The Sassiest Mama Awards 2015
As CEO and MD of 2 of Dubai’s most recognised and loved beauty and food businesses, this mama of 3 has been on an amazing professional journey that has taken her from news reporting in Washington to recognising the opportunity to launch her own business in Dubai. She longs for peace in her native Palestine and wishes to instill a confidence for individuality over conformity in her kids – and she loves visiting Karama and Deira for delicious authentic food.
Who’s The Mama?
Full Name: Lama Bazzari
Occupation: CEO NStyle International & Managing Director BICE Restaurant Group
Children: Farrah 12 years old, Omar 8 years old, Karim 5 years old
How long have you lived in Dubai? I have lived in Dubai since 1998.
1) Tell us about your business/businesses and why you started them.
I launched NStyle International in Bahrain in 2001 as was moving there for 1 year due to marriage & was eager to set up my own business & found Bahrain, a small and vibrant market as the perfect test market to launch the concept & since then the company has expanded to 30 branches spanning Kuwait, Jordan, across the UAE and Canada. An opportunity knocked our door in 2005 to buy into the BICE Restaurant group mother company & in our goal to diversify our business portfolio we leaped into the opportunity & we currently operate over 40 restaurants spanning the globe in the casual and fine dining sectors & are further expanding the brands.
2) What do you feel have been your biggest achievements both in your personal life and career so far?
Growing NStyle from 1 branch to 30 branches & from the original 6 employees to over 800 worldwide over the past 14 years is years & from 6 original employees to over 800 has been an amazing journey that continues with our very ambitious expansion plans into 2016. I am also deeply honoured by the industry and business awards we win across our brand portfolio from NStyle to Sapori di BICE winning Best Italian Casual restaurant Dubai in its first year of operation as voted by What’s On Dubai & BICE Mare winning Best Seafood Restaurant 3 years in a row by What’s On Magazine & BICE Hilton bagging numerous awards.
From a personal point of view, launching our Give NStyle platform that offers micro loans and angel investment funds to thousands of under privileged woman across the MENA region so they can set up their own small businesses has been over the years the backbone of my day to day priorities.
nothing is more inspiring or rewarding to me than the privilege of positively impacting the lives of very inspirational women who against all odds set up small businesses to support their families well being & make ends meet.
3) As a child what did you dream of being when you ‘grew up’?!
I always had a passion for journalism and news reporting & in fact pursued this career straight out of college in Washington DC & worked with UPI newswire under its veteran White House reporter Helen Thomas & then with C-SPAN TV Network covering hearings in congress & the senate at The Capitol. Working with Helen Thomas was a magnificent learning curve as her passion, hard work & dedication for reporting the news was inspirational & was a tremendous learning curve for me. Working at C-SPAN, a large corporate machine offered me expansive work experience in US corporate culture that undoubtedly came in handy when I set up NStyle.
4) If you had 3 wishes, what would they be?
Palestine, my beloved homeland would live in permanent peace. The harsh economic & political blockade on Gaza would be lifted permanently & with a magic wound I can alleviate the ailing poverty & lack of job opportunities facing millions in our region.
5) What does being a Sassy Mama mean to you?
A ‘mama’ comfortable in her own skin that does what she loves and loves what she does & values her individuality & uniqueness over conformity & instils these values in her kids.
6) What’s a typical day in your life like?
When the kids head to school, I focus my day on work & tend to be in meetings up to midday. After lunch, I focus on several philanthropic projects I am currently working on and it’s then time to pick up the kids from school. I enjoy having lunch with the kids & spend the afternoon with them doing homework and activities & subsequently dinner & bedtime. Evenings tend to be relaxing over a movie, dinner with my husband or with close friends or simply catching up on a really good book as I am an avid reader.
7) What’s your guilty pleasure?
As I am Palestinian, it is definitely Knafeh and my husband makes the best home made Knafeh!
8) What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given in your personal life and career?
Career wise ‘do what you love & love what you do & turn obstacles into opporunities’ As for personal, it is in fact my own advice that I live by ‘seek to make a difference in the life of the unfortunate & reap unparalleled rewards to your mind & soul.’
9) What do you most enjoy doing as a family in Dubai?
We enjoy the outdoors when the weather is nice & tend to spend the weekends at the beach or enjoying barbeques with friends in our garden.
10) What is the ‘best-kept’ secret in Dubai, something fellow mamas should know about?
Some of our favourite Indian, Persian & Shawerma haunts are all based out of Karama and Deira and we enjoy visiting them from time to time for their authentic and traditional feel and delicious food & it reminds me of my earlier days in Dubai in 1998 when in fact these were the in places for traditional food.
11) Which three words best describe your personality?
Ambitious, hard working, focused.
12) What advice would you have for a new mama?
A first born is a steep learning curve so you can never be fully prepared, however, the maternal instincts do kick in & you will find yourself in control and cherishing the experience in no time.
13) What advice would you give to a mama who wants to go back to work or start her own business but is worried about juggling family and career?
It’s never easy to jump back into a career after a break, however managing a career and a family is highly achievable with effective time management & the setting of priorities, allowing any woman to juggle both as when you manage your time well & make sure your priorities are set, you end up being very productive on both fronts without feeling overwhelmed & it’s the quality of time spent with kids that matters & not the quantity so kudos to all mothers who manage both as they are the perfect role models for there kids especially there daughters.
14) If you were on an island and could bring only 3 things (family not included) what would they be?
As family is not included, I would take my fully loaded kindle, my soul mate and best buddy Lena for good laughs & a boat so we can jet out for supplies & discover the adjacent islands.
15) Top 3 books?
Too many to list as I am an avid reader but a few that come to mind now: The Intelligent Investor by Benjamin Graham, The Outsiders by William Thorndike and Spark by John Ratey.
16) Describe your style.
Less is more
17) If there was a movie produced about your life, who would you choose to play you and why?
I would select Angelina Jolie as I admire her strong personality, dedication to her family, her passion and love for philanthropy & her stance on standing up for the plight of refugees.
18) Tell us something funny that your kids have said or done.
My son Omar was 4 at the time and we were in Barcelona at an amusement park. He was having such a great time on several rides that he turned to us and said ‘Let Hassan build one in our garden.’ Hassan works in our maintenance and construction department and Omar sees him always fixing and building things, so he wanted him to build the entire amusement park in our backyard!
Just the other day my 5 year old Karim expressed his opinion about my constant desire to snap photos of him and his sibling and telling them to smile, by telling me ‘Why I smile for the camera? Is it important like science or soccer, what am I learning from Smile to camera, it’s not important.’
Thanks to The Studio for the gorgeous pics! Book your photography experience on (+971) (0)4 347 1745.
Special thanks also to Sassy Mama Dani for coordinating mamas and photographers while juggling 3 little ones too!