Meet the mums
From top left
Nielouphar Abdulrahiman: Indian, mum of four (age 3 months, 2 years, 7 years and 10 years) and Founder/Creative Head of Pretty Paper Studio (Ppsuae.com). A resident of Dubai since 2001, in 2012 Nielouphar started up Pretty Paper Studio, an arts and crafts supply store plus workshop studio based in Dubai
Ayshwarya Chari: Indian, mum of two (age 4 and 9 years) and Business Strategist specialising in e-commerce. The former owner of online kids’ stores 6am Babies and Kidore, Ayshwarya now heads up The Ivy Business Consulting (@theivyUAE), which offers advice on strategy and growth to small- and medium-sized businesses in the UAE
Laurence Arca Bathe: French, mum of two (10 and 15 years) and owner of Urban Energy Fitness & Urban Swim Academy (Urbanenergyfitness.com) Laurence started up Urban Energy nine years ago as a company specialised in mums’ fitness, after she had been unable to find suitably qualified fitness professionals when she was pregnant. It’s since expanded to cater to all populations, and its swim academy offers an array of programs for babies to adults
From the bottom left
Amanda Dias: Indian, mum to 4-year-old Dwayne, Amanda is a freelance corporate soft skills trainer and creative content creator and blogger (Raisingmyknight.com) Amanda started her @Raisingmyknight Instagram account and blog as a way to spend some ‘me time’ as a mum creating DIY projects, but it then turned into a place where she created DIY projects with her son. She has held several ‘me time’ and ‘parent and child’ creative workshops, and is seeking out options for starting this up as a business in a way that’s affordable.
Patricia Morais: Brazilian, mum of 9-month-old Alice and a family photographer who moved to Dubai in May 2018. Having worked for years in the automotive industry, Patti finally found herself when she discovered photography, and she now specialises in family, maternity and baby and child images. She was looking for ideas on how to grow her network in a new city and how to make better use of social media
Emily Musharbash: British, mum of one and ‘Boss Lady’ of NM Choreography (Nmchoreography.com), which she runs with her husband (at the time of the session she was eight months pregnant with their first baby) Emily heads up the business side of things at NM Choreography, which delivers choreography services and dance classes and parties for all ages and abilities across the UAE
Muby Astruc: French, mum of two (4 and 5 years), and Artist-Entrepreneur at When Shabby Meets Chic (Whenshabbymeetschic.com) Born in Dubai, Muby has been running When Shabby Meets Chic since 2017. Selling only cruelty-free and nursery-safe brands and products, it is the exclusive stockiest of various furniture DIY brands including Frenchic, the UK’s fastest-growing chalk paint
Building a following on social media
The number one issue facing any new business is the need for people to know about you. The obvious, and cheapest, place to start this is on social media. Depending on your target audience the best social media for you may be Instagram and Facebook, or Twitter and LinkedIn if you have a more corporate consumer base. Our mums share their experiences…
Ayshwarya: Social media’s impact is not overnight. Expecting it to be immediate is like eating a salad for dinner and then weighing yourself in the morning. You need to plod on at it and find out what works for you. If you don’t have time to do a whole month’s content calendar (and who does?) then at least have a rough content template for each day of the week, and then use scheduling tools to plot out the exact content a week at a time.
Nielouphar: I used to post three times a day, five times a week, always using the right hashtags (which I would spend ages researching). However, through experience I have learnt to tone it down to one or two posts a day, five or six times a week.
Amanda: I find that if I post every day I get less engagement than if I post once a week…
Nielouphar: It all depends on your audience – you need to work with what works for you. One thing I have learnt is to stop worrying about the sort of content that the algorithms favour anymore; they keep changing all the time. Plus I’ve also realised that Facebook and Instagram are only free to an extent…
Ayshwarya: True. At some point you will have to run ads on Facebook and Instagram in order to grow your business further; it’s how they make their money. Plus, it’s not a great idea for your online presence to be entirely based in either Facebook or Instagram, because tomorrow the direction of those sites could be very different. You need to be on social media, but also have a good website too. It’s best not to put all your eggs in one basket.
Collaboration is a powerful tool for small business owners, regardless of the type of business you have, as it helps you to form connections in ways that can help your business grow to new levels, without having to invest huge amounts of money in advertising...
Emily: I have an amazing website and great social media, but it’s not enough. So I team up with people who’ve got databases already. We’ll strike a deal somehow; I might give a discount on classes to all of the members of their group or something like that in return for some kind of access to their database, and it’s really helped. I feel like social media can be a bit of a dead end in some ways, and people are now reverting back to the traditional approach of building relationships again. Nielouphar: Yes, but on social media you also have to build those relationships too. Not all companies do it but it’s really important to reply to DMs on your Instagram for example, because that’s how you build relationships.
Amanda: Collaboration has helped me. I was having problems reaching the right people for my creative DIY workshops through social media and even had to cancel some of them because there weren’t enough sign-ups. Then I collaborated with a local app that lists entertainment and events going on for kids in Dubai, and they gave me a subscriber list, which really helped.
Influencer ambassadorship is one of the hottest and most divisive new ways of getting your business name out there, whether you decide to set up a commercial partnership with a big influencer, or simply strike a barter deal with micro influencers or fans of your brand. Our ladies share their advice…
Ayshwarya: Influencer marketing can be very effective, if used as part of a strategy. Sending people indiscriminate gifts doesn’t work, and equally you can’t get upset if you don’t get a lot of coverage from unsolicited gifting. One case study for me with affordable kids’ store Kidore.com was with the blogger Mum of Boys and Mabel. She branded our travel packs and helped promote them and we completely sold out. I paid her, so she was accountable, and it worked.
Muby: What happens if you exchange money with an influencer but the campaign doesn’t take off for whatever reason?
Ayshwarya: That’s the risk you take. Everything else has to be in alignment as well. We tried another campaign with the same blogger that didn’t work as well because I don’t think the timing was as good. We also tried the same campaign with a different blogger and that didn’t work at all. You learn which blogger is best for each style of audience and can pinpoint the synergy you have with people.
Emily: But how do you work out which is the best blogger to use?
Ayshwarya: I compiled a list of where I think my audience is looking, using hashtags etc, and then rate personas based on who I think my audience is following. So I might start with a list of 50, narrow that down to a list of 20, do a round of gifting to those people, and from that reaction narrow it down further. I would never use pre-made blanket PR lists.
Nielouphar: Hashtags are so underrated – they can make such a difference. You want a mixture of the really popular ones and the more niche ones, for them to be as local as possible, and just try to tap into those relevant communities for you, wherever they are.
Laurence: My main issue is how do I make my current customers ambassadors for my brand?
Laurence: It doesn’t always work though. We’ve run campaigns like ‘bring a friend for free’ before, but it doesn’t seem to take off. I have some people who’ve been with me for over six years but never seem to bring anyone else, and then I have new attendees who seem to turn into brand ambassadors straight away.
Ayshwarya: Sometimes it’s just a question of asking people directly, rather than expecting them to organically do it. With 6am Babies we had ladies who we called 6am Mums, who we gave a 10% commission to for anything they were able to bring in.
Nielouphar: Or you can do affiliate marketing, where the person referring gets commission for doing so, and the people they refer get a discount, which makes it a win/win for both. It doesn’t require sophisticated tech; you can just get a code, and then any people they bring in get a 10% discount say, while you can give the referrer cash.