Starting Mums@Work – One man’s journey | David Mackenzie

The question I always get is why did I start Mums@Work? The answer is fairly simple… I saw a huge gap in the UAE market.

The story starts over lunch two years ago. Sarah, a friend of mine, was a corporate lawyer for one of the big city law firms then moved to Dubai with her husband and had their first child.  Over lunch she proceeded to berate me about how recruiters could not find her a job because she had taken a career break to raise her daughter.  My answer was that most consultancies would find it difficult to get a client interested in someone who has not worked for four years. After she has finished having a go at me she said something that got the Mums@Work business started. Very simply she said ‘My DNA has not changed!’. In that moment Mums@Work was born.

This is my fourth start up and to date probably the most exciting. There are very few chances in life where you can create a new market and change people’s perceptions; Jean Michel at InternsME has done this with a lot of success. After my eventful lunch with Sarah (she now has a great job working with flexible hours – I told you I would sort it!), we started building the team. Mackenzie Jones have been great in backing this new venture with capital, office space, access to the one of the largest client databases in the region but more importantly all the encouragement and guidance (thank you Jas and Ali).

The obvious flaw to my plan was having a man head up Mums@Work, if you start a business like this then you have to live by your message (all of the team at Mums@Work are mums and work flexible hours). Enter Louise Karim. Louise had been a candidate of mine for over seven years and over coffee I was explaining about Mums@Work and how we can really change the market and champion the mums cause. It took her all of 20 minutes to call me back and pitch to run the company. She has been the best thing that has happened to Mums@Work. Louise is a mum of two young kids and manages to run Mums@Work and look after her family as well.  She is driven, focused and a little bit mad (runs every day, and seems to be able to multitask on a Olympic level) but the most important attribute she has is that she passionately believes in Mums@Work and getting mums back into flexible working.

The amount of research and meetings we went to in the early days was tough. In one month, Louise and myself went to 85 clients to pitch the idea. The reception on the whole was good but we were still amazed at how the majority of the companies that had not even considered the potential of a working mum.  Slowly but surely we found a core of clients that got it.  DMCC, and in particular Krysta Fox, has led this change with Schneider Electric, Electrolux, Dubizzle, Estee Lauder, PWC and BP to name a few who have  jumped on board and showed real vision in seeing the way the market was going and have helped us trail blaze.

We engaged YouGov to go out into the market to get genuine stats of what the market thought and what the mums really wanted (we have seen a lot of unbelievable stats for this market that seem to be plucked of the air) and then put together a number of focus groups with Dubai-based mums. To me this was the most interesting time. I assumed that the mums just wanted to get back into a well-paid role with flexible hours. Not the case! The majority had been out of work for a number of years and lacked the confidence to approach employers directly, did not know how to justify that time out looking after their child and a couple felt they were so behind in technology that they needed a big refresher.  Generally, the quality and experience of these groups was excellent with an overwhelming desire to get back into the work place but make sure they still had that balance of career and family that Mums@Work are striving to keep.

We launched on April the 4th 2016 on Business Breakfast with Malcolm and XXX. It was fairly nerve-wracking especially as we are the first company to do this in the region and we were expecting some tough questions. The launch was a great success down to the hard work of the team and Abby and her team at House of Comms. To date we have had 6,000 candidates, 17,000 website visits (and we have not even launched the full site yet), 21,000 social media followers, 42 live roles, 4 radio interviews, 1 TV interview, and over 40 articles in the press across the region. Not bad for only two months old.

So that is how it all began. Mums@Work started with myself, Louise and Hugo (The Intern) and now have a team of over 8. So what is the future? We launch the website in the next week and have a number of big announcements over the coming months from a big JV to our workshop programme and other exciting new initiatives. So what do I do now? Louise is now firmly in control and has made Mums@Work hers. To be honest, she is better at the day to day running of Mums@Work than me but I still have a part to play. I am now the official Dad of Mums@Work and will be out working with all of the Mackenzie Jones clients in introducing the Mums@Work concept. The ‘Mums’ team will be moving into their new funky office soon and, if we keep growing at the rate, you will see a number of new ventures coming from the team. Hopefully, I will see you at coming events but I am always very keep to talk about Mums@Work so please feel free to call either myself or Louise.