Female Founder Spotlight: Suman Manning

How did you find yourself launching TwinsPlusArabia?

I have been on a mission since 2011 to create a warm, enveloping community that offers invaluable support to all parents on, or just starting, the unique and rewarding journey of bearing and raising multiples. A site dedicated to Twins, Triplets and more felt like a natural extension of this mission – from providing specialized products (triplet strollers, anyone?) to quirky and fun products and of course bulk deals, TwinsPlus Arabia’s eCommerce site is as they say ‘by the community, for the community’.

My background is in events and exhibitions having worked for corporates like Informa ME and Messe Frankfurt before children, so it was natural to organise a festival for Twins and Triplets to bring together the region’s multiples for the first of its kind event. We were all surprised with the success – we had over 600 sets of twins, over 47 sets of triplets and even 4 sets of quads along with 5000 visitors in Zabeel park over a decade ago. That’s how our community grew in leaps and bounds and we now have a thriving community of multiples, and we are growing every day.

How long did it take from your first idea to your first sale?

We sold immediately on going live with the site as we had a demand for some products like The Family Calendar, Reward Charts, and Preemie Pacifiers (for premature babies) which we stocked exclusively.

How did the brand evolve? What marketing strategies did you implement? Have you used social media to grow your business? Or another advertising channel?

The brand has evolved quite organically with customers dictating the introduction of new brands, the products and the range.

We have been able to respond this way due to the inbuilt community we have with the TwinsPlus Arabia families who are our sounding board and research team! We give them what they need. We are still exploring new marketing channels for the future – our customers mainly have found us via facebook groups up to now.

What is the biggest challenge you have faced in growing the company?

With no prior experience of running an ‘ecommerce company’, we have had to learn quickly during the pandemic to ensure our customer orders were met quickly and safely. We faced a few challenges in the beginning, finding reliable courier partners as well as competing with huge discounts offered by other retailers that we could not match. Where unrealistic, we stepped away from those products and focused on our strengths and grew from there.

How did covid-19 impact your business? What challenges did you face and how did you overcome them?

We actually launched the ecommerce site in February 2020, just weeks before the pandemic hit us, literally, with both my husband and I testing positive in March of that year. Luckily, we recovered quickly and by the time lockdown was upon us in May 2020, we were able to focus on and cater to the need for toys, activities and essentials delivered to people’s homes.

We actually did well business wise and learned a lot about our product offerings and grew. Our challenges were getting products from our suppliers and distributors who were hit hard by staff being sick. Being a small company, we were a lot more agile and able to make same or next day deliveries.

As a female founder balancing family life with a career, what is the number one piece of advice you would give other mums venturing out into entrepreneurship?

Get help to ensure the tasks around the home that don’t need you specifically do them such as cleaning, laundry, making up lunchboxes, shopping for groceries. These can be done by someone else leaving you time to meal plan, spend time with the children and your partner and do things you enjoy for yourself.

You must also be kind to yourself as being an entrepreneur is all consuming and it does take a toll on you emotionally, mentally, and physically. Delegate and involve your husband and helper or extended family if possible.

What are your plans for the next 3 years?

We have so many plans from opening our first physical retail space – which is both exhilarating and terrifying at the same time – to setting up the first ever research based studies on twins and triplets in the region. We would also like to hold more in person meet ups, festivals, and celebrate the community more going forward.

Being present in the surrounding GCC countries especially KSA is another milestone we aim to reach and we look forward to what the future holds.

Editor-In-Chief of Bizpreneur Middle East