Our ‘That Mama‘ this month is Ola Sinno, mother of two wonderful boys and the founder of the awesome coffee shop Spill the Bean at Sunset Mall which was founded on her love and passion for really good coffee and a need for a chilled work space. Read on to find out how Ola successfully prioritizes her daily tasks and manages a great work and family life balance – plus how she is saving the world with caffeine!
Can you tell us a little about yourself and your career?
I am a mother of 2 wonderful little boys: the oldest, Taym, is 2 years of age, the youngest, Zayn, is 3 months. I am obsessed with coffee, design, food, health and my boys. I am a passionate perfectionist and I don’t stop until I get what I want. My secret? COFFEE, of course!
I’ve loved coffee since way before I was supposed to be drinking it. When I decided to study design in college, a degree that required long hours of dedication and guaranteed all-nighters, and later when I worked in advertising, I indulged in my fair share of coffee to stay alert and focused. I even had a small portable single serving coffee maker in my design studio to help me through the long nights.
When you work in a creative industry, you often have to leave the office to work out of more inspiring set ups. So, when I started my brand consultancy office, I worked out of coffee shops very often. I could never find the perfect place to work from! Something was always missing; the set up was uncomfortable, the music was bad, the baristas were annoying, the internet was too slow or the coffee was just awful (more often than not). This started the whole ‘I should open up a coffee shop that I could spend the rest of my life in’ idea. Only when I met my partner in love, life, and now business, did the idea of starting our own concept store come to fruition.
Today, I spend most of my days in our coffee shop, feeling like a super hero (minus the cape) who serves coffee to those in dire need of caffeination and a place to hang out. I love nothing more than seeing customers walk into Spill the Bean to sip coffee, embrace their workload or chit chat in a convenient environment and witness a family run their own dream business.
Can you talk us through your career pre and post babies? How did you get back into the swing of things after having children?
I worked till a few hours before I had my baby and was back at work four days postpartum; so getting back into the swing of things wasn’t much of a problem. When you’re doing something you love, it’s not ‘work’ – it’s an addiction! I do get a lot less done these days with two kids taking up a big chunk of my time and my mind, but I do feel like I have the best of both worlds.
How do you balance work and motherhood?
I think I’ve finally got a winning formula. My youngest is with me at work all the time; and my eldest joins me in the evenings. So I make sure to pack the morning with all the business related matters that require my 100% undivided attention, and fill my nights with more child-friendly endeavours. Having my boys around makes it easier to juggle things around without being consumed with the guilt of being away from them. At the end of the day, Spill the Bean is a family run business and having the family there is part of the coffee shop’s charm. I just try to make sure that I don’t get carried away with work and forget about the play, but my boys are always there to remind me anyway. We also try to get in at least one activity that is exclusive ‘mummy and baby’ time every day to ensure our quality time doesn’t get diluted by other distractions.
How do you save time? What are your organisational tips and tricks?
Two words: SMART PHONES. I try to to check my phone for emails and calls for 5-10 minutes every hour or so. That way, I can remain connected to the business when I need to be and to the kids when I want to be. That being said, there are just so many hours in the day and at some point I decided to reconcile with the fact that not every item on my to-do list can be ticked off every day. Sometimes, you’ve just embrace disorganisation and go with the flow.
Do you have any tips for aspiring “mamapreneurs” and other working mamas in Dubai?
Just jump into it. Do it. Do it. Do it. That’s the only way it will get done!
Favourite activity with your kids in Dubai?
Anything and everything in the park or on the beach.
Favourite kid-friendly restaurants in Dubai?
We eat at the café a lot and always enjoy it. It gives me the chance to test new recipes on my family. They’re always the toughest critics to please! We also have a little playroom there so it makes the coffee after the meal a more realistic goal. Little ones with full tummies head to the playroom while mummy and daddy have a coffee! Everyone’s happy.
Favourite family-friendly holiday spot?
I’ve literally been pregnant or having a baby for the past three years of my life. I also set up the business right around the same time. Needless to say, I’ve been vacationing a lot less. Since becoming a mommy and setting up the business, I’ve gone hiking in the UK, enjoyed a short escape to Jordan, and have been back home to Lebanon a few times – all of which have been great. It’s always especially fun to go home and hang out in our house in the mountains, as the outdoors and fresh clean air are always a winner with kids.
Do you have any tips for keeping the romance alive in your relationship?
I’m not necessarily a big fan of romance to start with. I prefer intimacy and closeness; that connection you have with your partner no matter what, rather than mushy romantic gestures. But intimacy and closeness too often fade in a relationship when we take our lives, ourselves, and our responsibilities too seriously. I think it’s very important to prioritise your relationship, just as you would the kids or work, especially when things get crazy stressful. Small, simple gestures like saying something nice to each other, leaving each other a sweet or racy note, calling just to check in, even FLIRTING remind us that we’re a woman and man, not just mommy and daddy.
Favourite date-night restaurants?
We’re not too upwardly mobile at night at the moment on account of the newborn (and chronic sleep deprivation). We are loving our spur of the moment ‘picnic in the living room’ dinners though.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received as a parent?
Trust your instinct; and when in doubt, listen to your mama!
Give us your essential new mama advice that might never occur to other women.
It’s never as difficult as it may seem, just dive in and you’ll probably surprise yourself.
As a mama I wish I were better at…
Multi-tasking. Enough said!
My most humbling mama moment was…
When my eldest told me he loves me for the first time.
One thing I won’t sacrifice as a mama is…
My time with my boys. No matter what I have lined up, they will always be my number one.
I wake up in the middle of the night thinking about….
Coffee, healthy recipes for the café and plans for world domination.
Even when my children have families of their own, I’ll still…
Want to laugh with them. Few things are as beautiful as the sheer joy on your child’s face as s/he laughs. I’m also sure I’ll want to hug them and cuddle them and kiss them and embarrass the daylight out of them in the process.
My favourite moment of the day is…
Bedtime cuddles. With a book.
I always feel saner after…
A good cup of coffee.
I wish I had more time for…
Bedtime is always smoother when…
You divide and conquer! Mama grabs a kid and papa grabs the other and it’s zzzz all the way!
These gorgeous photos of Ola, Taym and Zayn are courtesy of the hugely talented and very lovely Claire Barlow of Claire Barlow Photography.