The Sassiest Mama Awards 2015
With 5 kids between them these mamas know a thing or two about what parents (and littles) want. Their involvement in one of the region’s most successful online children’s stores keeps them on their toes – that and dancing to Candi Stanton at the end of the day, searching for the best calamari in town and soaking up some swimming and beach-life with the family wherever possible.
Who’s The Mama?
Full Name: Paula Harrington
Occupation: Co chief & mama of Babysouk
Children: Samuel aged 8, William aged 4
How long have you lived in Dubai? 8 years
Full Name: Kirsten Fairfield
Occupation: Co-chief and Mother
Children: Jessica aged 7, Aidan aged 4, Layla aged 3
How long have you lived in Dubai? 8.5 years
1) Tell us about your business/businesses and why you started them.
In 2008 Kirsten and I launched bubsboutique an online baby store seeing that there was a gap in the market for much needed baby essentials that were not available in the UAE at the time. I also wanted to go back to work this gave me an opportunity to do so and it was from home which was perfect as Samuel who was 6 months at the time. Year on year we grew the business and it got to the point where we could no longer manage just the two of us.
In 2014 we merged with Babysouk. It was the right strategic move as both businesses were competing in the same market but we had the same customer ethos, values set and both with the same ambition and vision. Bringing our brands together with a new bespoke website meant that we could provide a far greater online shopping experience along with an enviable customer service experience. We now have the platform and resources to continue to take on significant market share and grow substantially in the Middle East region and beyond.
Originally my business was bubsboutique.com; a baby and toddler online store launched in 2009 after having my first daughter. In 2014, bubsboutique.com merged with babysouk.com and here we are today with three kids!
Babysouk.com is an online store run by parents with an obsession for bringing premium products and brands from around the world to the doorstep of parents in the Middle East.
Our ‘eye for great products’ comes from our experience as parents and our children – there isn’t a product which we, or our children, haven’t tried and approved before it makes it to our online store, and ultimately to your door.
2) What do you feel have been your biggest achievements both in your personal life and career so far?
I know it’s clichéd but I think having amazing friends and family supporting me has been a huge achievement. I am lucky enough to have the support of my husband Ben and my achievements are a reflection of him encouraging me to just go for things and being there to pick up the pieces when things don’t go to plan.
Being a mother of two gorgeous boys is something that I feel immensely proud of. Whilst I am not always perfect I really enjoying seeing their personalities develop, the relationships that they build with those around them. They are at such a gorgeous age right now.
Last year having merged the two businesses, moving into a warehouse space with a showroom and an amazing team really felt like we had ‘grown up’. Seeing us featured in OK magazine was a pretty special moment.
Last year I completed my first 10K run. To start 2014 not being able to run for more than a minute and to end it having that under my belt was a hugely emotional thing for me.
For work, launching and co-owning our online stores in Middle East has been my biggest achievement, not only have I had to learnt new skills, understand a foreign market and balance work/family life. Personal life achievement would have to be bringing up my kids, their daily needs change continuously so every day seems an achievement with kids but would not change it for the world.
3) As a child what did you dream of being when you ‘grew up’?
To be honest I think I was having so much fun I don’t think I ever gave it that much thought.
An Air Hostess! I always wanted to fly the world and they look sooo glamorous.
4) If you had 3 wishes, what would they be?
My boys grow into well rounded, kind, happy, thoughtful and successful men
I could get all the very special people in my life together at the same time for one very cool party
That William could build his time machine that he goes on about so I can go back in time and remember where I put my keys and mobile phone every time I lose them.
Health, wealth and happiness.
5) What does being a Sassy Mama mean to you?
Being Sassy means loving motherhood but stretching myself on both a professional level and personal level and not losing sense of who I am. I like to do fun things with the boys and share my passions with them too and that does not necessarily involve going to a play area!. Right now my eldest is so into making playlists with Apple Music and it’s such a fun thing to do together. If at the end of the afternoon, we are dancing along to Candi Stanton you’ve got the love I know it’s been a good day.
Love it, there are so many fab ladies out there that have done so well to be recognised along side them makes me feel very special – thank you Sassy Mama.
6) What’s a typical day in your life like?
When I’m training, I get up at 5:15 am and meet Olivia my trainer at the Marina. I get home around 7:15 am. Ben takes the boys to school. If I am not training I am up at around 6.15am to get ready for the school run. I have a quick breakfast check all my emails and then head to the office for around 8.30. The boys are on two different finishing times at school. I pick up William we have a quick catch up on his day I make him a snack and then he will always play really nicely on his own or sit and draw. Whilst he does that I carry on working until the second pick up of the day.
Once I pick up Samuel I try to be very disciplined and turn off the laptop and just have my phone with me so I can take on my activities leader role. The boys both swim (my non-negotiable) and Samuel also does football and guitar. Other than that I try to keep them with a relatively free schedule so that we can get the dreaded homework out of the way and be more spontaneous in terms of choosing what we do. The boys normally eat their dinner relatively early and on a good day are in bed by 7.30. By the time I’ve eaten dinner and tidied up and finally sat down it’s around 9.30pm. I normally check in again on my work emails but to be honest if we’ve got nothing on in the evening I normally go to bed as early as I can. Throughout a normal day there’s the usual 101 other errands that I somehow squeeze in too!
Set off on the school run 7:15am for my two eldest, then take the youngest to nursery. From 8:30 to 1pm is office time, pick ups happen between 1:00 to 2:30 and then onto afterschool activities. The kids go to bed about 7:30 and then I would try get a couple more hours of work done and maybe exercise!!
7) What’s your guilty pleasure?
Singing very loudly to Taylor Swift after the school drop off
Chocolate and a glass of wine or two!
8) What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given in your personal life and career?
I’ve worked for some amazing people and am lucky enough to have great mentors and perhaps two of the best pieces of advice I’ve been given is to not take things personally. The other is to listen more as I often have the answer myself but I don’t allow people to get to the solution by themselves. Both things I find challenging.
Stick to something and work hard, regret what you have done as opposed to regretting you have never did it.
9) What do you most enjoy doing as a family in Dubai?
We love hitting the beach and being outside in the cooler months. We also love going out to eat Samuel is always on the hunt for the best calamari in town.
Swimming, we are members of Umm Al Quwain Marine Club; we really enjoy going there for the day.
10) What is the ‘best-kept’ secret in Dubai, something fellow mamas should know about?
The BeBar blow dry bar on Jumeriah Beach Road I just love it, the branding, the building, the basins they use, the menu, the popcorn treat …. There is nothing better than a good blow dry for making you feel a wee bit sassy!
Friday morning early breakfast, its quit and sets you up for the day, there are so many lovely cafes around the city now.
11) Which three words best describe your personality?
Loyal, fun and friendly.
Adventurous, determined and multi-tasker.
12) What advice would you have for a new mama?
Take one day at a time …
There are lots of ways to do things it’s finding the way that works best for you, not all babies are the same.
13) What advice would you give to a mama who wants to go back to work or start her own business but is worried about juggling family and career?
In terms of starting your own business you need to have a great support network, be truly passionate about the business and be prepared to make a lot of sacrifices as the buck stops with you and if you don’t live breathe eat and sleep it, it’s very hard to make it work. You need to be organised and focused and able to power through things. It’s also important to have a great sense of perspective when things don’t go to plan.
If you are looking at going back to work and perhaps have lost a bit of confidence etc just remember you are a mum and a multi-tasker extraordinaire and can get so many tasks done at one time without forgetting all the little things too.
I don’t believe there’s any perfect recipe for getting the right balance but I would say try and be in the moment with your children as much as you can when you are with them. As the boys are getting older I see that they actually need me far more now than when I set the business up. A baby doesn’t know if you’ve missed a singing class but a 4 & 7 year old notices if you are the only mum that hasn’t come in to read to the class so I really do make sure they are a priority when I need to.
It can be done and its great fun, you just need to know some day’s are a bit if a juggling act! Work allows me to do something I enjoy without the children and family time is treasured, as we are not together the whole day.
14) If you were on an island and could bring only 3 things (family not included) what would they be?
My personal trainer Olivia, my iphone and Spanish tutor. That way I would be super fit, bilingual and able to keep in touch with everyone and at the same time put the best playlists together!
Water, towel and maybe a secret supply of chocolate.
15) Top 3 books?
Tricky one …
Catch 22 I really remember this as a book that I studied at school I had a great teacher it changed the whole way I looked at literature it was like a penny dropping kind of moment.
Wonder by R.J.Palacio I read this with Samuel over the summer it’s such a great story and opened up lots of deep and meaningfuls that I never expected to have with a 7 year old.
Mastering the Rockerfeller Habits Verne Harnish. I was recommended to read this by Paul Kenny who set up Cobone. It’s without a doubt the best business book I’ve read as a small business owner and I often recommend it to others. I do believe that it really helped us get to the position of our merger as we began to think about our business very differently.
Oh no, you’ve caught me – I don’t read. (Bad I know!) Although I like a good romantic story. I’ve just been handed The Girl On The Train, everyone says its amazing so im going to read it.
16) Describe your style.
During the day I think I am a bit preppy and at night I go a bit edgy as love a bit of All Saints!
Classic cool, some would say Miss Zara – it’s my go to shop for any occasion!
17) If there was a movie produced about your life, who would you choose to play you and why?
Cate Blanchett – love her, a great Sassy Mama role model!
This is a hard one, maybe Jennifer Anderson? I’ve always enjoyed her films, she still looks fab and seems to have fun at work and with her friends.
18) Tell us something funny that your kids have said or done.
Oh so many if only I could remember them all. Over the summer William aged 4 became obsessed by Octanauts one night as I was putting him to bed the last question he asked me was ‘what is symbiosis and how do you spell it?’, I really did have a chuckle to myself and was exceptionally grateful for Google.
Their grandma keeps worms to make compost for her garden, one day my friend took Jessica to school and Jessica said to the mum ‘did you know my grandma has worms’ she did not explain the whole story, so then my friend said to me – I hear Jessicas grandma has worms….I said not her personally in her garden he he….
Thanks to www.thestudiodubai.com for the wonderful photography
Thanks to www.sassymamadubai.com for featuring us!