Despite often claiming to have lofty goals of changing the world, many start-ups are still purely profit driven. Some, like Mums@Work, were started with a mission in mind, and continue to be underpinned by that mission to this day.
Louise Karim, who joined the company as managing director two and a half years ago when it was launched by Dubai-based recruitment agency McKenzie Jones, says she was inspired to not just build a business, but a network too.
“We wanted to create a community for professional women, not just mothers,” Karim said in a recent interview.
Aimed at women looking for flexible work options, whether that be part-time work, working from home, or full-time employment but flexible, Karim says she wanted to offer “return to work opportunities for women in Dubai.”
Mums@Work says it provides free training to women who want to expand their skill sets, work on their CVs, learn how to network, or simply build their confidence.
The company also assists women in starting up their own businesses, which Karim says is common, simply because so many women are unable to find a job that fits in with their life.
Of course, the start-up is not a charity, and as such needs to make money in order to finance its not-for-profit activities.
“We saw a massive gap in the market back in 2015. There was lots of untapped talent going to waste just because women had taken a work break,” Karim said.
Waste of talent
Research that the start-up conducted alongside YouGov in 2016 found that 77 per cent of mothers in the UAE would choose to return to work after giving birth, if they were able to do so on a flexible or part-time basis.
“Think about that for a minute. What a huge waste of super talented women who are keen to return to the workplace and who would bring so many benefits to business — all they need is a little flexibility in the ways of working,” Karim has said previously.
It seems like “a no-brainer,” she added. “Since launch, we have found so many companies agree.”
To date, the start-up has partnered with EY and Standard Chartered, among others, to create schemes that allow women to go back to work after having children.
Despite insisting that the start-up views itself as more of a community than a recruitment agency, Mums@Work’s bread and butter is just that: Recruitment.
Karim says that it’s not traditional recruitment, however.
“We do a lot of work with small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). They want experienced staff, but can’t always afford them. We can offer a top human resources director who wants to work part-time, and it’s a perfect fit for an SME,” she said.
“Many women haven’t worked for four years, but their DNA hasn’t changed. They just need flexibility.”
Multinational corporations with global diversity and inclusion goals have also contributed to Mums@Work’s recruitment success.
The managing director estimates that the company has trained or placed around 2,500 women to date, with a further 15,000 women it says are looking for work.
Still, Karim says much of her work is about travelling around the country educating businesses on the benefits of hiring talented, experienced women who have taken a break from work.
Despite having a busy schedule fighting to change perceptions and helping women get back to work, Karim says she still has one eye on expansion: Initial conversations and enquiries have come from Kuwait, Bahrain, and Saudi Arabia.
“David McKenzie [the founder of McKenzie Jones] has even said there is interest in the UK for something like Mums@Work, because there’s no one really doing anything similar there,” she said.
In order to fuel such growth, however, the start-up will need to raise money. To date, Mums@Work has been self-funded by McKenzie Jones, in addition to some successful crowdfunding on Dubai-based lending platform Beehive. Karim says the company hit its funding target on the site within a week.
“We need the right partner so we can continue doing what we want, and not be too commercialised,” she said.
“We have big plans. Certainly if we can get a big chunk of investment then we can look at expanding to the rest of the Middle East. A family office would be our preferred route over a venture capital firm,” Karim added.
The managing director says that she aims to have closed the company’s first round of funding by next year.
Year Founded: 2016
Founder: David McKenzie
Funding: Declined to specify
Source: Gulf News