The Pie Lady
Mum-of-four, Sarah Gregory, made use of her culinary expertise when her family felt the pinch during the credit crunch
‘I started making and selling my pies about a year ago when we were going through a really tough time financially. A friend suggested I make her a pie – and it took off from there.’
Sarah, whose four sons are Henry (11), Oliver (nine), Hugo (six) and Max, aged five, now has a regular list of customers ordering her homemade pies on a weekly basis. Her menu includes traditional steak with suet pastry and all sorts of chicken and vegetable varieties. ‘I can do anything people want really,’ she says, adding that most of her orders are for dinner parties.
‘I make the filling and cook it. Usually everything marinades for 24 hours beforehand so the flavour is really rich. Then I add the uncooked pastry – which is all homemade, unless puff is requested – and put the pie together.’
Men, she says, are big fans of her steak pies, while the ladies prefer the chicken and vegetable varieties. In a clever marketing trick, Sarah delivers the pies in a proper ceramic pie dish which the customer keeps. ‘They stick it in their own oven to finish off the cooking and can pass it off as their own,’ she laughs. ‘On a good week I make about 16 pies, which is a lot – especially when you consider all the pastry is made from scratch.’
A self-taught kitchen whizz, Sarah says, ‘I’m not about fussy, fancy food, and when you have four young children, you can’t go out much, so I made an effort with cooking – making sure the family ate tasty, healthy meals. I’ve tried my hand at several different cuisines, but my pies have always been popular.’ The main challenge she faces however, is transport. ‘My service includes the pie delivery, which can be difficult. Once I had six pies to deliver in a single afternoon and my car decided to break down – so I had to take them all by taxi. But that’s all part of the fun, I guess!’
050 582 7171
The Career Coach
Former marketing executive and mum-of-three, Nicola Supka, now helps others decide on their best career paths through her consulting business, Smart People Coaching
Nicola Supka worried she was too old at 35 to change her career when she moved from marketing into advising others on their interview skills and CVs. But, nine years on, she has no regrets. ‘My eventual move has been the most satisfying to date. I’ve found a vocation – not just a career,’ she says.
But working from home with three kids isn’t always easy. ‘The biggest challenge for me at the moment is time,’ she admits. ‘With three children (Rory 15, Holly 11, Rebecca, three), who have a wide range of needs, it’s not as easy as it looks. One moment I’m building bricks with my three-year-old, and the next I’m taking my 15-year-old to the airport for an expedition to Thailand. My work has to fit around these commitments.’
And the second challenge, ironically, is promoting herself. ‘It takes confidence to walk up to people and talk about what I do – however much I enjoy networking I would not describe myself as super-confident. I still get nervous!’
Nicola notes that mums seeking more satisfying working environments regularly seek her advice. ‘The reasons people approach me are varied and complex. Some are mums returning to work, others have lost their jobs or fear doing so and need to find work that is more satisfying.’
Being passionate about her work helps too. ‘The more I do it the more exciting it becomes. Each person I work with is unique and different. I love a challenge and I love working with people from different backgrounds and nationalities.’
www.smartpeoplecoaching.com; 050 114 2980
With a passion for design and two small children to keep her busy at home, Susan Joseph launched Wall Cravings, which creates and sells decorative wall stickers
‘I’ve always been passionate about interior design and, while visiting Barcelona in 2007 with my husband, I saw many fabulous boutiques selling amazing interior accessories. It was in one tiny shop that I spotted a beautiful floral vinyl decal on the wall and it just seemed to bring life to the room.’
Pregnant with her first child, Sebastian, and struggling to find nursery wall decorations, her thoughts returned to that Barcelona boutique. ‘I started researching the different types of stickers available. I’d left my full-time job and wanted to do something creative while waiting for my baby to arrive… and so Wall Cravings was born.’
It took a while – Wall Cravings went online only in March – but it’s already going strong. Susan works with graphic designers to develop her collections, which include ranges for kids’ bedrooms, bathrooms and sitting rooms. And when she isn’t busy designing, she’s being a mum to Sebastian, now two, and one-year-old Lucas. ‘Personally I thrive on being busy and I’m doing something I love which gives me so much energy. My husband is amazingly supportive and, for both of us, our children and family harmony is priority. I try to run Wall Cravings from home as much as I can, which has many advantages – like doing it around nursery runs for my eldest, baby feeds and naps.’
She adds; ‘I make sure I have a space for regular playtimes and cuddles during the day and weekends are a time for play and just spending quality time together.’
The Kids' Photographer
Nicky Mclean’s firm, Moments with Meaning, can land her in a variety of interesting locations in an average working week
Mum-of-two, Nicky Mclean is passionate about photographing kids, be they on the beach, at the park, at home or in the middle of their own birthday party. ‘I’ve been photographing my own [Rachel, 10, and Jenna, three] since they took their first breaths. I was the mummy trying to capture all those firsts while their dad was at work, and I’ve been photographing other people’s kids for the last two years.’
Nicky specialises in capturing kids aged between two and six, but was originally involved with interior design. ‘I owned a decorative painting company, but it was very labour intensive and kept me away from my kids more than I wanted. Then my husband bought me a stunning camera as a Christmas present and there was no looking back.’
But becoming a licensed photographer in Dubai isn’t the easiest – or cheapest – of tasks. ‘Trying to set up a business is very difficult. Licensing and sponsorship make starting out very expensive, and commercial space for even a small studio is incredibly pricy. Location photography is also limited to certain times of the year because children are at their best in parks or on the beach where they can have fun and relax.’
But there are many upsides too. ‘Photography fits in very well with my family life. I don’t believe you have an understanding for children if you don’t have children yourself,’ she says, adding, ‘I challenge myself every day to give the best work that I am able to deliver. I always want to be learning – even in five years’ time.’
www.momentswithmeaning.com; 050 453 9841
The Kids' Caterer
From ladybird entrées made from cherry tomatoes to sarnies shaped like Christmas trees, Dharmangi Bhatia’s healthy party platters are going down a storm
Mum Dharmangi, who launched her healthy eating catering business, Sway2theheart, a year ago, was inspired by her two-year-old daughter, Swayam. She explains, ‘I’ve always been careful with what I feed Swayam and I’ve really limited her exposure to unhealthy foods. The detail and effort that goes into her day-to-day schedule was something other mums found fascinating. So, I decided to turn my philosophy into a business – namely a catering and cooking service exclusively for kids.
‘My aim has always been to create meals that excite kids and encourage them to eat healthily from an early age. I like to experiment with various vegetables and brain-stimulating ingredients.’
Dharmangi’s company focuses on dishing up healthy, creative, fun food for children. She and her team cater to parties, and are mainly booked by schools, events companies and other mums. They also run ‘little chef’ cookery classes for kids and mums.
But juggling it isn’t always easy. ‘Family and work balance is a challenge, having a supportive husband makes all the difference. I try to use the time I have while Sway is at nursery and my team and I have been known to work through the night to meet our deadlines. In addition, I spend quite a bit of time doing research and developing the product when she is asleep.’
www.sway2theheart.com; 050 349 7574
The Drama Queen
Emily Madghachian is the founder of and brains behind Kids’ Theatre Works! a youth drama company
Now in its ninth year, Kid’s Theatre Works! is one of Dubai’s greatest drama school success stories. Emily conceived the idea while pregnant with her daughter Skye-Rose, now aged seven – and then reached for the stars.
She says, ‘I was inspired to work with drama and kids when studying drama and theatre studies at university, but also knew I didn’t want to be in a classroom. After a period spent travelling to some remote parts of the world – where I found myself time and time again leading children in a variety of games involving drama and role-play, and having a blast doing so – I returned to Dubai and resolved to do it in a more formal way.’ Kid’s Theatre Works! currently keeps Emily busy by offering classes to children aged four to 18 at eight venues across Dubai. They cover a variety of theatrical disciplines from musical theatre to acting to creative drama. ‘Every kid brings something special,’ she says. ‘It’s amazing fun for all involved!’
As a single mother, she admits it’s a challenge to find a balance, but attributes her success to her strong support network. ‘I am very blessed to have the most wonderful nanny who lives with Skye and me. Norie’s presence and the way that she cares for us allows me, when I am not working, time to concentrate on parenting and building a healthy, loving relationship with Skye. I am extremely fortunate to have my father and brother living in the same building too, so I have good backup when I need it!’
www.kidstheatreworks.com; 050 158 5653
The Foot Caster
When mum-of-two Arlene Lumley wanted to capture the minute toes of her firstborn daughter in 3D, she spotted a gap in Dubai’s baby market
It’s not unusual for Arlene to visit her customers when they’re literally just hours old. Such is the accelerated growth of newborns that many parents are keen to have their baby’s feet cast as soon as possible. The three-dimensional feet, reproduced in plaster, are then painted and framed – sometimes along with baby’s first outfit or toy or whatever item the parents request.
A former marketing manager, Arlene started TinyToes four years ago and counts the UAE royal family among her customers. She says, ‘After I had Charlotte, I saw the feet casts on the internet but couldn’t find anyone doing it Dubai. I took her home to Belfast and got a set cast while we there. I watched what they did, loved the finished product and thought: I could have a go at that.’
Using her daughter as a guinea pig, Arlene admits perfecting the technique took trial, error and an awful lot of plaster. ‘It was very messy! But I practised all that summer with Charlotte strapped into her high chair as my model, and eventually I got it sussed,’ she laughs. ‘Word of mouth has been great for me. I’ve also used the notice boards at the supermarkets, worked with Mirdif Mums, and have flyers at mothers’ groups, surgeries and with some midwives working in Dubai.’
Fitting the work around her children isn’t easy, but she enjoys working for herself. ‘My biggest challenge is time. When I started I used to take Charlotte along with me to appointments, which was fine until she was mobile! Then I had Evan – and there’s just 18 months between them. But, now they’re both at school, I’m looking forward to having more time for TinyToes.’
050 272 5539
The Fit Mum
A qualified fitness instructor, mum-of-two and founder of Pure Fitness, Elaine Luck loves helping new mums get in shape and make friends
There’s something wonderfully self-effacing about Elaine Luck, especially when she admits to having travelled to the ‘dark side of wobbly’ – wearing black to cover her bumps and struggling to lose her post-baby pounds.
A former human resources manager in the banking world, she was convinced into a career change after taking classes to get back in shape after the births of her children – Cameron, 11, and Rebecca, nine. ‘I did the usual body conditioning, step, aerobics, body combat and attack and also some personal training and massage – both sports and relaxation. Then I was asked by a friend in England [where they lived at the time] to cover her BuggEfit franchise while she had her second baby. For my first class, I borrowed a buggy, put my daughter’s doll in the pram and off I went. I’m surprised I didn’t get arrested walking through the park – everyone looked at me like I was mad!’
Elaine went on to teach two classes of her own for two years, until she moved to Dubai three years ago and launched Pure Fitness, which runs a range of classes, including BuggEfit.
Exercise aside, Elaine believes her success is down to the social side of her classes. ‘Lots of mums have made great friends through my classes, which has helped them through the challenging baby times. Some have even started up businesses together. That gives me such a fab feeling – like an old mother hen – sad I know,’ she laughs, adding, ‘But I love bringing people together and making them realise that you don’t have to be skinny, wear lycra or be super-fit to come to my classes – thank goodness! There are so many of us, all different shapes and sizes and, although you will be exercising, its not boot camp, it’s not scary and I’m a nice person really!’
www.purefitnessuae.com; 055 811 9120
The Stationery Designer
Designer and mum-of-two, Justine Crunden, was inspired by her daughter Heidi, to patent her creations and now puts together stationery and party packages for little people
With their cutesy rounded bodies and simple colour schemes, it’s no surprise that Heidi&Luca designs are a hot favourite among mums, dads and bubs when it comes to party gear and nursery decorations. And Justine, who was inspired by her own daughter to create the range, is keen to get the authentic ‘kids’ appeal’. She even runs her prototypes by her tot to see if they get the thumbs up. If they do, it’s a trip the printers. If they don’t, it’s back to the drawing board.
She says, ‘I’d been in retail architectural design and visual merchandising for my entire career but I’ve always had a passion for print and pattern design. Designing greeting cards was a hobby and over the years, I worked on many projects for friends.’
One thing led to another and she decided to go pro. Heidi&Luca was launched two years ago. ‘The children’s party range is a big hit because it’s unique and it includes a great group of essential items perfect for creating a wonderful party theme. Also, the bespoke stationery is very popular as there is nothing else like it available in Dubai.’
Justine adds, ‘It is possible to do both business and family when you work for yourself. One thing I’ve found really important is having a daily time schedule that is fairly consistent. One of the best things about managing my own business is that I can be fairly flexible and juggle my time if necessary.’
And with a newborn to contend with (baby Boyd was born just days after our shoot) she certainly has her hands full.
www.heidiandluca.com; 050 240 3230
The Souk Sisters
Emma Kristensen and Franziska Schwarz have four three-year-olds between them and a passion for cute kids’ products. With a little know-how and lots of hard work, BabySouk.com was born
It wasn’t easy to get out of the house, let alone back to the office with two sets of twins to consider. But when friends Emma and Franziska decided to start a business, like most mothers of multiples, they just got on with it. The pair, mums to Baros and Quba and Alexis and Filippa, launched BabySouk.com a year ago – now a popular online baby boutique with its wide range of hip essentials from strollers and baby carriers to preemie clothing and teething toys.
Emma says, ‘We met through the Twins, Triplets or More support group. Like most new mums, we wanted to “do something” but a job would jeopardise our time with the kids. This seemed perfect. We could be at home, web-based, our kids would be involved and there was a market need.’
BabySouk.com offers a personalised service, with each gift-wrapped order arriving the next day in Dubai, 48 hours in other Emirates and internationally. ‘We prioritise suppliers who are socially and environmentally friendly,’ says Emma. ‘With each order, we donate Dhs5 to local charities and support the Little Wings Foundation and The Dhaka Project.’
Has it been plain sailing? ‘The challenges never cease,’ says Franziska. ‘But that’s a good thing. New competition pops up, but we have our niche and loyal customers. We support each other through referrals and enjoy the occasional exchange stories about the “online world”! The greatest challenge is finding time to juggle kids, husbands and BabySouk.’
Have a go
Look at your current skills and ask yourself what you’re truly passionate about. Write a list of potential market opportunities you could work with. Narrow that down until you have the most practical and doable ideas.
Do your research
Try to do something unique. Investigate your market. Google it, talk to people who are involved in similar industries, and make sure your plan isn’t going to swamp you with work. The idea is that you have more free and flexible time.
Think about your target customers. If your business involves children, print up flyers and put them up in local supermarkets, schools and medical centres. Call local children’s groups and offer free demonstrations or stalls at school and local craft fairs.
Set a budget
And stick to it. Yes, it’s likely that you will need to make some outlays, but don’t go overboard. The faster you try to do things, the more mistakes – and potential losses – you’ll make. Baby steps are just fine.
An online face will bring you instant prestige and greater customer potential. But building a website is expensive, so make sure your returns are good enough to pay for the outlay within six months. The point is that you should be making money – not just spending it.
Find a partner
Ask a friend if becoming a business partner appeals to them. You will have to set out clear guidelines. Sharing a business with a friend exposes cracks in a relationship faster than anything else, but co-founders can have enormous success simply because two heads are always better than one.
Do it above board
If your business requires a trade license to operate, then be prepared to fork out for one. It’s expensive – but it doesn’t pay to cut legal corners in the UAE – especially if a competitor is keen to drop you in it.