Day in the life: For Doha mumpreneur, success is in the bag

By day Reem Salman works as a commercial lawyer for a multinational company in Doha, where she lives, along with being mother to her 13-month-old son. But by night the 35-year-old Jordanian-Italian manages Belquis Handbags, a fashion brand she launched in February and registered at the Dubai Design District. Belquis sells Italian leather bags, designed by Ms Salman herself, for US$600 to $980 each. Sales are currently through its website, with delivery worldwide. The entrepreneur spends much of her annual leave on trips to Tuscany to visit her supplier – leaving her just seven holiday days to herself this year. Ms Salman describes a typically busy 24 hours juggling her day job, e-commerce start-up and parental duties.


I wake when my son wakes up – I’m lucky if it is 5am. I’m not a morning person, so life changed drastically after my son joined our family. But then it couldn’t be a better morning. It’s prime time for me, because that’s when I spend quality time with my son. At 7am I have breakfast, a sandwich followed by some fruit, and get ready for work.


I arrive at work to a large number of emails that I need to go through. I don’t function without a to-do list. Covering a big business with lots of regions, I have to prioritise.


It’s back-to-back meetings. If it’s an internal meeting, it’s normally about what legal risks there are in the contract, the deal structure or how we’re going to tackle the negotiations with the customer. Every day it’s a new question. The region is not easy. You can never be an expert in every country, so there are always new problems that you need to think about.


I call home when my son wakes up from his nap. I have a nanny at home. My son will be going to nursery in the winter, but during the summer I thought that it was too harsh to have him leave home every day in the humidity and heat.


I don’t break for lunch; I just have a sandwich or fruit as I work. Then it’s more meetings, because that’s when it’s morning in the United States. It’s mostly conference calls and telepresence. I have about four meetings a day on average. I cover a large region, so it involves talking to external counsel as well. I don’t like slow-paced jobs. If I go to work and I have only one or two things to do, it doesn’t motivate me.


I leave work and go straight home because my son sleeps anywhere between 7.30pm or 8pm. Before that we take him to the playroom for a little bit and have dinner – just a quick bite as I play with my son.


I dedicate the evening to Belquis Handbags. I have a manager that manages the day-to-day business. We get updates if she has questions on strategy or how to move forward with certain things. This is also when I reply to emails, send the sketches and comments to the supplier, and so on. Then I monitor the social media and update it if necessary. I’m the main person who designs the bags, but we have a group of people who work on the design as well. The hard part becomes how to communicate it to the supplier. There are language differences, communication issues and distance to deal with. Sometimes you think a sketch is clear enough, and then you get the sample and it’s totally unrelated. So it’s not easy – it costs us a lot of time and money to get to the final bag. But it’s doable. So far we are only selling online. All studies say internet shopping is picking up really well in the Middle East. We’re not worried about that. It’s just that we need the brand recognition to be stronger and to have that credibility. Specifically, what makes us unique is the quality. That’s why we are now thinking of going the department store route, because we want people to actually see the quality.


It’s directly to bed. I’m normally asleep by 10.30pm because I have an early morning start. Sometimes my husband, who is also a lawyer, and I will just look at each other and we cannot speak – we are just exhausted. But it is rewarding. Before we started the business we knew it was going to take part of our time. We knew it was going to be exhausting – and we decided to go for it anyway.

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