x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 January 2018

Kidville owners work at balancing home and office

The Life: Doug MacLennan and Monica Malhotra discuss the dynamics of being married as they expand their Kidville franchise together.

Monica Malhotra and her husband Doug MacLennan plan to expand the Kidville franchise in the Emirates. Jaime Puebla / The National
Monica Malhotra and her husband Doug MacLennan plan to expand the Kidville franchise in the Emirates. Jaime Puebla / The National

Monica Malhotra and Doug MacLennan are a wife-and-husband team with ambitious plans to expand the Kidville franchise in the Emirates. The owners talk about growing to 10 locations by 2015 - and the dynamics of working together while married.

You've said the Kidville franchise, which you imported from the US to Jumeirah Beach Residence (JBR) last year, isn't a nursery, play group or an activity centre. What exactly is it?

Monica: Kidville is an early-learning development centre. We try to function as a home away from home. We provide classes for kids, from newborns to five-year-olds. We are a membership-based facility, which means you sign up for a class and automatically get discounts in our boutique, salon for haircuts, on birthdays and priority invites for events. We have an indoor and outdoor play space, and state-of-the-art gym.

You plan to open 10 more centres by 2015, including two in Dubai set to open this spring. But each location requires a US$500,000 (Dh1.8 million) to $900,000 investment. Is business really booming enough to warrant such an aggressive expansion?

Monica: We believe in the concept full-heartedly. I spend a lot of time at the JBR facility and talk to members, who oftentimes say, "where are you opening next and can you open one in my neighbourhood?"

Doug: We did a lot of research in the neighbourhoods and demographics of the next two locations that we've chosen. We have those statistics, and we also back it up with a lot of anecdotal evidence from members who come from far away. That was the impetus to coming into the UAE - there was a real need for this Kidville concept.

Have you ever disagreed with one another on your expansion plan, and how have you navigated that?

Monica: Yeah, of course we do disagree on things. We're both professionals. You stay disciplined by applying those workplace rules. When you're working it's like working with a peer. Then we go home and relax and try not to discuss work.

Do you ever bend that rule?

Doug: The exception is if one of us approaches the other really nicely and says, "I know you're reading a book right now, but is it OK if I ask you a question?" Monica is known to BlackBerry me right when I'm sitting on the couch.

Monica, care to elaborate?

Monica: The age of BlackBerry is so addictive. I'm so compelled to respond to e-mails. When I do it, I [copy to Doug] and he picks it up the next morning when he's at the office. It's to get it off my list. It's not that I BlackBerry him to respond to me. We talk. It's not that bad.

* Neil Parmar