Life in Kuwait Blog reported on a story (that another blog had posted) about The Early Bird restaurants (Life in Kuwait link HERE). I am very sorry to hear about it.
Here's a little advice to people planning to open a business in Kuwait with a great idea you have: you really need to be careful about who you enter into business with in Kuwait. Even if your "friend" says, "Sure, you can use my name to open your business. No problem. Just on paper...." Beware.
Don't try to write your own contract. Get yourself (and not together with your partner, but your own) a good lawyer who can advise you of your rights within a contract.
In my personal opinion, it is worthwhile to select a well-known Kuwaiti lawyer who your Kuwaiti business partner would fear, should anything go wrong. For example, a well-known Kuwaiti lawyer would most likely discuss the case within an influential diwaniya (where other law-makers are present). The name of the game in Kuwait is "face" and saving "face". Lawyer Flan Al-Flan with a hotmail address working out of Jleeb is not going to be able to get you the same outcome as Lawyer Flan Al-Flan working out of some prestigious downtown office and going to a diwaniya in Shuwaikh, with an email address and a website that reflects their partnership with an international firm. Sorry, but it's true. What is your ROI going to be? (It is just like getting a pre-nup. Don't be a dumbass. "... but I looooooved her/him.....") Plan ahead. Do your homework. Add the legal fees into your business plan if you have to.
Ok, back to Early Bird (and I don't know what kind of lawyer or contract, if any, she has):
This is the story of an American woman who built a breakfast restaurant from the ground up into a chain with several locations. It has been popular with expats and Kuwaitis both for years. And further, has set a trend for other mainly breakfast restaurants in Kuwait to follow (as we all know -there are MANY around Kuwait now).
You want to believe in the goodness of people. You want to believe that the people you consider friends can be trusted. And then, you sign a contract with them, start a business. They get 51% ownership by law in Kuwait. Many agree to be "silent" partners; that is, of course, until the business becomes "big name" and is generating big profits. (And I'm an equal-opportunity complainer: This has been known to happen to Kuwaitis with Kuwaiti partners as well. This has happened to family members in the States - not just in Kuwait. It happens.)
Going into business with someone (anyone/anywhere) is like entering a legally-binding marriage. It's all romance and roses until - God forbid - somebody flips. Then, you're driving by YOUR bigass house, looking at YOUR former bigass car, with that X still living there while you're in your little shitbox going back to your apartment...
And in Kuwait, consider this, my foreign friends: The dreaded travel ban. Your Kuwaiti partner might just decide to slap one of those on you. So you're stuck. What do you do? They've got your business/income and you can't go anywhere. Think ahead. Having the Honorable Flan Al-Flan, Esq. on speed dial comes in reeeeeeally handy at times like these.
Some links potential business owners might find helpful:
The Embassy of the US in Kuwait: Investment Climate; Openness to Foreign Investment
How a Foreign Entity Can Do Business in Kuwait
As for our friend at The Early Bird: I hope/pray/wish that the outcome for her is good. I hope she is a fighter and someone will take up her cause (for the sake of all decent, breakfast-loving people everywhere!)
There are several businesses that I refuse to patronize on ethics: The Early Bird is the latest.