Leadership Spotlight: Rumana Mowjee, Gymboree Play and Music

Tell us about your background and your journey to Managing Partner and Master Franchise Holder at Gymboree Play & Music UAE.

I started off my career as a Chartered Accountant at PwC Dublin, Ireland and completed my qualification in 2011. I then moved to the USA where I started my first business, Eye Level Learning Centre, a Franchise model that focused on after school classes for children 5 – 15 years of age.  I ran that business profitably for about five years. In 2020 during the peak of COVID I realized being closer to my parents, family and friends in India was a priority in my life.  While looking for opportunities in the UAE I decided to find out more about Gymboree Play & Music.  Our daughters were preschool age at the time, so we ended up attending at least one Birthday a month at Gymboree for their friends.  Gymboree is a unique venue for kids and left a very positive impression on me because of the Play & Learn nature of the business.  As a parent you feel good about bringing your kids here.  When I saw that UAE didn’t have a Gymboree Play & Music Franchise, I pursued the opportunity and after about a year of hard work was able to acquire a Master Franchisee rights for the UAE. Our flagship store opened at The Galleria AlBarsha February 2022.

What is your mission/purpose?

I am incredibly lucky to be part of so many kids’ formative years.  It truly brings joy to our lives when we see a child’s growth through the activities, programs and classes we provide.  We help children get confident at an early age. Realizing their potential early will serve them well for the rest of their lives.  That has become my mission, to help Children realize their potential, and I want to be able to do it for every child and parent in the UAE.    

What are you most proud of achieving in your career?

My proudest moment till date was the opening of my first store in the Galleria Mall, Al Barsha.  When I started the project, I had recently moved to Dubai.  I had to learn everything from scratch.  How to register a business, how to hire employees, locations and everything that goes along with starting a new business.  Doing it in a new country added more complexity.  Luckily, Dubai encourages entrepreneurship.  I was able to register my business quickly.  After checking over 50 locations we decided on a location, we hired contractors and builders, a marketing team and our wonderful teaching staff.  Through consistent hard work I was able to get the doors open to one of the biggest Gymboree Play & Music locations in the world by taking one step at a time.  Opening the doors and having customers walk into the business, loving the concept and trusting us with their little ones has been one of the most rewarding experiences in my life.

How have your previous corporate insights helped you in your current position?

My auditing skills are always useful in the day to day running of my company and my accounting knowledge comes in use to make financial decisions.  But I think having corporate experience also helps me with communicating with my counterparts effectively.  As a Master Franchisee I deal with the corporate counterparts at Gymboree in San Francisco  very often.  Having been in an office environment I understand the pressures my colleagues in the head office face daily.  It helps me negotiate when necessary knowing the limitations or pressures they must face daily, having been part of the corporate culture and hierarchy earlier in my career 

What are some of the challenges you have faced whilst establishing your business? And how have you overcome them?

The biggest challenge I have faced during the opening of both the stores is negotiations with mall managements and the legal contracts.  The legal and paperwork side of things is a challenge.   It’s my job to make sure I negotiate the best contracts for my company, my employees and my customers to provide them with a space that is fun, safe and at the highest standards.  

There are a lot of details that are very important and need to be worked out while negotiating with the mall management.  We tried to resolve any issues before starting construction, but as anyone who has built a store from scratch can attest to, there are many things that come up during the construction.  Even the day we were opening there were negotiations going on that would have put our opening day in jeopardy. With hard work and collaborative attitude, we overcame those challenges and opened the store as planned.

And your biggest success?

My greatest achievement? Balancing a full-time business while caring for my family. It’s about juggling work demands with family needs and finding harmony between the two. In the world of entrepreneurship, I’ve faced challenges head-on, pouring energy into growing my business. But amidst the hustle, family remains my priority. Successfully managing both realms isn’t just about personal triumph—it’s the essence of my success. By nurturing my business while cherishing family moments, I’ve found fulfilment and purpose. In a nutshell, it’s about thriving in both work and family life—a balancing act that defines my journey.

What does a day in your life look like?

Being a mom of 2 lovely daughters, my day starts early with dropping the children off to school, after which I’m at one of the stores.  Then it’s off to Gymboree. Before opening our doors, we inspect and clean all equipment. As children and their parents arrive, I make it a point to greet our regular visitors, engage with parents, and touch base with new members about their class experiences. I try to participate in at least a few classes weekly not only to support my team but also because it’s fun. Seeing the joyful expressions of parents and children during their learning activities is the highlight of my day. Most days I only have time for a working lunch. My afternoons are filled with meetings, calls, and administrative tasks, like sourcing supplies at competitive prices. Despite the busy schedule, the vibrant atmosphere at Gymboree invigorates me, and I feel privileged to play a role in enriching the lives of children in our community.

What is your favorite leadership quote?

If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.

What are your future goals with Gymboree Play and Music?

Having done the hard work of opening two stores of our own in Dubai, we are looking to expand to other cities like Abu Dhabi.  We are also seeking moms and dads who would want to invest in a Gymboree Play & Music franchise of their own.  Our goal is to have a Gymboree Play & Music accessible to every child in the UAE.

How can readers find out more about yourself and Gymboree Play and Music?

We are always available on WhatsApp at +971 50 2054942.  Also parents should follow our Instagram page @gymboreeplayandmusicdubai to find out all the fun activities happening at Gymboree Play & Music.  Our website also has our contact, locations and a ton of other information at www.gymboreeclasses.ae

Editor-In-Chief of Bizpreneur Middle East