The story behind U&I Lifestyle and Founder, Natalie Naaman
Recently, we were asked to put together some information about U&I Lifestyle, after the Founder and Managing Director, Natalie Naaman, was put forward for a project. We thought that seeing as we have never really shared any of this information with anyone before, it was time that we did!
Let's start with a few facts about Natalie! Natalie is 28 years old, half Lebanese and half English, the sister of two older brothers, she grew up in Surrey and has lived in London for the last six years. Natalie has a degree in PR & Communications, and she is the Founder and Managing Director of U&I Lifestyle.
From left to right: Kareem Naaman (U&I Lifestyle), Gemma Burnikell (Gem Media), Natalie Naaman (U&I Lifestyle), Rachel Baker (The Director's Lounge)
Natalie first discovered that she was interested in the Hospitality industry a long time ago. When she was 17/18 years old and still at school, she was always organising parties and special events for her friends! It's just something that Natalie loved to do. At 18, Natalie started her journey at Southampton Solent University, where she studied PR and Communications, and later graduated with a 2.1 BA(Hons) Degree. "I absolutely loved my time at university, and I genuinely loved the course that I was doing, too! Many people these days tend to say things like "oh, you don't need a degree to get a job, it's all about who you know", or... "it's not what you know, it's who you know". This really frustrates me, because even though I certainly agree that if you know the right people, it can definitely HELP you, I believe that what I learned at university (and I'm not just talking about educationally, I mean in terms of people-skills, and general life skills, too) has helped me enormously in the real world." At 22, Natalie started her first "real" job, which was at "Aura Mayfair", a private members club based in the most prestigious and exclusive part of London (St James's). Natalie was hired on a part time basis to start with, and after one month, they offered her a full time job, which she was thrilled about! Natalie's initial role was as the Social Media Manager, and this quickly grew into a PR & Marketing Role. By the time she left (3 years later), Natalie was running the office, hosting events, acting as an assistant to the Manager, as well as doing the PR & Marketing role, too. "I absolutely loved my job at Aura, and I have that to thank for the endless skills and contacts that I made whilst I was there." Just before Aura closed down (much to Natalie's sadness!), she fell seriously ill, and was diagnosed with Encephalitis. This isn't something that Natalie likes to talk about or dwell on, but it must be mentioned, as it was due to her being unwell that led her to have some time off work (whilst recovering, and Natalie has made a full recovery). During this time off, it gave Natalie some time to think about her future and what she really wanted to do, career - wise. Natalie always knew that she wanted to run her own business, and she knew that the Hospitality industry was where she belonged, but she didn't realise that she would be stepping into the world of a business owner at such a young age. So, at the age of 25, U&I Events Management Ltd was born. Natalie started by hosting a variety of small events (networking evenings, charity fundraisers, private birthday parties etc) for people that she already knew and who wanted to support her. At this point, the company was small, and Natalie was hosting events and also running a small Concierge service (U&I Concierge) with her colleague, Hitesh, who she had previously worked with during the Aura days. As time went on, the company started to grow, and the company found themselves being approached to provide services that no longer fell under the umbrella of "Event Management", and by the end of Summer 2016, "U&I Lifestyle Ltd" was the new brand. Natalie also runs her own Network Marketing business in the nooks and crannies of her busy U&I Lifestyle, which she absolutely loves. Hashtag Superwoman comes to mind!
Natalie and Hitesh at the first Networking evening that U&I Events hosted, at Novikov, Mayfair
Since then, the company has taken on a variety of freelance staff members, and in September 2017, we welcome the fabulous Charlene Carver who assists Natalie on all things U&I. Natalie's brother, Kareem, also joined the team which has been super exciting and fun for the both of them, and we now have our first ver U&I venue, #PLAY!
We managed to grab Natalie for a quick 10 minute chat the other day, and here are some of the Q & A's that we snuck in...
Q: So, Natalie, what do you love most about running your own business?
A: Oh my goodness... where to even start?! I mean, ever since I can remember, I have always LOVED organising events and planning ahead. My parents used to make fun of me because we would be on a family holiday in July, sitting around the pool, and I'd ask something like "so what's our plans for Christmas?". I've always loved being super organised and planning things for people. I basically take over any family occasion and make all the bookings and arrangements, I've done that since I was like 15, so I always knew that having my own business would be right up my street. I also love socialising and meeting new people, so the networking side of things is an absolute dream. Apart from if I'm super tired or hungover, it's not so delightful.
Q: Where are your favourite hot spots in London? Any from the U&I Lifestyle Membership list that you recommend?
A: Where do I start?! Restaurant wise, shock I'm thinking about food first, I definitely have my favourites where I visit regularly. Buddha Bar, Villandry and Al Sultan are definitely up there on the list, oh and I absolutely love the restaurants in The Dorchester Hotel, especially China Tang and The Grill. I love all of our partnered hotels too. I always make a point of hosting our meetings there, and it's not because they're our partners, it's because I genuinely love the atmosphere.
Q: What's your favourite cuisine?
A: That's an unfair question because you KNOW I'm a massive foodie! Do I have to pick? (Yes). Fine. Hmmmmmmmmmm. I absolutely love Lebanese food, I could eat it every single day, it's so delicious and healthy too. I also love a good curry! You can't go wrong with Italian food either. Or Japanese. I told you I can't decide!
Q: What do you do in your free time? Do you even have any free time?!
A: (Laughs!) Good question! I actually always make sure I have at least one hour a day to myself, and in that hour you'll 100% find me in the gym or training with my Personal Trainer, Jack Wayne. In the last year I've become addicted to fitness and I absolutely love it. I always have my online business which I run on the side of U&I which specialises in health & wellness, so everything works really well together. I love being able to have a second business which I can fit in around my hectic London life, thanks to it being totally online. Thank the Lord for WiFi! So yeah, I love all things health & fitness related, but don't get me wrong, you can certainly find me enjoying a Porn Star Martini or 8 on a weekend, too - I'll always be a party girl at heart, no matter how much I try to convince myself otherwise (laughs!).
Q: Where's your favourite place to travel?
A: Easy. I have three favourite places ever. Dubai, Beirut, and Marbella. My parents met in Dubai, so I've been going with the family ever since I can remember. My dad is from Beirut, so we always go there, too. I'm a massive family girl incase you didn't know, and my uncle used to be the General Manager of a big hotel in Marbella, so we spent our Summer's growing up there. I've already been to Dubai and Beirut this year, and I'm off to Marbella in a few weeks. I'm also travelling to Australia at the end of this year which I am SOOOO excited about as I've never been!
Q: Where do you see your self in 5 years time?
A: A millionaire. You've got to dream big, right?
You can follow Natalie on Instagram and Twitter to keep up with her exciting ventures! U&I have taken on and continue to work with some very exciting brands and businesses; Boxing With The Stars (hosted by Eastenders actor Jake Wood, and Boxer, Spencer Oliver), Pimlico Health Centre, The Peace & Prosperity Trust (a charitable organisation who focus on young and talented singers in the Middle East and in London), and plenty more. The events team also have an exciting line up ahead, including "Business & Bosses" taking place on May 26th in partnership with Gem Media. Natalie and the team have also been working on some exciting Middle-Eastern projects, including a big Wedding in Beirut, a Wedding in London at the gorgeous Grosvenor House Hotel, and the Guy Manoukian concert which took place at the London Palladium whereby we worked alongside AM Management & Productions.
Lebanese Wedding in Beirut
It is safe to say that over the last 12 months, U&I has turned a page, and things are getting very exciting for Natalie and her team.
When we asked Natalie how she felt about how far the company has come over the last couple of years, this is what she said: "I honestly can't believe that U&I has grown this much since the start! Don't get me wrong, there have been times when I've thought to myself "what's the point?" or (especially at the start) "when am I going to start making money?!", but to see where I am now, compared to where I was even 7 or 8 months ago, it just proves that hard work really does pay off, and you should never give up on something you believe in".