International Women’s Day is a marker to celebrate the social, cultural, economic and achievements of women around the world and bring awareness to some of the obstacles they uniquely face in achieving these successes.

So in celebration of International Women’s Day, we take a look at 5 businesswomen who are powering and changing the Kuwaiti economy with innovation and passion.

These incredible ladies have gone against challenges and changed mindsets (while some even juggled it alongside parenthood) to set up a successful venture of their own and we felt like that needed to be celebrated.

So we decided to introduce you to 5 such ladies from within the Tap family and to see what makes them tick:

  1. Maryam AlEisa from Refood
  2. Dalal AlNafisi from Manifesto13
  3. Shaikha AlSabah from Dar ātma
  4. Illie Baqer, M.Ed, B.Ed, HBA, CT from BrainBox
  5. Sara AlWazzan from Objects

Maryam AlEisa: Re:food Kuwait

Mariam Al Essa from Re:food

Tell us a little about Re:food and what inspired you to set it up?

Re:food is a non-profit organization that eliminates food wastage in the food and beverage industry of Kuwait, through food rechanneling and awareness programs that ultimately aim to protect the environment from toxic emissions to allow future generations to thrive in a sustainable ecosystem. To date, the rechanneling program is our most prominent initiative, where Re:food collects excess and near-expiry products from local distributors and manufacturers and rechannels it as packages to beneficiaries before it is labeled as waste. Supported by a large team of more than 2,000 volunteers, we are able to help around 2,000 families on a regular basis. This is made possible with the continued support of major food suppliers in the industry, who have been receptive to the cause. With more than 40 companies providing Re:food with excess and near-expiry products, we are able to immediately salvage and turnover what would otherwise have become waste, and instead provide food packages to local families in need, with a value ranging between 70 and 200KD.

In order to be self-sustaining, Re:food has recently launched an initiative called RFD, which consists of a subscription service where each subscriber receives a box every month, full of a curated selection of quality products provided by multiple suppliers to review and try for a very appealing fee. All RFD’s earnings from the subscription box are used to support families in need.

This initiative is based on a one for one concept. For each RFD subscription box a customer buys, one food package from Re:food’s products is provided for a low-income family with a value ranging between 70 and 200 KD. Moreover, the price of the box is 10KD but the value of the products inside received by the customers exceeds that amount.

The aim of the box is to bring customers and suppliers the opportunity to support the reduction of food waste, while receiving a benefit from the participation.

When setting up your business, what was your biggest obstacle and how did you overcome it?

The road was definitely not easy and starting from scratch was the biggest challenge. At the time of starting Re:food, one of my main obstacles was convincing people about what we were trying to do, as nothing was being
done in terms of food waste prevention. Most of the times I had to speak to the humanitarian side of people to get their attention to the problem because there’s a lack of environmental awareness in Kuwait.

In 2016, we were only able to have operations once every week, but with hard work from our volunteers and team, and a focus on social media and marketing, we were able to grow and attract more beneficiaries to register with Re:food. This allowed up to operate on a daily basis, as well as educate people about the problem of food waste and our organization’s programs.

Re:food is currently in an expansion process, in which we are able to develop different revenue streams and hire full-time staff to guarantee that the organization continues growing and launching new initiatives with the aim of eliminating the problem of food waste in Kuwait.

What is your proudest accomplishment?

The growth we experienced this past year is something that we are very proud of, as we have passed 2200 local families registered with Re:food. This is a very important milestone for us because in 2018 we only had 642 families registered, which translates into a growth percentage above 300% within the past year.

In 2016, we started with 107 unique volunteers, 7 suppliers supporting Re:food, and 7395 packages delivered yearly. As of today, our rechanneling program has the support of more than 40 suppliers, delivers more than 1200+ packages every month, and saves more than 450 tons of food from ending in landfills annually, valued at more than 1 million KD.

What does your typical day look like as an entrepreneur?

I always spend the first two hours on the phone or laptop, catching up with the team. Then I get ready and head to meetings, but right after that, I spend the rest of the day at the office with our amazing team. We have a great office culture that’s laid back and family-like.

Knowing what you know today, what would be an advice you give to other aspiring female entrepreneurs in Kuwait and the region?

Just start and deal with every issue when you get to it, do not overwhelm yourself. It can only get better from here. Just start!

If you’d like to find out more about Re:food and get involved, you can visit their website or even their Instagram account.

Dalal AlNafisi: Manifesto13

Dalal AlNafisi from Manifesto13

Tell us a little about Manifesto13 and what inspired you to set it up?

Manifesto13 is Kuwait’s first and only art-based alternative unschool that teaches social and environmental issues through the arts. We abide by a wholehearted belief in social responsibility & environmental consciousness which our value system embodies through all our practices and teachings. We guide students towards asking crucial questions about social issues via the arts, which include fine and visual arts. We use mindfulness and progressive education paradigms to encourage students to listen within themselves while on the journey of exploring art history, theory, technique and practice.

We dedicate our courses each year to a social cause and encourage our students to ponder deeply through their artwork. We then collaborate with organizations or individuals involved with the cause and in that respect, do our part in social work and activism creatively. We use the term ‘unschool’ because it denotes an element of looking outside the box. We don’t aim to condition and compete, we aim to question, introspect and compassionately co-create.

I was inspired to move away from my career as an interior architect when I realized that my daughter, at 11, needed a creative space that would allow her to understand the world and her purpose on this earth through art. School suppresses creativity and experimentation; it does not pay any respect to the arts in all its forms. The education system does not give children enough information about the world around them nor does it help children become active citizens who would give back to society. The system’s shortcomings and my child’s need was my inspiration.

When setting up your business, what was your biggest obstacle and how did you overcome it?

My biggest obstacle was stepping out of my comfort zone and doing something that I dreamt of for years. I also had to work hard to bring it to life and make people believe in it as I did.

What is your proudest accomplishment?

My daughter went to a very established art school in Europe for a course and she told me that all the art history lessons and creative practice at Manifesto13 made her feel so confident there. She was my muse to start Manifesto13 when she was 11. So to hear that when she turned 17 was priceless.

What does your typical day look like as an entrepreneur?

My days are pretty intense. As a working mom with 3 kids, you can imagine how crazy it could get. I wake up the kids, get them out the door in the morning, drive them to school, check emails in the school parking lot. Then I always use my early mornings for my health and well-being (gym, yoga, or meditation). Then I head to the studio for morning meetings with the team. Work and more work. Some days are nice and easy and some days I have to be at the studio very late.

On normal days, I head home late afternoon. Check on undone homework, have dinner with my kids, get them showered, reading time and in bed by 8:00.

My worst habit is using any quiet time in between to work on things that require concentration. I sometimes take on design jobs as well so I have to add site visits, contractor or client meetings, and specification shopping during the week.

Sometimes I wish I had a 9–5 desk job but I wouldn’t trade my life for anything else.

Knowing what you know today, what would be an advice you give to other aspiring female entrepreneurs in Kuwait and the region?

Believe in your wildest ideas and just go for it! Don’t let anyone make you doubt yourself.
Also, failing is great and teaches us so much more. Keep searching and keep experimenting until you find where you are meant to be. I thought Manifesto13 was an experiment that would last a year. Today I have an amazing team, who help me make it grow and today I’m in my 6th year!
Starting your own business is hard especially when you are juggling with parenthood. So don’t believe anyone who says they can do it all flawlessly- just do the best you can do.

If you’d like to know more about Manifesto13, you can visit their website, Instagram account or just pop over to their studio at the Al Mulla complex in Hawally.

Shaikha AlSabah: Dar ātma

Shaikha Al Sabah from Dar Atma

Tell us a little about Dar Atma and what inspired you to set it up?

Daratma for yoga education is a non-profit business with a mission to be a light on to the community. We offer yoga & healing for all people regardless of age, gender, nationality, religion, or creed. It’s a place of acceptance and non-judgment. It started because I felt how well my body responded to yoga & meditation and needed a space to practice that outside of my home. It was organic, unplanned, and we still do not have a business plan!

When setting up your business, what was your biggest obstacle and how did you overcome it?

Setting rules and structure that was fair and just to all. To serve the clients without compromising the teachers. We believe at Daratma that Humans are the Soul of the Space. All the energies at play, every day, is like a dance. As an entrepreneur, how do I choreograph the dance highlighting everyone at the same time? It’s challenging & it’s fun!

What is your proudest accomplishment?

My children. Even then, I know that I didn’t accomplish anything, they are just a blessing from God and I kinda lucked out!

I always say I can stop being a yoga teacher, I can stop being an entrepreneur, I can stop being anything really, but I cannot stop being a mother. You just can’t un-mom yourself!

What does your typical day look like as an entrepreneur?

Every day is different. I am not a big fan of routine. I like the excitement of waking up and feeling my way through the day. I function best when I am in Flow, and not resisting Life. Should, Must, Have to, are slowly being erased from my vocabulary.

Knowing what you know today, what would be an advice you give to other aspiring female entrepreneurs in Kuwait and the region?

Just go for it! Imagine, dream, and do it! Do not hold back. Do not overthink. Just Do. What’s the worst-case scenario? Failure? So what…at least you tried with courage & imagination. That’s the only way to go forward in Life, with Courage & Imagination.

If you’d like to find out more about the classes and workshops they run at Dar Atma, you can follow their Instagram account, visit their website or go over to their studio at the Yacoub Behbehani tower in Salmiya

Illie Baqer, M.Ed, B.Ed, HBA, CT: Brainbox

Illie Baqer from Brainbox

Tell us a little about Brainbox and what inspired you to set it up?

BrainBox is an Education Company that identifies, creates and utilizes a range of carefully designed programs to develop the needs of children within the community. We support children with a range of needs, including but not limited to, ADHD, learning difficulties, autism, school support, and problem behaviors.

We have a highly motivated and well-trained team, supported and overseen by British consultants. What inspired me to set up BrainBox was my passion to provide a range of unique educational services whilst also providing a specialized experience for families in Kuwait.

When setting up your business, what was your biggest obstacle and how did you overcome it?

My biggest obstacle was curating a set of unique services for the Kuwait community. It’s important for me to provide quality services for every individual my team or I make contact with. Creating a specialized system to identify and meet the needs of these families was my biggest obstacle. However, by incorporating the services of external British consultants in the development of BrainBox, I have been able to achieve this goal while simultaneously keeping the needs of the community at the forefront.

What is your proudest accomplishment?

My biggest accomplishment is not a single goal that I have achieved but rather, the daily accomplishments that my team and I are able to achieve through our services at BrainBox. Being able to create the specialized services that make a difference in the lives of the children who we work with every day is my biggest accomplishment.

To see a parent notice their child’s progress and for a child to notice the change within themselves, and become more confident, is truly remarkable.

What does your typical day look like as an entrepreneur?

The typical day as an entrepreneur is a long one! Some days I work for 14 hours and some days I work your average 8. My days always start with my very active toddler at 6 am, who is the driving force behind my work. It almost always includes a quick visit to the gym and of course, ongoing meetings and/or training, conference meetings with case consultants and of course, interacting with the parents and children whose lives we impact on a daily basis.

Knowing what you know today, what would be an advice you give to other aspiring female entrepreneurs in Kuwait and the region?

If you have a passion, pursue it. Don’t be constrained by the ‘what ifs’ that will cross your mind. Invest in your dreams and make them a reality. I am a firm believer that there is room for all, no matter the industry, to make a difference.

If you’d like to learn more about the services offered at Brainbox, you can visit their Instagram account, their website or even pop over to their center at Burj Jassem in Kuwait City

Sara AlWazzan: Objects

Sarah AlWazzan from Objects

Tell us a little about Objects and what inspired you to set it up?

Objects is an eco-friendly store where we try to sell recycled or eco-friendly products. I got the idea to start this store when I found interesting products such as bags and pots made from waterproof paper. I decided that Kuwait needed a store where people could shop eco-friendly products that are modern and stylish so that they can gift their loved ones something unique.

When setting up your business, what was your biggest obstacle and how did you overcome it?

The biggest obstacle I faced when I started the store was in navigating the bureaucracy to get the business license allowing me to sell my products and our vendors’ products. We also took a while to find the perfect vendors, contact them to be part of our shop and to even just get meetings with them.

What is your proudest accomplishment?

Our proudest accomplishment is always when the message and purpose of our shop are well received by our clients and all the positive feedback we get on our products.

Knowing what you know today, what would be an advice you give to other aspiring female entrepreneurs in Kuwait and the region?

Always believe in yourself, and never stop trying.

If you’d like to learn more about the type of products that they sell at Objects or want to buy one for yourself or your loved ones, you can follow their Instagram account or visit their website.