Emirati entrepreneur Abeer Al Tamimi has a secret weapon that’s helped her create a prize-winning business: her family.
The soft play area KidsHQ owner says involving her kids in her daily plans has been interesting and educational. Plus, the feedback is honest and immediate.
Al Tamimi says her idea for the play-time-for-kids spot that doubles up as mommy’s time with friends concept actually began with a joke. “I was always a babysitter, since I was 11,” she recalls in an interview with Gulf News. “My cousins, all the brothers - I was always the designated baby sitter.”
“My father used to crack a joke. He used to say, ‘Abeer, you should have your own play area’,” she recalls.
“And then I married very early, I was still in university and I had my children early.” And she found it difficult to find friends who were still on the same page. “All my friends were still dating or single. I needed to meet new moms.”
She also had trouble finding the perfect play area for her own kids. Fortunately her experience from her younger days entertaining kids came in handy – she’d always have an activity ready, so much so that her neighbours’ children would come over to participate too.”
She recalled her father’s words. When he offered her the seed money and land to make a go of it, she jumped at the chance. She’d already been researching play areas in Singapore, “which are some of the best in the world”.
And in doing the research, she’d found a vacuum that she wanted to fill. A place where mums could network and meet other mums in a similar space in their lives; places where they could connect, do a class, talk about mental health issues. And so eight years ago, KidsHQ was born.
She then enlisted her children. “My biggest advisor was my daughter. She actually ran classes. She and her friends, when they were 11 years old, would come in, in uniform and babysit - they would play with the children, make sure the kids are safe in the vicinity. They would conduct classes.
“I’m a big believer in…children know what other children like. [My daughter will] be like, ‘no mom, this is a great idea but you know what would be better? If we would do it this and that way’. They [kids] were my biggest advisors. We grew the business together.”
Helping people tell stories
Boston-born Al Tamimi reveals that her first ambition had nothing to do with business; it was about telling a story. The stories of those affected by war and siege; the stories that could change lives.
She says it’s always been important to her to help mums and children – because this will impact the future of the world. “I thought I can still do this - I don’t need to be in a war zone to do this.” And so she began to help in other ways; by supporting mom and pop businesses, with charity, with partnerships.
She says the reason she’s able to do so much– managing a home, kids, work and taking time out for interviews is: time management. She also admits it’s not like she doesn’t have help. She says, “Asking me about management is different from asking a mom-entrepreneur in, say, New York. In this region, a lot of people have house help.” So does she.
Then there’s taking out me-time. “If you have 20 mins a day to yourself - you are good to go,” she says, saying it’s important to give yourself those few minutes to calm your mind. The rest falls into place, especially because, as she says, she is a good scheduler.” I have a white board in the kitchen and I write on it and I use postits.” On the white board are dentist appointments and menus.
And, she says, she learned to involve her family. “Recently, in the past two years I taught my son to cook so he does pasta nights for us and recently, my daughter makes salads. Involve the family. I did. It’s fun.”