CEO Spotlight: Rana El Sakhawy, Founder & CEO MonkiBox

Tell us about your background. How did you get started in business?

Ever since I was young I have always been very entrepreneurial and love problem solving and building and growing startups. I founded a few start-ups previously that never quite made it, but were huge learning experiences for me. Right before starting MonkiBox, I was part of the initial team to grow Uber in the Middle East.

What Made You Found MonkiBox?

One morning, I sat down on the floor of my daughter’s play area and watched her pull up to a plastic “activity center” table, the kind with all the crazy features. She pushed a button, music started playing, and lights started flashing. She pushed another and more lights and music. She quickly moved on to something else, unimpressed, and I sat there feeling disconnected. At that moment, I began to question: What is this experience actually doing for her and us? I looked around at the other toys. What were any of them teaching her and doing for her cognitive development? I started doing my research and learned that 85% of your brain develops in the first 3 years of life. This is the most critical time for a child’s development but most parents don’t know how to best support their child’s growth. I started MonkiBox to support parents and help them feel confident that they are helping their children learn through play. MonkiBox is a subscription program that supports early brain development with toys that turn playtime into a learning experience.

How did you fund the business during the start-up phase?

The business was fully bootstrapped, and I was making sure to be very lean and efficient to maintain a positive cash flow.

What is your most significant accomplishment since founding MonkiBox?

It’s been an amazing experience and journey and I’m so proud of every accomplishment to date. Being chosen to be part of the Cartier Women’s Initiative was a tremendous achievement for us as it provided us with the credibility and resources to expand our impact and make early childhood development more accessible. Partnering up with the Abu Dhabi Early Childhood Development Authority was also a key accomplishment for us.

Take Us Through A Typical Day As CEO Of MonkiBox.

My day starts by taking my youngest to nursery then heading to the office. I typically start by going through my to-do list, schedule, and plan my day accordingly. Usually, days get quickly filled with team meetings and calls, however, I make it a point to block a few hours to fully concentrate on strategic projects or tasks. I head home to hang out with my kids and try to get some exercise in before dinner.

What are your main goals for MonkiBox for the next 3 years?

Our vision is to be a go-to resource for early childhood development in the region and thereby improve outcomes for all children. We plan to enter more markets and offer more products and services to support parents.

What is the number ONE piece of advice you would give to women who are starting out in entrepreneurship with no prior experience?

Don’t be afraid to try, fail, and put yourself out there! Each failure is an opportunity to learn and grow.

How Can Readers Find Out More About You?

Please follow us on Instagram @monkibox

Editor-In-Chief of Bizpreneur Middle East