with me and I believe that I’m always open to learning something new every day. It is this open mind and knowing that I can learn from anyone and everyone that keeps me going.”
Looking to the future of his business and long-term career, Richard concludes, “I am extremely bullish about Colab’s prospects in the region, given that we plan to diversify our service offering and we’re also looking at new revenue streams to stay afloat whilst remaining true to our original vision of providing knowledge and inspiration. I’m driven by ideas that I’m passionate about; I love what I do, I enjoy the ups and downs. I have a few concepts in mind, which combine activities and interests that excite me and where I also see potential. The next few years might see a few of these come to fruition.”