My UAE: Sharjah businesswoman Nawal Al Nuaimi
Nawal Al Nuaimi’s mother has been writing all her recipes in a notebook that’s been around since Al Nuiami was very small, but she still hasn’t managed to get her hands on it.
“I’ve always been passionate about food – desserts in particular,” says the Sharjah businesswoman. “I think it’s something I picked up from my mother. She used to bake wonderful desserts when we were kids. She writes all of her recipes down in a blue notebook. I ask her every year for it, but she always refuses to give it to me.”
Al Nuaimi, who’s a graduate of Higher Colleges of Technology in Sharjah, co-owns Paper Fig Desserts in Sharjah with her husband, Ahmed Al Mazrouei.
“I had another business before Paper Fig – a small, home-based dessert company called Mini Treats – but at the end of 2014, after four years in business, it had turned into something far beyond my expectations,” the mother of three says. “With Ahmed’s support, we decided to look for a bigger, more centralised kitchen in Sharjah to run it from.”
With financial support from the Khalifa Fund, the couple decided to launch Paper Fig Desserts.
“We were on a holiday before finding the venue, and we found and saved a few paper fig shells. The shells always reminded us of what a lovely time we had, and always wanted to return. We want our customers to think about us after they leave, and when they’ll come back.”
Al Nuaimi says while the venture has attracted a lot of loyal customers, the biggest challenge is keeping up with demand.
“[There is] demand from customers for more, and the demands I place on myself to continue to deliver on what Paper Fig is,” she says. “I trained myself in managing staff. Learning how to operate in hospitality is not something that came easy to me. I’m still learning new things every day.”
The next step is expansion, with a gift service and a catering service planned from next month.
What’s your favourite dessert?
It’s so hard to choose as there are so many. I love millefeuille, upside-down pineapple cake and of course, cheesecake.
What is your best-selling dessert at Paper Fig?
The Paper Fig French toast. We make and serve 150 of them every day.Tell us something about you that most people don’t know.
Aside from running Paper Fig and being a mother, I really want to focus some of my energies on encouraging other Emirati women to be entrepreneurs, to follow their dreams. Setting up and running Paper Fig has been hard, but the best thing I have ever done, and I want to show other ladies that they can do it, too – especially with support from other female entrepreneurs in the community.
What’s your favourite travel destination?
Paris. Mainly for the desserts of course, and the amazing bakeries. The new generation of chefs based in Paris are incredible and really inspire me.
What do you enjoy doing when you’re not working?
I love to go to the movies or explore new restaurants in Dubai. I also love spending time with my family when they gather each weekend in Ajman.
What’s your favourite hidden-gem attraction in the UAE?
Mleiha – it’s a hidden gem that I think everyone should visit. It’s in Sharjah, and is probably one of the most important archaeological sites in the UAE. It was discovered in 1991, and some of the artefacts found at the site date back more than a million years.
Who inspires you?
I would have to say that French pastry chef Pierre Hermé is one of my biggest inspirations – he’s the king of flavours. His attention to detail and gift for food-pairing inspire me every day.
What’s your favourite thing to do on the weekends?
I don’t have weekends. I try my best on Saturdays to spend some time with my mother. I’m so busy with the business these days; mainly I’m at Paper Fig. My kids come with me. It’s like family time at the business.
Describe yourself in five words?
Hard-working, passionate, open-minded, supportive and happy.
What four things do you never leave home without?
Laptop, phone, my camera for taking social-media photos and my notebook for ideas and recipes.