Welcome to the Emirates Woman weekly series ‘How I got my job as…’ where we speak to some incredible entrepreneurs and businesswomen both based in the UAE and globally to find out about their career paths that led them to where they are now; what their daily routines look like; the advice they’d give to those starting out; and the hurdles they’ve had to overcome.
This week Emirates Woman spoke to Aisha Leitner, CEO and Founder of Party Camel, a homegrown party supplies brand in the UAE.
Now celebrating its 10-year anniversary, this e-party and brick-and-mortar shop has partyware for people of all ages.
The idea was born when her daughter turned one, it took her one more baby and a few more years until Aisha took the plunge and started as an online Party Shop. What started from her storeroom has now grown to be one of the largest platforms for party supplies in the country.
To learn more about her journey as an entrepreneur, Emirates Woman sat down with Leitner to understand how it all began.
What was your favourite subject at school?
I grew up in Kashmir, Pakistan and my favourite subject was languages. I loved my native language Urdu and could read Urdu literature for hrs and loved poetry too.
What was your first job?
I worked in a community centre in Youth & community development, in the north of England and absolutely loved my job helping other young people to find their way.
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What brought you to Dubai?
I came to Dubai with Emirates Airlines to travel the world and live in Dubai for one year and 20 years later I am still here! My background is in HR and I was also lucky enough to work with Emirates Airlines recruitment, flying around the world recruiting both cabin crew and pilots. It certainly was a very glamourous job.
What inspired you to enter the events space and launch Party Camel?
While planning my daughter’s first birthday party in 2009, I struggled to find pretty things locally to celebrate her ‘fairies in the garden’ themed party. I faced the same problem soon again in 2010 while celebrating my son’s first birthday the hungry caterpillar theme. This inspired me to start a party business in 2013 and bring design-led and trendy party products to the region. We started life as an e-commerce online party shop from my store room at home.
Talk us through the inspiration behind your themes and supplies.
I always look to my kids and see what they are into, and also what is currently trending. This shapes all the decisions on what products we should carry in our shop.
What are the key elements of your role?
I am involved in all daily operations of the business. From marketing, buying, recruitment and managing the day-to-day running of the business. No two days are the same and I love what I do.
Talk us through your daily routine.
My day usually starts at 6am with a cup of tea and journalling. Then I help get my kids ready for school although they are getting very independent now. Once they are off to school I take some time for myself, I like to then exercise if I can before I head out to work. I sometimes pick up the kids but more often than not I finish work around 5pm. I then take the kids to their late afternoon activities. They are both super sporty and play all sports for their school! and have very busy schedules. We all make a point to have dinner together in the evening and focus on family time. Weekends are filled with sports, friends and lots of outdoor activities, from hiking, and beach days to triathlons and much more. We are a very active family.
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What advice do you have for anyone looking to follow in the same footsteps?
I would say go for it. Starting your own business can be daunting but so rewarding too. It’s very important to surround yourself with the right people. This includes a supportive network of family/friends but also a good team. Take time to build and then nourish this, it’s the only way to succeed.
What is the best piece of advice you ever received?
To take the leap and sign up for a warehouse! I outsourced this at the beginning and for so long, as I found the responsibility to manage this overwhelming. When I did take this on, I wondered why I didnt do it earlier. It changed everything and having all stock and staff under one roof made things so much easier to manage. A friend encouraged me to do this and I’m thankful for this advice.
And what is the worst?
You can only trust yourself, Absolutely no way. There’s only so far you can go when you try to control everything and all the details. Especially, if you are a perfectionist but you have to learn to let go and pick your battles. Understand what is important to you and let others take responsibility for certain areas of the business.
What has been the biggest challenge you had to overcome?
To build a good team! And this is still a work in progress. You have to find the right people and they are out there. People who are passionate about what you are trying to do and achieve. Setting a clear vision and focusing on this.
What are the future plans for your brand?
I feel like we have come a long way as we celebrate our 10-year anniversary this month. Getting this far has been a huge achievement and we celebrated with a BIG party including covering our whole warehouse in Balloons. We hope to continue t be a source of ideas and inspiration for busy parents in the region and to provide them with beautiful products and help them to celebrate all of life’s special occasions in style. After all, life is to be celebrated, and we help you to do so with style.
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Images: Instagram @partycamel