Crush Of The Week
Supermodel and Impact Investor Natalia Vodianova discusses investment in Dubai-based Angel Cakes, her career and goals
Her Instagram bio reads “Supermodel, Philanthropist, Impact investor and UNFPA Goodwill Ambassador”; Natalia Vodianova has, by all means, impacted the lives of so many around her. From her incredible modelling career to opening the Naked Heat Foundation that provides “services for families of children and young adults with autism, Down’s syndrome, cerebral palsy and other special needs”, now a savvy investor but also a mother of 5, the Nizhny Novgorod-born beauty is the type of woman pinned on our vision board under the category “GOALS.”
It’s on a sunny November morning in Dubai that we were lucky to meet with Vodianova at Blue Water’s favourite healthy spot Angel Cakes, where she held a conversation with the café’s owners Alina Tutkova and Dima Tutkov about investing in their business, the power of healthy food but also more generally about investments, not holding back on sharing quite a few tips on the way.
JDEED spoke to Vodianova to hear more about it all.
By Cynthia Jreige
Natalia Vodianova speaks at Angel Cakes in Bluewaters, Dubai on November 30th 2023
Hello Natalia; it was a pleasure to hear your converation with Alina and Dima at Angel Cakes the other day; Can you tell us more in-depth what really seduced you about their business and made you want to invest in it?
Natalia Vodianova (NV): The term ‘seduced’ aptly captures the essence of Angel Cakes’ delectable creations. When evaluating any business opportunity, my initial focus lies on its impact capacity—measuring how much influence a company can rapidly bring and sustain in the world. I am typically driven by a rational assessment rather than pure impulse, but in the case of Angel Cakes, it was quite the opposite. I first fell in love with the beauty and taste of their products. Subsequently, while collaborating with the founders and the team, we delved into the fundamental health benefits and healthy nutritional habits that Angel Cakes could introduce to the MENA region, with the potential to scale globally. Angel Cakes embodies a rare combination of passion, impact, and scale—a trifecta that aligns seamlessly with what I, as an angel investor and philanthropist, consistently seek.
What are the key elements you look for when making an investment?
NV: In the last 10 years of angel investing, together with my business partner Timon Afinsky, we have developed our own blueprint for choosing promising founders. In a nutshell, I always look at founders (and ideally, there should be more than one founder) first, and the rest of the company typically reflects their identity. Experienced but hungry. Stubborn but listening. Visionary yet very hands-on. Inspiring leaders but supportive team players. The described blueprint perfectly fits Dima and Alina, the founders of Angel Cakes.
Natalia Vodianova speaks to Angel Cakes founders Alina Tutkova and Dima Tutkov in Bluewaters, Dubai on November 30th 2023
You have an incredible career as a supermodel – I first came across your name while being literally hypnotized by the debut CK’s Euphoria advertisement. What are things that your career as model taught you that you apply in your current role as an investor?
NV: Being a model requires you to be constantly and consciously present. No matter how uncomfortable or surreal your current experience is, you are driven by the vision of what that moment will grow into—a beautiful shot or a memorable campaign. There is a similarity with building a startup, which might be a very uncomfortable, obstacle-filled, and doubt-ridden experience. As Elon recently said, “Being an entrepreneur is like eating glass and staring into the abyss.”
Resilience is certainly a key for both being a model and building a role model business. But let’s not forget to also have fun while navigating the path to success.
“When evaluating any business opportunity, my initial focus lies on its impact capacity—measuring how much influence a company can rapidly bring and sustain in the world.”
What are some career – and personal – goals that you have for the year ahead of us?
NV: My personal goal for the year ahead is to meet more founders and entrepreneurs in the MENA region. We live in very exciting times for the region, and I am here to inspire, support, and help build more successful businesses and initiatives. Starting to grow from Dubai was a very smart move for Angel Cakes, and I can already see how this business will inspire many other brands and companies to start from MENA and go global.
Angel Cakes founder Alina Tutkova & Natalia Vodianova on November 30th 2023 in Bluewaters, Dubai
If you could give anyone who is thinking of starting to invest an advice on how to start, what would it be?
NV: Before starting to invest money, invest some sweat first. Go, build something on your own, co-found, and work on something together with someone who inspires or mentors you. The truth is that you don’t need cash to start investing. Time, energy, skills, a willingness to make, acknowledge, and learn from mistakes are the most smart investments.
Discover more about Angel Cakes here and The Naked Heart Foundation, here