Al Ain-based Emirati AlDhabi AlMheiri read 1,200 books when he was six years old. She eventually turned her hobby into a business proposition by launching an online platform focused on children, finding a niche among young entrepreneurs in the UAE.
“Rainbow Chimney,” an online platform that sells children’s books, stationery and toys, is fittingly called a granddaughter’s legacy. While AlDhabi is an ardent fan of Mary Poppins books, at the age of three she also knew a lot about the solar system and asked her mother questions such as, “What keeps us glued to the earth, is it possible to fall? ? Is there another planet around us, do people like us live there?
During an exclusive interview with Gulf News, AlDhabi’s mother, Mouza AlDarmaki, said, “AlDhabi is very curious by nature. I realized this when she was just two years old and started reading to her using the methodology of phonetics. The funny thing is that I didn’t like to read at that time, but I started reading for her, to learn the best ways to pass on knowledge to her and my other children. At age three, AlDhabi could mix words and gradually began to read on her own, and when she turned four she expressed her desire to open a bookstore.
Lesson 1: Encourage children to pursue what they love
“Give kids the independence to choose and pursue what they love,” says AlDarmaki. “Having the independence to choose will bring out their innate potential. It will also prepare them to make choices independently, whether it’s to complete homework or to pursue a certain career later in life. As parents, we we can guide them along the way, support them but not impose our decisions on them. AlDhabi likes to read, write, color and at the same time she learns to code because she wants to. It is important to realize that a child is not a copy of its parents.They are individuals and must develop their own characteristics, interests, and ultimately shape their own lives.
The hobby led to a business idea
Even before creating Rainbow Chimney, AlDhabi enjoyed picking and wrapping gifts, mostly books and toys, for his cousins and friends. Seeing AlDhabi’s genuine interest in reading and the way she encouraged others to read, her parents decided to support her to create Rainbow Chimney with an initial capital of 8,000 Dh.
“We wanted AlDhabi to test its idea by creating a minimum viable product, personalized boxes offering in this case teaching aids. We started with just over 100 titles and two to three books under each title. My husband and I have agreed that if the proposal works well, we will support AlDhabi with more investment until the business becomes self-sufficient. So when we started getting positive feedback from customers, we invested more money. To date, we have invested a total of AED 480,000 to develop Rainbow Chimney, and we are constantly reinvesting corporate profits back into the business,” shares AlDarmaki.
Adding, AlDhabi says, “I love racing Rainbow Chimney, it’s a lot of fun.” The things she likes to do the most are packing boxes with books, toys and stationery, based on a selection that includes gender, age, interests as well as special needs, if applicable. Then she places labels and price tags on the boxes often with a handwritten note. She also learns to catalog books and toys, checking each item before it goes live.
Lesson 2: Teach children the value of money as early as possible
“A few years ago we were in a mall and AlDhabi insisted on buying a toy. I thought it was a good time to explain to him the difference between want and need. Fortunately, she understood that she didn’t need this toy, it was just a desire that could wait. Now she teaches the same principle to her younger siblings. It is important to teach children the value of money. It’s because we started teaching her simple principles of money management that today AlDhabi knows she can buy a book for 50 Dh or even three with the same amount, it’s a question of choice. In fact, now whatever money she earns as rewards from her family members, she reinvests in the business. We also follow another basic rule of never taking any item for free from Rainbow Chimney, even if it is our own business,” AlDarmaki shares.
Growing a business requires careful planning
“Our new shipment of books is coming soon and if I stick them all it will reach Burj Khalifa,” AlDhabi proudly states.
Although business can be fun, it also requires careful planning. There’s a lot of thought behind sourcing books, toys and stationery, an area that AlDhabi’s parents run.
“We work with approximately 15 publishers based in the US, Canada and the UK to find books [in bulk] directly from them, which helps us reduce costs,” says AlDarmaki. “Additionally, we have also formed strategic partnerships with delivery platforms such as Talabat, which helps us record daily sales. Otherwise, the nature of our business can be seasonal, with some months being very busy and others Another source of income for us is participation in various local, regional and international book fairs, which also contributes to brand awareness.”
When asked if she likes doing calculations because business is also about keeping track of money coming in and going out, AlDhabi said, “Most people find it surprising that I like doing calculations with the support from my parents. They also help me with the price of the boxes.
Lesson 3: Be aware of local laws and regulations
If a child under 18 decides to run a business, the license is issued in the parent’s name in most cases, AlDarmaki points out. “Also, now that AlDhabi has launched an initiative called ‘Write a Book: From Children to Children’ in which she will select 10 children’s books written by her friends and publish them under her publishing house, we will need another license that authorizes the publication of books, so it is important to be aware of local laws and regulations.
Build a community
After becoming the youngest Emirati entrepreneur at the age of six, AlDhabi, now seven, was named the youngest publisher by Sheikha Bodour bint Sultan Al Qasimi at the Sharjah International Book Fair. AlDhabi’s book is due out this year in November. A big step that will reinforce the mother-daughter duo’s vision of building a community of readers in the UAE.
“We have over 7,000 subscribers on our website, excluding customers we reach through Talabat and other platforms. But it’s not about the number of people who buy from us, but rather their desire to be part of this community of avid readers. Sometimes we see customers ordering a book from us spending more on shipping than the actual price of the book. This is one of the reasons why we are considering setting up a boutique,” says AlDarmaki.
“Beyond business, Rainbow Chimney sends an even more important message to parents. And that is to recognize a child’s abilities and help them discover new things and eventually their innate potential.
Advice from the Emirati child entrepreneur: AlDhabi AlMheiri
• If you have a dream, make it happen
• Work hard to make your ideas work and never give up
• Always remember what Mary Poppins said: “Anything is possible, even the impossible.”
Message from a parent to parents: Mouza AlDarmaki
“Every child is born with talents and abilities. Some parents find out in time and sometimes it’s too late. By discovering that some parents are supportive and nurturing the children with the right opportunities. But some may not be so supportive for various reasons and I would tell them to believe in your children and their abilities. Spend time with them to find out what their true interests are and trust their choices. You’ll be surprised to know that most of my conversations with AlDhabi about the idea of creating Rainbow Chimney happened during our gaming hours or during bedtime storytelling sessions. Children have magical abilities and it is up to us to discover and cultivate their talents.