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Five Minutes With Entrepreneur Samar Nabulsi, MD Of Big On Children The expat mom saw the gap in the market for edutainment, leading her to start her business.

By Pamella de Leon

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You're reading Entrepreneur Middle East, an international franchise of Entrepreneur Media.

Big On Children
Samar Nabulsi Abdul Majeed, co-founder and Managing Director, Big On Children

Samar Nabulsi Abdul Majeed is the co-Founder and Managing Director of Big On Children, and she doesn't kid around when it comes to success. A graduate of Boston University's Hospitality Business Administration program, this entrepreneur counts the Make a Wish Foundation and Fighting Cancer for Children as organizations that she has a vested interest in. An expat mom, Nabulsi saw a gap in the market for edutainment, subsequently building on that to create her business. The best advice she's ever been given? "'Never give up,' is something my husband Ramzy always says. What's nice about him is he practices what he preaches. He really never gives up on any of his projects, and it really motivates me and pushes me to do more and succeed as we build our company."

What's your leadership style?
I'm human and I remember that all our staff members are too! It gives them confidence when we work as a team instead of a boss-employee relationship. I share all new ideas, products and promotions with the team to get their feedback and their opinion. After all, they are the one's dealing with customers and they know what the customers like. It excites them to know that we are always on the look out to add more innovative products that will only become available in the market through our company.

What's the most important thing to bear in mind when starting your own business?
There are a lot of issues that will arise that you probably did not account for. I think it is becoming more challenging to run your own business here with all the new rules and regulations but I enjoy the challenge and overcoming challenges is part and parcel of having a successful company. The best advice I could give any entrepreneur is to check all legalities and never take any short cuts in setting up your own business and of course hard work and dedication are a must to be able to achieve your vision and dreams.

What three traits do you look for in an employee?
Positive attitude and smile, honesty, and loyalty. A smile is the only universal language that means "hello", and in the retail business you need an employee who is approachable and friendly.

Three tips for success?
Patience, in-depth knowledge about the market to identify your USP (unique selling point), and identifying your weaknesses and strengths.

Where did you get the idea for Big on Children?
While travelling in the U.S. on the way back from our honeymoon in 2008 we came across these personalized products and bought some for my nieces and nephews. At that time I couldn't find all their names so only the lucky ones got a CD. Their excitement was overwhelming and it occurred to me that there is a gap in the Middle East market for such great personalized gift ideas. Fast forward four years and Big On Children was born- we took the rights for the entire MENA region. We now have over 20 regional distributors including master distributors, four of our own locations in Dubai, one international location in New York, and we are still growing.

Will you be introducing any new products and services in 2014?
In the last quarter of 2013 we introduced two great personalized products, Label Itz and Little Me which allowed us to kick start 2014 with a bang. Label Itz are silicon bands fits most sippy cups and baby bottles that allows the parent to write their child's name and any allergies or intolerances just by using a ball point pen. These are 'must haves' for babies and toddlers that go to nursery or daycare. Our second product that has also been a big hit is Little Me which are 3D photo of the parent's choice that can be added to a selection of soft toys in various sizes.

Our software enables us to add more personalized products relatively easily. We are now finalizing the designs for Personalized Birthday Cards- the card will have a similar module as the alarm clocks and soft toys we already sell that will have a USB connection to our software and can download a birthday song with the child's name in it. We are due to introduce a personalized singing toothbrush holder and a money 'piggy' bank to be released later in 2014. Our concept depends on bringing new products to keep our customers coming back for more unique and exciting personalized merchandise. We are also eagerly expecting the arrival of a unique fun clothing range, Hooligans, from South Africa which is a Fair Trade brand. We have taken this brand exclusively for Big On Children and we are confident this will also be a big hit in the market.

Do you have any expansion plans for 2014?
We are looking at more store-in-store locations within the Dubai area. We currently have five locations; four are in Dubai -The Dubai Mall store, kiosks at The Toy Store Dubai Mall and Mall of the Emirates and at Hamleys Dubai Mall- as well as our first international kiosk inside FAO Schwarz the Flagship store on Fifth Avenue in New York City. We also recently signed contracts for exclusive master distributors in Egypt and Jordan and in discussions with several potential master distributors for Qatar, Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia. We are actively working on making our products available to everyone across the Middle East as we are approached daily by people looking to become distributors for our products.

Which current industry trends are shaping your business?
The personalization business is worth over US$3 billion annually. The demand in personalizing products is what initially started this personalized products business in the USA over nine years ago. The industry in general and more specifically the children's business is now competing to personalize their baby pillows, blankets, and even wooden toys. The best thing about our line of business is we don't really have direct competitors because no one offers what we have. We took personalization to the next level by singing the child's name in CDs, clocks and toys and adding their faces in their own movies and soft toys. We look for products that are not already available in the market and we become the exclusive distributors for those products.

Pamella de Leon

Startup Section Editor, Entrepreneur Middle East

Pamella de Leon is the Startup Section Editor at Entrepreneur Middle East. She is keen on the MENA region’s entrepreneurship potential, with a specific interest to support enterprises and individuals creating an impact.

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