We meet the two awesome mamas behind super sassy online marketplace Little Majlis
Longtime friends who share a love of creativity and beautiful things, Anna and Annabelle are also the founding partners of littlemajlis.com, an online creative community and specialist marketplace for boutique, handmade and artisan products, marketed by Gulf-based small brands and independent designer-makers (if you haven’t yet browsed the site then do so but be warned – you’ll never want to stop!). We chat to the 2 A’s about their work and families plus get the lowdown on everything from their organisational tips to some funny mama moments.
A huge thank you to photographer Steph at nektar.ae for the gorgeous photos.
Tell Us About Yourselves
We both moved to Dubai in 1999 for work and later met our husbands and had our families here (Anna has a daughter Eva and Annabelle has two boys, Huw and Owen and twin girls, Claudia and Enid).
We worked for the same company about 12 years ago and that’s when we started hatching plans to start a business of our own. Before the weekend markets kicked off, there was a really exciting underground scene of independent designer-makes and small brands and we were compelled to create a platform to showcase this growing part of the community.
In 2012 littlemajlis.com was launched. It’s an online creative community and marketplace for hard to find products from local brands. We now have a growing community of 250+ sellers, mainly based in UAE but also throughout the GCC. Our upgraded platform is set to go live imminently and we’re excited about what the future holds for Little Majlis and small business in the UAE.
Have you had other careers? What made you do what you do?
In another life we both worked in Dubai’s design and construction industry. Although we each had incredibly rewarding and challenging careers, our roles had become more managerial and starting Little Majlis gave us the opportunity to get back to our design roots.
The hours are no less but running our own business gives us more flexibility to work when and where we choose which is essential for our young families.
How do you balance work and motherhood?
Annabelle: I think it’s more a case of juggling work and motherhood. Getting the balance right is really hard. Our business is organic and changeable and so we’re continuously adapting how we do things which tends to have a knock on to our family life.
Anna: I honestly do not feel like I am very good at balancing it at all! Other mothers have told me there is always guilt, regardless of your commitments and how you choose to manage them; it will always feel like you are being torn. For me it is more of a case of just getting on with it. Having said that, I am fortunate that my husband is quite hands on.
How do you save time? What are your organisational tips and tricks?
Annabelle: I’m a big list writer. I shop online for most things and also confess to buying pre-cut vegetables as a dinnertime prep time saver! During the week our work and family routine is pretty rigid which help me keep on top of things.
Anna: Routine and trying to shake the perfectionist within me. Focusing on the things that matter rather then getting overwhelmed with the details has certainly helped.
Do you have any tips for aspiring “mamapreneurs” and other working mamas in Dubai?
98% of sellers at Little Majlis are women and we see so many amazing talented people. What we’ve learned since Little Majlis started is that some mamapreneurs are hobbiests who love what they do and are content with the thrill each sales brings them, while others are more serious about making a living from their business. There’s no shame in which ever path a mamapreneur chooses, but our tip is to know what type of mamapreneur you are and be realistic about your expectations and how much time and passion you can dedicate to your venture.
Favourite activity with your kids in Dubai?
Annabelle: Hitting up the beach on a Friday afternoon for some no frills family time in the fresh air and sunshine is impossible to beat.
Anna: Daily afternoon pool time, and winter weekend milkshakes and swing sessions at Al Khazan park.
Favourite kid-friendly restaurants in Dubai?
Annabelle: We’re fans of the burgers and shakes at the Brunswick – best way to break up a shopping expedition.
Anna: Tolosa at Souk Al Bahar hands down. A simple grown up bistro with great food and staff that entertain kids while making you feel like you are visiting Faulty Towers (in a good way).
Favourite family-friendly holiday spot?
Getting away from work is really hard so holidays have been light on the past few years. We’re both huge fans of Sri Lanka – we love the people, the beaches, the gorgeous villas, the downtime and that it’s just 4 hours away.
Favourite date-night restaurants?
Annabelle: Sad but true, most evenings tend to involve work so date night doesn’t come around too often. When it does, we like to keep it casual so places like The Noodle House are on my hit list.
Anna: Packaging Little Majlis cards in front of a movie is as good as it gets around here at the moment, but when we do venture out you’ll find us back at Tolosa – the 2min walk and the duck and truffle burger has me hooked.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received as a parent?
Annabelle: That you can’t spoil a newborn – that first 6 weeks is so fleeting that you need to throw routines out the window and just soak in every moment. And take loads of photos on a real camera.
Anna: To always fit a chunk of quality daily family time in, even when you are overwhelmed with work (thanks Annabelle!); it works a treat as no one feels like they are missing out and you can get back to your to-do list without the guilt.
Give us your essential new mama advice that might never occur to other women.
Annabelle: Not very original, but always trust your instincts.
Anna: Apart from the obvious advice to just ensure everyone stays alive, there really is no right or wrong way of doing things, just lots (and lots) of opinions. Smile, filter the comments and recognize people who seem to be on the same wavelength as you. It’s that crew that will become your go to people.
As a mama I wish I was better at…
Annabelle: Asking for help.
Anna: Focusing on being present. Being able to sing would also be handy, on a number of levels.
Best mama moment to date…
Annabelle: They’re all rather good, however Eva spending time with her grandparents is quite special.
Anna: All the silly giggle moments – so good for the mind!
Worst mama moment to date…
Annabelle: I’ve had my fair share of cringeworthy public toddler meltdown moments, but the worst in terms of scariness was the 4 days my girls had in nicu when they were born.
Anna: Our first Doctors appointment after leaving the hospital was not my finest hour. Things just weren’t going my way, and the fact my husband split his trousers down the front didn’t help our cause. I still want to hunt that doctor down and show him a snap of our now chubby 2 year old – he really made me feel like I wasn’t winning at being a new mama (it’s obvious I wasn’t, but a bit of cheer leading would have been appreciated).
One thing I won’t sacrifice as a mama is…
Annabelle: The desire to want to make sure my child is happy.
Anna: Annabelle’s right, you can’t ask for more than happy healthy kids.
I wake up in the middle of the night thinking about….
Annabelle: You, Anna!!
Anna: Little Majlis! I often wake up in the morning feeling like I have just worked a night shift.
Even when my children have families of their own, I’ll still…
Annabelle: Be learning how to be a good mum and grandmother, and wondering if I really am / have turned into my own mother.
Anna: Mother them, but hopefully in a non-smothering, non-judgmental and always constructive way.
My favourite moment of the day is…
Annabelle: I’m a fan of the couple of hours after school, free of playdates and afterschool activities when we can just hang out at home before the dinner time craziness kicks in.
Anna: Bath time, leading up to bedtime and don’t judge me – but nap time deserves a big high five (if only I was the high five type) and I dread the day it all comes to a crashing end.
I always feel saner after…
Annabelle: A good night’s sleep. Little Majlis days can be unpredictable and often leave us working until the early hours of the morning. I now know sleep makes me a better person, and much easier to live with.
Anna: Yes, agree with the sleep, and maybe a sneaky Friday morning lie-in every now and then.
I wish I had more time for…
Annabelle: Holidays and date night!
Anna: Sleep, holidays and date night!
Bedtime is always smoother when…
Annabelle: Mark my husband is home – moral support and another set of hands for the witching hour is always a good thing.
Anna: Bedtime is proceeded by some outdoor craziness to burn off excess energy.