In 2019, few business owners would have identified with the term’ dadpreneur’.
Post-pandemic, it’s a changing story.
As fathers spend more time at home with their children, those professionals who are most in control of their own working practices - entrepreneurs who run their own businesses - have learnt to embrace the duality of their responsibilities, rather than hiding it.
"I'm definitely more likely to describe myself as a 'dadpreneur' since the pandemic," Roy Koyess, father and founder of UAE-based snack brand Freakin’ Healthy, told Gulf News.
"COVID-19 highlighted the fragility of life and led me to refocus on what is important. In my case, it was the importance of family and kids and giving them quality time."
What is a dadpreneur?
Most of us are familiar with the term 'mumpreneur'. Entering the Oxford English Dictionary in 2011, it was invented to describe the growing trend of women who, after having a baby, devised a business or product based on their experience of parenting – often one that solves a specific parenting problem. The term has since evolved to refer to ‘any female entrepreneur who also has children’.
Over the years all fathers, including those who run their own businesses, have become much more hands-on as parents, often finding that their insights as a parents can inform and elevate their professional lives. In turn the term ‘dadpreneur’ has been rising in popularity.
The pandemic has accelerated this trend. “I absolutely believe there has been a shift in the way we all think of dadpreneurs, mumpreneurs and everything in between,” Alex Oliveira, CEO of Prediq Media and founder of The Dadpreneur Podcast, told Gulf News.
“During the pandemic people have seen first-hand that for most professions working from home has little negative effect on the quality of work one can produce on a daily basis. This has made it easier to show society that there are priceless benefits to being a “dadpreneur,” wherein you can home-school your kids, work from home and enjoy meals and activities with the family, without having to be stuck at an office.”
Why do we need a special term for it?
If both mothers and fathers can be entrepreneurs, why do we need a special term for them? They can be divisive titles: some see them as derogatory, while others view them as a badge of honour for the extra accomplishment that it is to be both a parent and a business leader.
But identifying as a ‘dadpreneur’, rather than just an entrepreneur, is important, says Alyssa Friede Westring, associate professor of management at the Driehaus College of Business. “This crisis has made it clear that parenting and work are not separate - indeed, they never were,” she told Entrepreneur. “However, until now, many father entrepreneurs had the privilege of creating the illusion of separation. This was made possible by the virtue of partners who undertook most of the childcare and household responsibilities, and by way of our collective capacity to separate professional and parental identities when we think about men. The health crisis has caused the veil that separates these two worlds to fray.”
Until now, many father entrepreneurs had the privilege of creating the illusion of separation between parenting and work. The health crisis has caused the veil that separates these two worlds to fray.
By consciously adopting the identity of a ‘dadpreneur’, fathers can help fight for the goal that women have been striving towards for years: for wider acceptance, understanding and acknowledgement of what it means to juggle multiple life roles.
It’s all part of what some social scientists are calling “‘the first step towards a revolution’ or the sign of a ‘revolution [finally] unstalled’”, says Alice Margaria of the Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology, who authored a study on ‘Fathers, Childcare and COVID-19’.
“As a result, when this pandemic subsides, rather than insisting that mother entrepreneurs sublimate their parental role in order to be taken seriously as entrepreneurs, we can have a more egalitarian mindset that empowers all parents to embrace their entrepreneurial journey in alignment with their parenting, rather than in spite of it,” says Westring.
The Dadpreneur revolution in the UAE
As a thriving business hub, with a regulatory and social environment that makes setting up companies much easier than in other parts of the world, the UAE is at the forefront of the Dadpreneur revolution.
“Setting up a business in the UAE is incredibly easy, and this is one of the most family-friendly countries in the world,” says American expat Peter Davos, father of a one-year-old and four-year-old and founder of Hale Education. “I can't think of a better place to be a dadpreneur and there is nowhere in the world I would rather be.”
Davos says that the pandemic has led to a shift in his priorities: “I have made more time for my children, particularly in the mornings during the week, since the onset of the pandemic. I have pushed back the start of my work day so that we can spend more time together during work days, and Fridays are always and exclusively dedicated to family activities without exception. We spend more time reading and swimming together, whether at the pool or at the beach, which we all really enjoy.”
Setting up a business in the UAE is incredibly easy, and this is one of the most family-friendly countries in the world. I can't think of a better place to be a dadpreneur and there is nowhere in the world I would rather be.
While the pandemic has had a huge impact on all business owners, it’s been particularly transformative for those who are also parents, says Sebatian Bates, British entrepreneur, father of two and founder of The Warrior Academy. “I think all entrepreneurs were heavily tested in the Pandemic. For dadpreneurs that meant developing Jedi-Parent-Business balancing skills.”
Even business owners who do not identify with the term ‘dadpreneur’ like Mustafa Koita, founder and CEO of Koita Foods, agree that the pandemic’s blurring of the boundaries between home and working life has helped to dismantle the pretense that the two entities can ever truly be apart. “I feel like the Koita family became closer in many ways,” says Koita. “Even though we don’t meet as much, we over-Zoom to compensate. Now I see my employees and their kids running around, with make-up on, without make-up on, in pajamas… It’s great!”
For Arun Shroff, Indian, Founder Pikoo Foods LTD and father of a six-year-old son, it’s taught him a profound lesson about the positive impact that being more present in his child’s life can have. “The pandemic, in my opinion, has highlighted how much more there is to my child’s personality. Being at home more and spending more time with him has made me realize that even a little extra time spent with a child can help them build their confidence and develop more as humans.”
By embracing the badge of 'dadpreneur', and taking on board the lessons from the pandemic, UAE business leaders are helping to bring about a fundamental shift in the perception of what it means to be a working parent. "It makes you think about how society has defined success to mean purely financial success," says Freakin' Healthy's Roy Koyess. "It’s like we threw out the other aspects of what true success should mean: a successful partner, a successful parent, a successful member of society… It makes you think."
MEET DUBAI'S GROWING GENERATION OF DADPRENEURS
The UAE is at the forefront of the dadpreneur revolution. We met some of the emirate's most successful fathers in charge of their own parenting-related businesses to ask them what being an entrepreneur and father in the UAE means to them…
I now identify with the title of ‘Dadpreneur’ 100%
WHAT PARENTING PROBLEM DOES YOUR BUSINESS ADDRESS?
“About nine years ago, before I had children, I realized that the UAE had incredible international schools, motivated students, and an incredible international education infrastructure that lacked a critical component: expert independent consulting for students aspiring to attend leading US universities. Students had the personal drive and academic achievement to scale the highest educational heights, but many lacked the mentorship to secure acceptances to the most selective universities in the US. That's when my business idea was born.”
WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE A DADPRENEUR?
“I now 100% identify with the title, as I believe my company is providing a service that my own children, along with many others in the UAE, will invariably benefit from.
“I feel that my role as an education entrepreneur and father is to always lead by example, to both my students and children. I do not believe that I could have achieved entrepreneurial success in my space without having had the educational background that I do. In many ways, I serve as the academic paragon for many of my students, in terms of what they want to achieve, and I take incredible pride in inspiring young people, mentoring them, and guiding them. My role as a father is similar. Nothing brings me greater joy than watching my children learn, grow, and excel.”
IS YOUR PARENTING STYLE SIMILAR TO YOUR OWN FATHER’S?
“I am blessed to have a wonderful wife, Madalina, who empowers me to be both the best father and entrepreneur I can be. I learned how to be a father from my own dad and my approach to parenting is very heavily influenced by him. One difference, however, is that I strive to give more positive affirmation to my children on a daily basis.”
Having children was honestly the best thing for my business
WHAT PARENTING PROBLEM DOES YOUR BUSINESS ADDRESS?
“I discovered the most important yet often missing aspect of a child's education is the development of their character. There are very few highly structured, holistic programmes out there that students stick with for over 6 years that rapidly improve their confidence, conduct or concentration (or what we call the 3C's). This is our focus at the Warrior Academy, which is the only purpose-built Character Development Centre in the Middle East.”
WHAT DOES BEING A ‘DADPRENEUR’ MEAN TO YOU?
“A big part of my role outside of the Warrior Academy is supporting small businesses. In this capacity, I often hear the word "Dadreneur' popup in conversation. For many people, they don't feel they can be a fully engaged Dad and create a business. My approach is very different, I feel building a business on my own terms gives me the ability to spend more time with my children, providing I'm disciplined with my time and delegate effectively. I'm often asked how I balance being a Dad and running a business, but for me, having children was quite honestly the best thing for our business. It sparked a huge amount of motivation in building a legacy, making a huge impact and passing something onto my children that they would be proud of.”
HOW DOES BEING A PARENT HELP YOU AS A BUSINESS LEADER?
“I'm a hands-on Dad. By that I mean; you can often find me way too involved in the soft play area, the first to start a water-fight or the first to decide to turn the living room into a 'den'. My role as a parent is to live by example, to pass on my values and ensure my children are safe while growing and enjoying life. For me, life is all about exploration and adventure, and entrepreneurship is no different. Within the context of entrepreneurship, we are exploring creative solutions to problems in order to help people. This often involves taking risks, facing our fears and living with courage. I encourage the same mentality with my children, not to shy away from obstacles, to live life with courage and to follow and explore their passion and what inspires them.”
My kids are my moral compass in business
WHAT DOES THE TERM DADPRENEUR MEAN TO YOU?
"I think it’s important to define the term, Dad, first. To me, being a Dad is a little different to being a father, a Dad for me means being involved in the day to day of the kids and more so sharing that role of upbringing equally with your partner. This goes beyond the traditional role fathers played solely as bread winners. Having said that, yes, I like the term Dadpreneur, but only if the Dad portion of the word is as I described it."
HOW DOES BEING A DAD HELP YOU IN BUSINESS?
"Well, firstly my two young kids provide me with the all-important taste test for new products. They’re also my de facto moral compass, which really helps keep what we do honest, transparent and genuine. They’re always in the forefront of my mind when faced with a decision that might need a little more conscious thinking."
DO YOU GET DAD GUILT?
"Feelings of guilt definitely used to creep in all the time, but this has also forced me to redefine what it means to ‘spend time’ with my kids. Some of us might spend very passive time with our kids and family, giving more attention to our screens or just being pre-occupied with the hundreds of tasks buzzing around in our heads. I now consciously block out everything as I spend whatever time (albeit less time than before) with the kids, but at a much higher engagement level, which really translates into more quality than quantity."
WHY ARE MUMS MORE LIKELY TO IDENTIFY AS MUMPRENEURS THAN DADS ARE TO IDENTIFY AS DADPRENEURS?
"I think it’s because traditionally, mothers played and in most cases today, still play a bigger role in the day to day involvement with the kids (School runs, doctor appointments, organizing play dates, clothes shopping, etc..etc..). I see it as a badge of honour: “I’m a committed mother and an exceptional entrepreneur”. I also see that these roles and responsibilities are slowly changing. In my case for example, my wife is also an entrepreneur and used to do some substantial travelling, which has definitely cemented both our titles as Mumpreneur and Dadpreneur."
My kids keep me in check professionally
HOW DOES BEING A DAD HELP YOU AS A BUSINESS LEADER?
“I’ve always identified as an entrepreneur as I started Koita because of my kids, and for my kids. There were no good quality organic foods were available in Dubai and my personal philosophy has always been, “If it’s not good enough for my family, it’s not good enough for yours ” . So you can say that the kids have always “kept me in check”. And they are always great taste testers!”
DO YOU GET DAD GUILT?
“I spent a lot of time working in the beginning, and sometimes I did feel like I missed out on some important moments with my kids. But I do feel like it’s all paid off now. I’m at a position where I’m able to trust my awesome employees more and take more and more time off to spend with the kids. As they grow older I have also learnt to manage my time better. Focus on the important stuff, be in the moment! And now I make plans to spend a lot of quality time with them.”
HOW HAS THE PANDEMIC IMPACTED YOUR PERSONAL AND PROFESSIONAL LIVES?
“As a dad, the pandemic has allowed me to spend more time with my family because of WFH. It’s allowed me to become more flexible and bring a lot of creativity in our lives leading to some very interesting dinner table conversations! Commute times have reduced which also helps us spend more time during breakfast and lunch which were never the case before.”
Being a dad has taught me a lot about time management and prioritisation
WHAT PARENTING PROBLEM DID YOUR BUSINESS SET OUT TO SOLVE?
“I created the food brand, Pikoo, keeping the future in mind. Pikoo's goal is to create products that are grown using sustainable agricultural methods. At the current rate, mankind is depleting the world of its resources. We need to incorporate sustainability into every aspects of our lives to ensure a better future for our kids.”
WHAT DOES BEING A DADPRENEUR MEAN TO YOU?
“I think most dads who start a business are dadpreneurs in some way. We have to balance work and family life a lot more. Kids are also more demanding of their parents’ time these days as they see other dads actively involved in their lives. But I couldn’t be a dadpreneur without my wife and son having to make some sacrifices to support my dreams.”
HOW DOES BEING A DAD HELP YOU IN BUSINESS?
“Raising a family teaches you a lot about time management and prioritisation. The business teaches me a lot about people management i.e. how to manage my family's expectations better.”
HOW DID THE PANDEMIC AFFECT YOU AS A DADPRENEUR?
“During the height of the pandemic, I found myself at home a lot more juggling calls and spending time with my son. It helped me figure out a way to separate the work that could be done at home vs what the office was needed for. Today I don’t feel the need to go to the office regularly as I now know that a lot can be achieved at home.”
DOES LIVING IN THE UAE HELP YOU TO JUGGLE BEING A DAD AND A BUSINESS OWNER?
“The UAE offers us a lot of conveniences that would not be available to us in many other economies. We have the luxury of affording help at home and being able to enjoy the quality of life in any other developed country.”