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
Doing business in the UAE
As a young country, the UAE represents both an amazing opportunity for small businesses, and something of a challenge in other ways…
Ayshwarya: The UAE is an exciting place to be right now as a business. The opportunities for growth are rife. The challenge is, to make a name for yourself in this competitive market is an often expensive proposition, which becomes a growth inhibitor for small business.
Muby: I feel that one of the biggest challenges in starting up a business is the large investment that goes into set-up and getting a licence, before making any money or being able to test the market and know if the business could be successful or not. For a small business that is not yet voluntary tax eligible, I believe one of the challenges is not being able to charge a VAT to its customers, but having to pay VAT for business purchases, transactions and, in the case of LLCs, imports. On the plus side, Dubai is an amazing market for a small business to have the opportunity to grow. We have here a very unique, dynamic market, with retail opportunities and facilities like few places in the world.
Patti: I believe Dubai is very open-minded and full of opportunities for everyone, as most of the people living here are from somewhere else. It’s very different to when you move to a small city where things are very traditional and the market is closed to new things.
Muby: Another challenge with doing business here is that when you’re a new company and want to grow, I find there isn’t enough readily available information about what’s the right way to go about it. It’s intimidating for me to go down to the DED office for example, when I have no idea who I’m going to speak to and how it’s likely to go.
Nielouphar: There are business set-up companies that can help with that sort of thing.
Laurence: I also find the ‘Female Fusion – Fearless in Business in Dubai’ group on Facebook really useful.
Ayshwarya: A quote that I’ve found useful to remember is that if you want to do business in this region, you have to get comfortable in the grey.
Laurence: Yes, I think this grey zone is what separates the wheat from the chaff. You have to really want it. I’ve been doing business here for 10 years, and every year there’s a new way of doing things. I think this is all part of being an entrepreneur, wherever you are – you have to be a good problem-solver.
Working parent guilt
Nielouphar: I’m a mum of four, and it’s only since having my last baby, who is now three months old, that I have finally hired part-time home help. I still have huge guilt, but it’s something I had to do. Before I was doing my work while they were napping or at school, and I’d often stay up until 2am or 3am once they were in bed. But I reached a point where I just can’t do that any more.
Ayshwarya: Balance is a dirty word in these situations, because it makes us feel that we should be doing it all. I had to accept that I had to be kinder to myself. There are days when the kids need me more, and I might not touch the business for four days. But then there are days when I’m pitching to an investor and I might have to say, ‘Sorry kids, I am hands-off for four days while I prep’.
Muby: My mum was rarely around, but I can’t remember the times when she wasn’t there; I only remember the times when she was there. All I wanted was to be like my mum, and we need to realise that we are setting an amazing example for our kids. You should be the person you want them to be, with zero guilt.
Laurence: In some ways it was easier to manage the guilt when my kids were younger. Now they’re older they’ll complain to me that I’m missing their rugby matches, but I just have to explain that if something’s really important I’ll be there, but that I have a duty to my customers and staff members as well. Who I really feel badly for is my husband because he really comes bottom of the pile! I always say that if you are starting your own business because you want more time to yourself then you need to think again – working in somebody else’s office will be much better for that.
Ayshwarya: I found that having a specific ritual everyday helped. I would ask my children what was best thing that happened to them that day. They would ask me back, and I would talk as much as possible about my job and how it makes me happy. So they can build a positive association with me and working.
Muby: Running your own business means you have to give it more than you’ve ever given any other job. But that does not mean it should consume every moment of your day. The trick is to work smart. The bottom line for me is that building a successful business and a successful family life does not need to be mutually exclusive of each other.
On the term ‘mumpreneur’
This handy buzz word for entrepreneurs who are also mothers is viewed with both pride and scorn, depending on what side of the fence you sit on. Our ladies weigh in on the debate…
Muby: At the end of the day, the way a woman chooses to define herself is her choice. If being a mumpreneur adds a feather to your cap, go for it. If it makes you feel judged, then you should have a right to not be addressed with that term. For me, personally, I’m not a fan of tags, labels and stereotypes. I do not believe that my ability as a parent, or a mother, has anything to do with my ability as a businessperson; or vice versa. In today’s world, where the gender divide is still so deep, the term mumpreneur adds a layer of division; implying almost that it is a greater achievement for women to run a business and a family, than it is for men.
Emily: I’m not a huge fan of the term as it sounds a bit too mumsy and not as powerful, but then again, you’ve got to be super woman to be a mum and run a company, plus your home too!
Amanda: Honestly, after I became a mum I was depressed and tried to seek out connections with other mums because I felt they could relate better than my single/married but child-free friends. I think the word ‘mumpreneur’ shows that even though I’m a mum it doesn’t mean I’ve stopped living or given up on my passion.
Nielouphar: I didn’t realize the word ‘mumpreneur’ had a bad reputation until I attended the session!
Laurence: Personally, it irks me. Neither being a mum nor being an entrepreneur define me so the combination of both is irrelevant.
Ayshwarya: Call me a Mumpreneur the day entrepreneurs who are dads are commonly referred to as Dadpreneurs. Until then why reinvent the wheel? Entrepreneur works just fine.
Advice for other mums
What would our entrepreneurs say to mums considering setting up their business in the UAE?
Muby: Go for it. Becoming a parent means giving so much of yourself that if you don’t create an outlet to give back to yourself, you will eventually run dry. If that outlet happens to be your own business, it may turn into your lifeline; your anchor. And along the way, you may realise that you are leading by example. By following your dreams you will be setting an example for your children that life is about pursuing dreams, taking risks, giving it your all, and believing in yourself.
Patti: My advice is: if you have a dream of having your business, go for it! Do it! Don’t wait for the right moment to start it because there is no ‘right moment’, there is now and the future. To start doesn’t mean quitting your job or putting a lot of money in something new. You can start researching, making a business plan and also creating a social media following. All this is free and it’s the first step for a business!
Laurence: There is no doubt that it is not an easy balance and there’s no magic recipe. But once you have accepted that there are compromises to be made on both sides, it’s easier. The hardest thing is to know when to rest. We live in a world where customers want instant responses and I often find it difficult to say no. Late night calls, weekend urgent crises to solve, or a really important deal to sort out makes it really hard to ever switch off, so make sure you have a great support structure around you.
Ayshwarya: The best thing has to be flexibility. There is something very fulfilling as a parent knowing that you aren’t missing the little and big milestones. However this comes with a payoff – as a business owner, you are never able to switch off. Your business isn’t something you can do on the side – it becomes your most demanding child and the word ‘balance’ becomes an unicorn that you chase but can never find.