We had the pleasure of sitting down with the inspirational Mompreneur behind one of Dubai’s business stars, BookMunch, Dareen Charafeddine.
Mompreneurs WW: Tell us about your company
Dareen: BookMunch is an award-winning café and bookshop concept. It’s very much a café for the community. We welcome absolutely anyone from Safa Park’s daybreak joggers to drop-off mums from the many surrounding primary schools, weekend family brunch seekers, food bloggers, book lovers, WIFI nomads, coffee connoisseurs and carrot and courgette cake lovers… It is a place for book clubs to meet… and for people to come together and enjoy, whether they’re looking for a quick coffee, lunch with friends or the chance to browse our books and treat themselves to something delicious.
From our delicious food, a family focused catering side of the business developed. We now cater to several schools and nurseries in our neighborhood.
Mompreneurs WW: How did the idea of starting it come about and who inspired you?
Dareen: BookMunch is a café that brings together two of life’s greatest pleasures, reading and eating. And the idea, I later discovered, comes from an upbringing where my mother would always, in passing, talk about starting a similar concept herself. So the plan was already kind of engraved in my mind when I experienced the café/bookshop concepts in Europe and the US. Add to that, my love for food and books. Even as a child, I was quite the gourmand and spent quite some time of our family vacations inspecting fridge displays at patisseries and street cafes. So, it was only natural for me to join my family’s catering side of the business at some point in my life. Similarly, my story with books started when my aunt gave me my first copy of Anne of Green Gables at the Montreal public library. Twenty years later, I became a publisher and the idea of starting a café with some personal touch, kept lingering in my mind. It was just inevitable.
Mompreneurs WW: What is the best part of what you do and the toughest?
Dareen: Best of part of my job is trying new recipes, receiving a new box of books, hearing lovely comments from our guests, and working with the friendliest café team in Dubai. Nothing is more rewarding than working alongside my dedicated team every single day.
In a fast-growing city like Dubai, the toughest part of the job is recruiting the right people and retaining them.
Mompreneurs WW: How many kids do you have and how old are they?
Dareen: I became a mum for the first time at 28, and I am proud of bringing life to this world – three times now. Lama is eleven, Bassel is nine and Salam is five, and they already inspire me (each in their own way).
Mompreneurs WW: How do you juggle work and life balance?
Dareen: I don’t… I’m not the best juggler. I am very lucky as I mostly work while my children are at school. I make it a point to pick them up from school every day. I’m even luckier, that my home, BookMunch and school are all within the same kilometer radius. There are days, however, where I need to work on weekends or late afternoons, which is why I make use of all resources I have, my husband, our amazing nanny, and nowadays my eldest daughter who helps her younger siblings with homework, reading etc.
Mompreneurs WW: What’s a book you always recommend and why?
Dareen: The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell-
The Tipping Point is “that magic moment when an idea, trend, or social behavior crosses a threshold, tips, and spreads like wildfire.” I read the Tipping Point first back in 2001 when I was in graduate school. I’ve read it again and again through the years at different stages of my life. The book has changed the way I look at marketing my business, especially on social media, considering it didn’t exist when Gladwell wrote the Tipping Point. Another tipping point concept that resonates with me is that details make a huge difference and often prepare for the bigger picture. I always think of branding BookMunch along those lines as the little things also tend to “stick”. Everyone should read the Tipping Point at some point, and I would particularly recommend it to entrepreneurs.
Mompreneurs WW: What advice would you give a Mompreneur who was just starting out?
Dareen: I would tell her to take the leap, yet be realistic about what she can and can’t do. There is no super mum concept. She will never be able to give 100% to either work or family, and that always comes along with a feeling guilt (even if she has put the best support system in place). I used to be more organized before I had kids. Now, I live by checklists and calendar reminders and still miss on things.
But not to worry, guilt will start fading away. Give it time, and be easy on yourself.
After all, there is this pride and joy of building something completely on your own (especially when it’s something you are passionate about!)
Mompreneurs WW: Your favorite quote is…
Dareen: The grass is always greener on the other side!