Follow The Leader: Mona Ataya, Founder And CEO, Mumzworld
“The world conspires to present to you opportunities that you are ready for. Call it fate, or luck; I am a believer in both. You can create your own luck by being ready to take on opportunities through a lifetime of hard work, commitment and preparation. The more prepared you are, the more opportunities come your way.”
"The life of an entrepreneur is not an easy one, and it’s not for everyone.” If that statement of hers is any indication, then Mumzworld founder and CEO Mona Ataya is someone who doesn’t believe in sugarcoating things- in a region where being an entrepreneur has somehow become the new cool thing to be, Ataya is the voice of caution for the upstarts with stars in their eyes. “It’s a 24-hour job, 365 days a year,” she says. “It’s ridden with pressure and expectations. I had to be ready to give up a lot of things for myself, like sleep, me-time, health, and even friendships.” Okay, so entrepreneurship’s not as glamorous as some might like to think- but why do it then? “You push yourself, because you are driven by a vision and a commitment to doing something impactful and important,” Ataya replies. “In my 16 years as an entrepreneur, I have seen failed projects, wrong hires, disappointing outcomes, and worse, almost daily. There are days when you wake up and you are exhausted and overwhelmed, but you still get up and do what you have to do. You reach out to the grit in your soul to push you through another day. And whenever you feel it cannot get any worse, it does– and then suddenly, you see the light at the end of the tunnel, and the vision shines bright again. If I had to list all the difficulties and disappointments [of being an entrepreneur], I would [have to] write a novel, not a paragraph!”
With this being the case, Ataya is insistent on wannabe entrepreneurs to be very clear about their reasons behind getting into this field. “The only advice I would give is this: be 100% sure of why you are doing what you are doing. If your why vision is compelling and important enough to you, then just keep on tracking along. Be smart, be creative, surround yourself with winners, and you will get to where you need to be eventually.” And if you need any proof of this concept, just look at Ataya’s own story for inspiration: since its launch in 2011, Ataya’s Mumzworld has become the leading online marketplace for all things mother, baby and child in the Middle East- and don’t forget the fact that it was the first such enterprise of its kind in this region. The company has been growing from strength to strength, with its latest announcement of note being its multi-million dollar Series B investment from a mix of investors that include Wamda Capital, twofour54, Endeavor Catalyst and more. “The funds will be used to continue scaling the business both in the UAE and KSA, and [then] across the entire GCC, followed by the rest of MENA,” Ataya says. “KSA, this year, has become a key market for us, as has Qatar. We will continue to grow these markets, and others.”
There is no question that Mumzworld’s successes have a lot to do with Ataya’s leadership of the enterprise, and when asked about her modus operandi for doing so, she throws the attention on her team at the company. “We try to hire people with ownership and accountability in their DNA,” she explains. “They take responsibility for their successes and mistakes. We hire people who want to build excellence, not average products. We hire people who believe that building a great company is about building a customer experience that is bullet proof and superior. We hire people who want to change the world and create positive social impact. We hire people who are not only super smart on paper, but can analyze daily challenges and come up with practical, cost effective and creative solutions. We hire people who believe that innovation is key to growth and being comfortable is not an option. To build great companies, you hire great people– that is my mantra.” But Ataya is quick to also note that getting together a great team is not an easy thing to do. “Hiring in a startup or SME environment is one of the greatest challenges,” she admits. “That’s because you expect people to work harder than they ever worked, make less mistakes than they ever did, earn less and work in an ever-changing, risky, fluid, unstructured environment with limited processes. How many people do you know would willingly do that? Not many- unless they are sold on your vision: your why. If they believe in the company, what it stands for, and its mission, then you can attract people who share that vision. It’s not easy, but it can be done– with a lot of trial and error.”
ASK THE EXEC - Mona Ataya
The Q In your current role , what do you consider to be among the most important things you do to ensure your enterprise functions as expected , and, at the same time, grows as well?
The A “Have the smartest people, sitting on the right seats, doing the job that they are best at. We have not always got this right. In fact, we have made many mistakes along the way, and will likely continue making mistakes. But my personal #1 priority is ensuring that Mumzworld continues to attract the best talent out there.
Secondly, build bulletproof operations that contribute to a superior customer experience. Our customer is at the core of everything we do. As a customer- obsessed organization, everything we do daily is about improving that experience.”
Aby Sam Thomas is the Editor in Chief of Entrepreneur Middle East. In this role, Aby is responsible for leading the publication on its editorial front, while also working to build the brand and grow its presence across the MENA region through the development and execution of events and other programming, as well as through representation in conferences, media, etc.
Aby has been working in journalism since 2011, prior to which he was an analyst programmer with Accenture, where he worked with J. P. Morgan Chase's investment banking arm at offices in Mumbai, London, and New York. He holds a Master's Degree in Journalism from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism in New York.