SME profile: Mumpreneur encourages children’s interest in the arts with Bulb centre
Elhame Bourani says seeing her kids glued in front of screens for too long inspired her to open an arts centre where children can unleash their creative talents through drawing and dance.
Mrs Bourani, a public relations executive who has called the UAE home for the past 14 years along with her husband and three children, says she has always had a desire to start her own business and work with kids. Furthermore, she says that when deciding what kind of business to try her hand at she concluded that the nation’s capital has enough sporting activities and not enough arts on offer. So came the idea for the The Bulb Fine Arts Center.
“I wanted to do something for me that I would enjoy and find further motivation beyond my day job and something that would add to the community,” she says.
“Something where children can evolve and not just through sports because there’s a lot of sports available across Abu Dhabi, but there’s not many places that focus on their creativity. With all the gadgets, PlayStations, mobiles, you feel that children, and I look at my children, have all become photocopies of each other.”
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In Abu Dhabi, the weather means children spend more time indoors and conscious of this perhaps, cultivating the arts has been a cornerstone of its long-term vision for its development. As well as building a branch of the Louvre in the capital, there are a host of cultural festivals from music to film.
Mrs Bourani says she did her market research by designing a questionnaire on Survey Monkey, a free online survey software, sending it to all her contacts and asking them to share it. Encouraged by the results, she moved ahead with finding a location in Khalifa City which she took occupancy of in March after a two-year bureaucratic delay in handing over the property to tenants.
Getting the business up and running wasn’t a stroll in the park either, the French-Syrian national notes. The steps for starting your own business in the UAE – especially if it’s your first entrepreneurial effort – are not always clear and one can end up retracing steps easily. For instance, the agency responsible for facilitating the application to the labour department told her that she could apply for as many employees as she liked but when the authorities came to inspect her 70 square metres premises she was told that she’d applied for too many employees than her place had room for.
“When you’re an early business and you have no experience setting up a business, it’s a bit overwhelming,” she says.
The costs for setting up the business exceeded what the entrepreneur had expected it would be. Mrs Bourani estimates that she spent Dh250,000 – and that’s without factoring in rent and operational spending. But it does include things such as Dh8,000 for the trade licence, about Dh9,000 per employee to cover things such as the cost of the visa and about Dh100,000 for finishing the inside of the centre.
The Bulb started classes last month including lessons in drawing, sketching, watercolours and clay, but has since expanded to storytelling, yoga and life coaching, among other activities. The centre also has workshops for adults as well as children with special needs – the latter being a first for Abu Dhabi, the founder says. Activities can be taken on an individual walk-in basis or as part of a course that can run from four to 10 weeks. A fine arts activity costs between Dh75 to Dh100, while a four-week art course that runs once a week for an hour-and-a-half starts from Dh600.
Even though she has been in business for only a couple of weeks, Mrs Bourani has bigger ambitions for her nascent project and envisages a centre that will branch out into science activities as well as arts and crafts.
“It’s too early but it’s not too early in my head,” she says. “My vision is to go to from a small centre to a place that’s bigger than this where we can have science labs and computers. It’s not going to happen now, maybe in two or three years.”
The business, which has been completely self-financed, hasn’t broken even yet, but Mrs Bourani says she has been encouraged by the level of interest thus far. On the first day of opening, some 42 children showed up.
“The vibe we are getting from the community is amazing,” she says. “We don’t have a lot of subscriptions but we’re very optimistic. We’ve only been open for three weeks.”
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