Five Minutes with Sama Yateem, Founder and Managing Director, PLAY Bahrain In conversation with Sama Yateem on starting a venture focused on interactive play for children.

By Pamella de Leon

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

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PLAY Bahrain

After visiting children's museums in the U.S., PLAY Bahrain founder Sama Yateem thought of having a creative space for children, along with room for parents to meet and discuss concerns. With a bit of push from friend Jann Flusche, the planning, sketching and researching phases began. "It was hard to explain the idea especially with our construction company who were used to building offices, restaurants, and shops", says Yateem, adding how seeing the opening day was rewarding.

Using her 12 years of background in the educational sector, she developed interactive and educational programs presented in fun and creative ways. "Studies show that imaginative play improves memory, stimulates the growth of brain cells, improves language and teamwork skills and promotes creative problem solving," says Yateem. Describing entrepreneur as determined, passionate and energetic, Yateen agrees that "treps have to be risk-takers saying, "If you're too scared to get out of your comfort zone, you will never reach your full potential."

Sama Yateem. Image credit: PLAY Bahrain

Why did you decide to name it PLAY?
I wanted to choose an action word and keep it simple. I was inspired by the restaurant chain in the UK called EAT, and since the purpose of my facility is to be a place where kids play, that's how the name came about.

What has been the difficulty in promoting interactive play in the region?
Most children have been used to a more carnival style of entertainment with electric rides and were a bit confused as to what to do at PLAY since there was no electronic devices. The feedback has been fantastic and many parents reminisced over their childhood days when all they had was imaginative play. They were happy for their children to have that similar experience.

What would you say is the region's biggest challenge for entrepreneurs?
The biggest challenge is definitely all the bureaucratic red tape all over the place. I really struggle to get enough work visas which is ridiculous since I have such a large facility and am open seven days a week for twelve hours at a time. It's frustrating to have a business model in mind and not be able to execute it due to circumstances beyond my control.

Image credit: PLAY Bahrain

What are your top three tips for an entrepreneur to start a business in Bahrain?
First of all, I would say that it is imperative to consider the location since that could make or break a person's business. Second, I think it's important to stay current. Many people have a great idea and open a business but then they don't follow through and continue to develop the idea to stay with the times. Third, staff training is so important to ensure customer satisfaction.

Choose staff that will represent your company in the best way. What do you look for in a team?
I think it's crucial to have a diverse team with each member bringing something to table. Everyone has different strengths and weaknesses, and I feel it's important to identify those so you can place each employee in a position that would bring out the best in them.

What were the biggest lessons from your endeavors?
I think the biggest lesson for me was that as the saying goes, you win some and you lose some. You can't please people all of the time. There's always going to be someone who doesn't like your idea, and at first, I would take it so personally, but then I learned to develop a thick skin.

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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