Meet The UAE’s Mompreneurs

Mona Tavassoli, founder of MomSouq, tells Alicia Buller why babies are good for business.

As a mom-stroke-businesswoman-stroke-SME evangelist, it’s no wonder Mona Tavassoli says she carries two diaries. “It’s all about the balance,” says the Iranian dot.com entrepreneur. And she should know.

Tavassoli gave birth to her first baby almost two years ago, swiftly followed by the creation of MomSouq.com, inspired by her son, Ryan. She’s also the owner of Dubai-based Polar Bear Creative, a marketing business she founded in tandem with her husband.

“I realised that there was nowhere for parents to sell their unwanted gifts or clothes the children had outgrown,” she says.

What was quickly established as a classified site for mothers in March 2012, soon morphed into a wider online community and bazaar for the UAE’s moms. The site features classified ads from companies, moms with second-hand goods, and also goods from‘mompreneurs’– that’s geek speak for mothers like Tavassoli who juggle babies and businesses.

MomSouq’s model is currently purely advertising-based and Tavassoli has no plans to take the e-commerce route just yet.

“It’s what makes us unique. There’s no other site that feeds in three channels of retailers – moms, mompreneurs and companies – and allows you to compare prices. It’s up to the customer whether they choose the old or new goods and we simply provide the information. Once decided, customers can go to the store or contact the seller.”

The site’s community-based sections are focused on helping local mums both to raise their children and build their businesses; with a mix of expert opinion, events and blogs, Tavassoli’s hopes to generate enough traffic to catch the interest of the region’s mega-advertisers. After all, the allure of the female purse strings is well-documented and women are still said to make the majority of household spending decisions.

While MomSouq currently generates moderate income from classified fees, Tavassoli predicts a major profit generator will lie in the strengthening of Mompreneur’s events. Last month saw the firm’s ‘Mompreneur Meet Up’, which hosted a bevvy of business-savvy mums at Dubai Ladies Club.

The event is aimed at mothers who run start-ups in the region, and is specifically designed to provide entrepreneurs with the support and connections to develop their passions and ideas into profitable businesses.

“Many companies love the idea of the Mompreneur events and having so many mums in one place, they want to access this captive market,” says Tavassoli.

“I really love meeting these mums, they have very unique ideas, I wonder whether the nine-month period does something so magic that they come up with creative ideas,” she laughs.

One of the more unique ideas comes from allbymykid.com, a firm that digitally enhance children’s drawings to make them look more polished and places the images on items such as mobile phone covers or mugs.

“It’s a great Christmas gift, for example. It looks colourful and beautiful and also has a base created by the child,” says Tavassoli. Another genius idea comes from a firm that makes adjustable shoes for fast-growing tots – the flexible footwear has a stretchy age range of 0-to-24 months.

As Tavassoli ramps up operations with her nine staff (all borrowed from Polar Bear Creative), she is ever mindful of the work/life/baby balance.

“It’s difficult being a mom and then having your own business because each are full time jobs in their own right.

But the good thing is the flexibility. I can’t imagine a nine-to-six job as a mother,” she says.

“Keeping the balance is the main thing and I try not to forget my priorities. I think keeping gym time and baby time in the balance is very important. If you forget one of them you will feel that something is not right.”

In the meantime, if MomSouq continues to grow at its current rate, no one would blame Tavassoli if she put a babysitter on speed dial in the coming years.