Dubai’s been her home for as long as she can remember. Right from schooling to graduation and raising her family and now running her own business she has done it all in Dubai. Her father is Dr.Azad Moopen founder and chairman of DM healthcare. Before venturing out on her own she was involved with the family business for several years.
Today, Ziham Moopen has made a name for herself as the founder and MD of Toddler Town one of the most sought after nurseries in Dubai. In her own words she has the most amazing job “caring for other peoples most prized possession” which she would trade for no other job.
She is young, vivacious, successful, loves challenges, a momtrepreneur, passionate about her work and you can witness this in every little detail at Toddler Town. As I sit down to interview her I can’t but notice she is down to earth and her family is her top most priority, unaffected by all the titles she is come to be known by.
1. How would you describe you?
I’m a very positive and enthusiastic person, who always sees the glass as being half full.
My family is my top priorityand no matter how busy I am with work commitments; I always make sure to make time for my family. On the other hand, I am also extremely passionate about my work and I don’t make any compromises when it comes to the quality of service that I have promised myself to provide to our children and their parents. I am a bit of a perfectionist and it is seen in everything that, I do. I love what I do and love knowing that I am making adifference in so many young people’s lives.
2. What led you into entrepreneurship?
Entrepreneurship was a coincidence and happened by chance. Back in 2010 when I started to do market research for the right nursery for my daughter, I found that many of the nurseries in Dubai were disappointing, some were good and a couple that were great (were full). I noticed there was a supply gap in the market for outstanding nurseries and that’s when the idea to start a truly fabulous and inspirational nursery first took root. The idea excited me greatly and it wasn’t long before I had built up the concept for a truly unique nursery unlike any that Dubai had seen. I also discovered that this was where my passion lay and started out on the long and hard road to make my dream a reality.
3. Once you made the decision how did you go about the design?
One thing that was clear in my head from the beginning was that Toddler Town should be a unique space which would inspire, awe, wonderment and curiosity in children and where their imaginations could run wild! I wanted children to make new and exciting discoveries each day in every corner of the nursery. It was extremely challenging to find a suitable location with both sufficient indoor and outdoor space to make my dream concept real. After finally finding the perfect space, I worked with an interior designer, coming up with the perfect concept and layout. It was important to maximize space allocation for common play rooms and extra facilities, in order to provide a variety of different and distinctive spaces for children to explore.
I wanted to have the best quality equipment and resources. Weleft no stone unturned to source the same from around the globe, with majority of our resources being imported from reputed brands in France, Germany, UK and USA.
The first branch of Toddler Town opened in 2012 in JBR, and I was thrilled to see that it was an instant success in the community. Two years later, we opened a much bigger second campus in Jumeirah, with even better facilities than the first branch.
4. What is a good early story about your business? What is the best/worst thing to happen while managing Toddler Town?
On the first day when we opened for tours, we were so inundated with registrations that the classes we had intended to open were completely full within a week of opening registrations. I remember showing one prospective dad around the nursery, and after the tour, he wanted to pay a deposit right then to register his child. When I asked for the child’s name and Date of Birth, I was taken aback when he answered that his wife was only due to deliver in a few weeks. And he wants to secure a space for his daughter right then, as he had visited so many nurseries and had seen none comparable to Toddler Town. He said he had no doubt that he wouldn’t find a better option. That kind of confidence boost really helped me feel accomplished, especially in the initial stages when I was insecure and finding my feet in a new field myself. It also gave me the determination to strive to provide the absolute best service possible, to try to exceed the expectations of so many parents who had placed their trust in a brand new venture.
5. Now as your growing what are some of the challenges you face today?
The biggest challenge of running Toddler Town is dealing with the enormous responsibility of caring for every parents’ most prized possession. While no expense has been spared to provide a safeenvironment for the children, toddlers seem to have an uncanny ability to hurt themselves even if a room was made of marshmallows. Each day is a challenge to ensure that the children are kept safe, but without stifling their urge to explore on their own.
Another main challenge that we face is in retaining quality staff. I believe that it is extremely important for our staff and teaching team to be more than happy with the work environment, and I do believe to have accomplished that. However, we are frequently faced with situations where a teacher has to relocate. It is heart-breaking when a good, qualified and experienced teacher leaves us reluctantly.
6. What is the age group of kids at your nursery?
We accept children as young as 3 months at our Jumeirah branch, where we have a dedicated Baby Block with special baby-friendly classrooms, a baby soft play area, sensory exploration wall, and a sleeping room. We take children from 6 months at the JBR Branch, going all the way up to 4.5 years at both branches, meaning children can graduate from FS1 at Toddler Town.
7. What is unique about Toddler Town in comparison to your competitors?
While there are many areas where I believe we excel in, what truly sets us apart from our competitors is the sheer variety of facilities that we offer. Children are literally spoilt for choice! In addition to each age group having its own bright and spacious classrooms(which are fitted with CCTVs allowing parental viewing from a PC or smartphone), we have several shaded outdoor playgrounds, a huge sand play area, riding track, water play area, a baby wading pool and a picnic area. To ensure that children are not lacking in options over the summer months, we also boast a wide variety of indoor facilities including an exciting library, Small World, Tiny Town (role play town), soft play, sleeping room, cookery area and music corner. Our Jumeirah campus also offers several original features including a gardening corner, a 14-metre swimming pool, an indoor climbing wall and a sensory room.
A wide variety of extracurricular activities and languages are incorporated into the daily curriculum, such as Arabic lessons, French lessons, swimming with a qualified instructor, Kiddie Gym sessions, and Music and Dance.
8. You are a mom yourself, how is it being a momtrepreneur, I mean how do you manage both your family and the business?
While there have admittedly been times when I have been so busy with work that I felt enormous guilt about neglecting my family, this has usually only been the case during the setup and commissioning of a new project. Otherwise for the most part, I have managed to delegate a lot of the day to day operations to a strong management team, allowing me to do part-time hours and freeing up time for a great work-life balance. On a good day, I manage to get out of office in time to pick up the children from school, if not I still try to get home by the time they are settled in at home. I try to catch up on their day’s activities, getting homework out of the way and on some days taking them for their various after-school activities. Once the children go to bed by 7pm, it gives me time to catch up on any pending work and e-mails. I’m also very fortunate to have my parents here in Dubai and know that I can always depend on my mother to take care of the children if I’m going through a particularly busy phase.
9. If you weren’t doing this, what would you be doing instead?
To be honest, today I cannot imagine myself doing anything other than what I am doing now. No job is more fulfilling or rewarding than shaping the earliest years of our future generation. But if I was not running Toddler Town, I could very well see myself being a stay-at-home mum and channeling all of that extra effort into providing an even better home for my family.
10. I am going to wrap up with one last question, which I am very curious to know: What do you do when you are not managing Toddler Town?
I am like your regular girl next door, top of my head is date nights with my husband [winks with a naughty smile] I love to spend time with my family, which may be as fancy as trying out one of the many new restaurants Dubai constantly has on offer or watch a movie followed by a quick bite to eat. I also love reading books and listening to music. Other than that I absolutely love to travel and try to go on at least 2 or 3 short holidays every year.
11. For more information about Toddler Town and to book a nursery tour:
Jumeirah Branch – Villa 20, 21st Street, Safa 2, Jumeriah
JBR Branch – Amwaj 5, Plaza Level, JBR