Sponsored Content: “Perfection is something you can’t achieve,” says The Happy Box co-founder and Nisnass ambassador.
She’s gone from dining room table to a sprawling space in Al Serkal Avenue in just three years.
However, Jumana Al Darwish – co-founder of The Happy Box and founder of The Happy Studio – admits it hasn’t been plain sailing on the way.
“It’s really hard to run a company,” the Dubai-based entrepreneur tells us as she sits underneath the rainbow streamers decorating her fantastical office space.
“I’m not going to tell you it’s fabulous and it’s glittery. The reality is it’s hard work. It’s not a 9am to 5pm job, it’s 24/7 and families rely on you, your staff relies on you.”
But for a woman who has made happiness her career, the time and effort is most definitely worth it.
“I feel that every day there’s something really exciting to be happy about,” she smiles.
“I’ve learnt to appreciate these pockets of happiness that come along our way. I love that part of the business; they’re like treats.”
While Jumana may be a pinnacle of entrepreneurial success in the UAE, she started out in philanthropy under some rather regal names.
As the daughter of a Jordanian UN diplomat, Jumana grew up all over the world, studying an undergraduate degree in community and ethics studies and completing a Master’s in evidence-based social intervention at Oxford University.
After graduating, she worked at Queen Rania of Jordan’s office in international affairs before moving to Dubai Cares, a philanthropic organisation founded by HH Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai.
The idea for The Happy Box, an activities pack for children, came to her during a trip to New York and was Jumana’s first leap into entrepreneurship.
“It took us three months to go from concept to execution,” she says, admitting her business started out as a social experiment. “We wanted to test it to see if it would work.
“Our concept is super simple and easy to comprehend. The box contains eight activities plus a book, it comes customised according to age and gender, and all the instructions are there.
“It makes it easy for parents to connect with their little ones.”
For years, Jumana ran her business from her own home, moving from the dining table to her garage – but within a year of launching, she already had 25 franchise requests.
Prompted by the company’s move into art and craft workshops and events, Jumana launched The Happy Studio in Al Serkal, a mesmerising space that looks like it’s come straight from a child’s imagination.
All Happy Boxes are made in the studio, Jumana reveals, adding that moving production from the US to the UAE 18 months after launching her business was “so incredible”.
“I think if we hadn’t have done that we wouldn’t be where we are today, because now we control quality and we’re able to grow even more,” she says.
“[The Happy Box] is homegrown and it’s something that I feel very proud of to have in the UAE. I feel if it had been anywhere else, I don’t think it would have grown to this extent.”
And Jumana has further growth on the horizon, admitting that she’d love the brand to grow internationally and “who knows, possibly F&B later on”.
“What’s the worst that can happen? It goes bad, it goes bust, it’s OK. You just keep moving forward and you find a way.”
It’s that refreshing approach that Jumana is positively dripping in, wisely advising those hoping to follow in her entrepreneurial footsteps that “perfection is something you can’t achieve”.
“You need to really believe in yourself, get rid of all the noise around you, and have a very structured plan of what is is you want to do so in the long term you don’t lose funds,” are her tips to those looking to launch their own businesses.
“Competition is good – it keeps you innovative and makes you think out of the box,” she adds.
Balancing work and her home life can be challenging, Jumana admits, revealing “my day-to-day life is complete madness”.
Her collaboration with fashion and beauty app Nisnass was born from her “lack of time to go to the mall”.
“It’s very convenient. It works with my style.”
Before we depart The Happy Studio for our office (which features disappointingly fewer unicorns), Jumana shares one last piece of advice, one that we’ve truly taken to heart.
“It’s take me a long time to be very confident in where I am,” she says.
“The moment you are comfortable in your own skin,comfortable in your own views, that is true happiness because you’re happy with yourself.
“You like me or you don’t, but this is what you get.”
Video: Jear Velasquez