+1 (347) 927-396

How much do I need to start a small business in Dubai?

Starting a small business requires careful planning and adequate funding. For entrepreneurs looking to launch a startup in Dubai, here is a comprehensive guide on how much capital you need to get your business off the ground.

How much do I need to start a small business in Dubai?

Estimating Your Startup Costs

Your startup costs will vary significantly depending on factors like your business industry, location, size of operations, inventory requirements, staffing needs, and more. However, you can break down your startup costs into several key categories:

Workspace and Location: This includes rental costs for your commercial space, registration fees for permits and licenses, utility deposits, office equipment, furniture, renovations etc. Budget at least AED 45,000-100,000 for a small office space or retail shop.

Inventory and Supplies: Estimate your initial inventory and supply costs, including raw materials, packaging, labels, equipment, tools, uniforms, protective gear etc. Most retailers budget for 3-6 months of inventory.

Professional Services: Legal fees to register your business, accounting software, brand design services, website development, consulting etc. Budget AED 5,000-20,000.

Staffing: Salaries and benefits for any essential staff you need to hire at launch, such as sales associates, assistants, accountants etc. Budget AED 15,000-30,000 per full-time employee.

Marketing and Promotions: Website hosting, printed collateral, online ads and promotions to build brand awareness. Budget AED 10,000-20,000.

Contingency Fund: Set aside at least 10-20% of your total startup costs for any unforeseen expenses.

Breakdown of Estimated Costs

Based on average startup expenses in Dubai, here is an estimated breakdown across different business types:

Retail Shop

  • Workspace Rental & Setup: AED 55,000
  • Inventory for 3 Months: AED 150,000
  • Packaging & Labels: AED 5,000
  • POS System: AED 15,000
  • Legal & Permits: AED 15,000
  • Accounting Software: AED 5,000
  • Website Development: AED 10,000
  • Promotions & Advertising: AED 15,000
  • Total: AED 270,000

Restaurant / Cafe

  • Rental Deposit & Renovations: AED 80,000
  • Cooking Equipment: AED 65,000
  • Furniture & Decor: AED 50,000
  • Ingredients for 1 Month: AED 30,000
  • Staff Salaries: AED 40,000
  • Permit Fees: AED 20,000
  • Professional Services: AED 15,000
  • Promotions: AED 15,000
  • Total: AED 315,000

Consulting / Freelance Services

  • Register Legal Entity: AED 8,000
  • Laptop & Software: AED 10,000
  • Website & Hosting: AED 6,000
  • Office Furniture: AED 5,000
  • Advertising: AED 10,000
  • Total: AED 39,000

As you can see, launching a retail store or restaurant requires significantly higher capital investment of over AED 250,000-300,000. Service-based businesses have lower startup costs, around AED 30,000-40,000. These estimates don’t include personal monthly living expenses.

Financing Your Dubai Startup

With an estimate of your total startup costs, here are some options to finance your business launch:

Personal Savings:Self-funding from your own savings is the simplest financing option but requires sufficient capital. Most UAE entrepreneurs self-fund 50-80% of startup costs.

Friends & Family: You can seek loans from friends, family members or business partners to partially finance your venture in exchange for equity or repayment guarantees.

Bank Loans: Approach banks like ENBD, CBD, Mashreq etc. for small business loans or credit cards. Prepare a solid business plan to boost loan approval chances. Interest rates vary from 10-25%.

Government Grants: UAE government organizations like Mohammed Bin Rashid Fund, Khalifa Fund and Dubai SME provide financing for Emirati entrepreneurs that covers 50-70% of total costs.

Crowdfunding Platforms: Create campaign pages on crowdfunding websites to raise donations from a large number of backers. Popular sites like Eureeca, Durise, and Zoomaal help secure early startup funding.

Angel Investors / VC: Pitch your business to angel investors or venture capital firms focused on seed-stage startups to negotiate capital financing in exchange for equity stakes.

Step-by-Step Process for Registering Your Business

Follow this step-by-step process to formally register and license your business entity in Dubai:

  1. Select Business Structure: Choose an appropriate structure – LLC, sole proprietorship or civil company based on your business needs and cost considerations.
  2. Obtain Pre-Approvals: Based on your activity, acquire pre-approvals from relevant Dubai government authorities like DED, DMCC, Free Zones etc.
  3. Register with Department of Economic Development (DED): Formally register your business with DED and get allocation of appropriate license types.
  4. Open a Business Bank Account: Open a business account with an UAE bank to manage all financial transactions separately.
  5. Obtain Trade Name Approval: Seek approval for your desired business name from DED using a trade name reservation application.
  6. Apply for Additional Licenses: Based on your business activity, apply for any additional certifications, no objection certificates, approvals etc. from designated authorities.
  7. Register for Taxes: Complete tax registration process with Federal Tax Authority and DED for VAT, corporate taxes and import duties if applicable.
  8. Secure an Office Lease: Rent an appropriate commercial space depending on size of operations and get proper permit from DED.

By completing this registration process correctly you can legally establish and operate your business in compliance with Dubai regulations. Timeline can take 2-6 weeks. Consider hiring a reputable PRO service to facilitate process.

Key Takeaways

  • Launching a startup in Dubai requires at least AED 250,000-300,000 capital for most retail or restaurant concepts and around AED 30,000-40,000 for freelance and service-based concepts.
  • Carefully project costs for workspace rental, inventory, professional services, staffing, marketing and contingencies.
  • Self-funding from savings is common for UAE startups, but external options like bank financing, government grants and investors can also provide capital.
  • Formally register with Department of Economic Development following key steps like selecting a legal structure, obtaining licenses based on your activity and registering for taxes.


Launching a successful small business in Dubai requires strategic planning of costs across key categories, securing adequate financing either through self-funding or external sources, and formally registering your legal business entity. A prudent entrepreneur should budget around AED 250,000-300,000 for most physical retail or restaurant concepts and outline clear steps for obtaining necessary permits and approvals from Dubai’s regulatory authorities. With accurate cost projections, wise financing and meticulous registration, your entrepreneurial aspirations can become a thriving reality in Dubai.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What are the most profitable small businesses in Dubai?
A: Some of the most lucrative sectors for small business in Dubai include professional services, fitness and wellbeing, retail food and beverages, specialized training institutes, digital agencies, and ecommerce.

Q: How much savings will I need if I plan to self-fund my Dubai startup?
A: If you are self-funding via personal savings, have at least 50-80% of your projected startup costs covered, which is around AED 150,000-250,000 for most physical businesses.

Q: Can I operate multiple businesses under a single trade license in Dubai?
A: No, as per Dubai regulations each business activity and commercial location requires a dedicated license – you cannot operate multiple ventures under one license.

Q: Do I need an Emirati partner to open certain types of businesses in Dubai
A: No longer mandatory in mainland, but some business activities in designated free zones still require 51% Emirati ownership such as restaurant franchises in DMCC.

Q: What options are available for low cost office spaces when starting my Dubai business?
A: Options like coworking spaces, desk rentals, flexi-desks, retail incubators, government accelerators or small commercial offices help minimize rental expenses significantly.

Q: Can tourists or visitors set up a business in Dubai?
A: No, in order to register a business and obtain commercial licenses in Dubai, you must be a legal resident with valid residency visa status as an investor, entrepreneur or employee.

Q: What support does the Dubai Government provide for new startups and SMEs?
A: Dubai SME provides guidance, funding options, subsidized office spaces and other resources to foster the growth of small businesses in priority sectors.

Q: Does my startup need Product Liability Insurance right from initial launch?
A: While not mandated, PLI protects retailers or manufacturers from huge financial claims in case customers suffer injuries/damages from your product defects.

Q: Can I sponsor visas for international workers for my startup right from launch?
A: Typically you need to demonstrate at least AED 100,000 capital or reasonable recurring revenues before being able to sponsor overseas skilled workers.

Q: What are the criteria for registering as a freelancer rather than full business entity?
A: No formal company registration needed. But as a freelancer you need to limit scope to your own professional services rendered directly rather than selling products, hiring staff or renting commercial workspace.

Q: How easy is it for businesses to raise external funding and investment in Dubai?
A: Relatively challenging in early stages due to lack of developed angel networks and risk averseness. But government grants help, while VCs are warming up to proven models and innovative tech.

Q: Are there any additional costs or procedures for starting a business as a woman in Dubai?
A: No, genders have equal rights and access. Additional costs/procedures pertain to business activity itself rather than owner gender. Women can also access targeted funding programs.

Q: How long does it typically take to break even for SMB retail and restaurant businesses in Dubai?
A: Given high rental costs and initial promotions spend, retail shops and cafes/restaurants typically require 12-15 months to recoup losses and achieve profitability after launch.

Q: Can I register my startup in a Dubai free zone even if I operate my business in mainland UAE?
A: No, geographic restrictions apply. Mainland businesses cannot formally register in free zones to simply benefit from incentives or ownership structures. Premises must be within zone.

Q: How easy is it for SMBs to hire part time or freelance resources instead of full time employment?
A: Flexible hiring for startups has improved significantly with freelancer visas, cost friendly coworking spaces as well flexible shift based hourly wage payments without mandates.

Q: Can I operate a business in Dubai while on a tourist visa?
A: No, conducting any kind of commercial activity while on a visit or tourist visa is strictly prohibited. Licensing is only for residents with valid residency status.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *