7 Moksi Women answering my 7 questions : how they are Living and Working in Dubai.
I was so happy all these 7 women wanted to participate - even more when I could work with the lovely Rebecca Rees - who photographed all their outdoor portrait photo's. We only had 1 day (a crazy busy day!) to make it all happen, since everyone has a busy schedule. So in one day we drove around Dubai in the heat and visited them all.
People have a certain image in their heads when thinking of Dubai. Instantly only thinking of the luxurious side of living - which is here too. But there are more people simply living their normal everyday lives - being a mother, being a creative or running their business. They mix this all together - most of them doing so while creating their home away from home. To me, that's what makes them great & inspiring Moksi Women.
This week, meet German creative entrepreneur Tanja Peters.
Tanja and I met in my early days, while I lived in Dubai. She was selling her Coochy Coo wares, and not only did I loved her products (I still wear her round charm bracelet all the time), we started talking and immediately had a click. Being from Germany and used to the corporate world, where travelling was a big part of her job, Tanja changed her life after she became a mother.
For the past 11 years she is living in Dubai with her husband and their three children Milo (9), Kenu (7) and Numa Lou (4). She founded and runs her two companies - Coochy Coo and SEW uniforms - and has learned how to do business in an ever changing city as Dubai.
Her love for travelling has not stopped after having children. As a family they have been travelling to many different kind of countries - from Australia and Lebanon to Nepal, Iran, Burma and India. I truly love her inspirational way of thinking and living, and how she always is open to find ways how she can help other people.
Even though she was super busy the day we were making the photo’s, she took the time for us and I’m happy she is sharing her view of Living and Working in this fast paced city by the sea.
Thanks so much Tanja, we will catch up when I'm back visiting Dubai!
** What inspired you to start your business / work in this branch?
I'm one of those people who are always busy doing something. After giving birth to our first son, I decided to create a brand of personalized children gifts that came from the heart - hand stitched and organic. Coochy Coo is available online and at selected retailers here in Dubai and in the Middle East.
Currently I’m running two companies. We also recently launched a new company that specializes in creating and donating uniforms - SEW uniforms. We supply uniforms for various sectors, such as schools and kids nurseries. We provide uniforms for corporate companies, events and for the medical, security & hospitality branches. I'm very excited about this company, as we feel it’s time to revolutionize the uniform industry and start changing stereotypes - that uniforms have to be ugly, itchy, uncomfortable, untrendy and made out of polyester.
** In your work, what is your favourite creation you have made so far?
My favourite creation always changes every year. I like to re-invent the wheel and love to come up with new products. When I was working at Procter & Gamble, I was proud of my advertising campaigns. When I launched Coochy Coo, I loved creating the Kindergarten Bags - which even today are still a classic. I just relaunched it with Stars and new colour codings. The Coochy Coo furniture and jewellery range are dear to me as well. And I’m proud of the fact that the Coochy Coo sourcing team constantly is looking for new product ideas and concepts.
I guess my favourite thing recently that has made me very proud, is the fact that we have launched SEW uniforms and that until now we have already donated more than 2000 uniforms to children in need by just halving our profit. That is the most rewarding fact in life and in mankind - to give back rather than to take.
** Working in Dubai, how would you describe it to anyone not living here?
It’s a city of many misconceptions. I would call myself an art interested person, creative and with a thirst for new trends and different cultures. In general, I just have an interest in people and languages. Dubai was the last city on my list to live, however, when my marketing job with P&G brought me here, I experienced the biggest learning curve in my life.
Dubai is an amazing place when you have the patience to look for things that interests you. Although you will experience a totally different Dubai when you work in a big corporation, than being an entrepreneur, a mother and wife.
My kids are in a nursery class with 24 different nationalities. My son has just said goodbye to a really good friend who is moving back to Kazakhstan. I just came back from dinner with a Palestinian friend and yesterday I was out with two former colleagues from India and Pakistan. Where in Germany would I have a chance to make these friendships and also find out about each others culture? Now I know much more about Ramadan, Bollywood & Diwali - as well as all the Hindu and Buddhist festivals. I can understand if some people would not like Dubai, but I must tell you, it’s all about the people you meet and the friends you make here.
We are living here now for eleven years and every two years our situation was different. The first two years were corporate years - travelling a lot around the Middle-East region (at that time it was all still possible). The following years were all about being a mother, opening my own company and raising three beautiful kids in a city close to the beach. The last three years I feel were more consolidation years. I knew what worked and what did not. Now we spend more time doing the things we really love to do, together as a family.
** Which side of running your own business / working in this branch excites you the most?
For Coochy Coo, what excites me the most is that you can determine what to create and after a while it’s physically there. I also love the sourcing part and PR side of the business.
But the launch of the new uniform company excites me a lot, since we are helping someone to find a better uniform in which they will feel good. By selling the uniforms to these companies, we make additional money helping to build schools and buy more supplies for them. That excites me the most at the moment. It seems the older I get, the social responsibility factor becomes more and more important to me.
** As a working mother, how do you keep a good balance between work and your life at home?
There are five things that I have done to stay balanced and be more present as a mother.
I had an amazing support system with two nannies. This allowed me to open these two companies at the time and I am very grateful for that.
Invest 10 % of your income in learning. I got the most valuable present from my husband last Christmas. It was a free course for an amazing coaching session that is called Strategic Coach. Now I’m setting my life long goals with them, my three year goals and one year goals and I’m learning how to also take some time off and not feel guilty about it.
Think it, ink it & plan your next quarter. In fact, it’s all about planning and scheduling what are my working days and which ones are my free days in a calendar. Also, be happy with what you have achieved, not always want to get higher and higher.
Starbucks Time. I believe when mummy ain’t happy, nobody is happy. So you also need to create time for yourself, away from your home. I mean to be truly alone - not with a child sitting on top of you when you want to use the toilet or the cat is looking at you when you are brushing your teeth, or when all three kids want three different things from you at the same time. Starbucks Time is simply one hour where you are truly not disturbed.
Surround yourself with like minded people. People that inspire you and who are not pulling you down. Everyone has days where everything goes wrong. There are other days where you will shine and feel confident. Look back and say “wow, that was an amazing idea and an amazing meeting and we will manage the challenges for sure!” Don’t let other people pull you down, but get up and help others to shine.
** Do you have any tips for other women who want to start their own business or work here in Dubai?
Tips are always useful. I believe many people struggle where to get a license and what kind of license they should get. My tip - just speak to the people that are in the same kind of business. They will be happy to help you since they went through the same barriers. There is also an amazing economic department and you have the new business hubs that are holding seminars, how to start a new business here.
My own believe is that you should not struggle too long, trying to do everything on your own. Employ a good accountant, a media/PR specialist and an experienced sales agent. It will cost you some money, but since they will definitely generate the added net sales, you can then invest that into their salaries. I found it really easy to start and I don’t know why, but I had the guts to do it here. I would have been hold back in Germany by all the bureaucracy and the negativity of starting on your own.
Somehow Dubai is different. There seems to be an entrepreneurial vibe here, which never sleeps. Maybe also coupled with the fact that so many things are simply just not here yet. That makes my imagination goes wild - with us and what Dubai would need next.
** And last, what is the best part of living in Dubai?
Oh, so many things! You can make friends here from all over the world. To meet all these lovely people - like you Maureen - we met at an exhibition open house, and we funny enough stayed in touch even after you left, because we both like the same things. It’s easy and quick to make these kind of friendships, since almost everyone in Dubai is an expat and everyone welcomes you with open arms.
The vibe and the opportunity to be part of something bigger. That you can change your business idea to something that would make the UAE (Dubai) shine and that is long lasting.
The restful weekends, which will help you to manage the busy working week. The weekends here are just amazing with the beautiful weather in Dubai.
That we can eat food from all over the world. And the fact that we have a lovely care taker for the children so we can spend some time together as a couple. All of it together makes living in Dubai great.
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*Photo Tanja made by: Rebecca Rees for Moksi Collective.