Saturday, February 22nd, 2020

Mompreneur in Dubai Serves Up All Natural Desserts

By Cathy Watters on Oct 12 2010 • Filed under World

Samia W. Ataya of Dubai didn’t plan to create a business. All she really wanted to do was find a way to eat healthy and continue to enjoy her favourite desserts. However, store bought treats were full of artificial additives, and even homemade desserts used saturated fats as part of the recipe.

Fed up, Samia began experimenting in the kitchen in 2000 and by the time her son was born two years later, she had the kind of recipes she felt good about – good enough that she wanted to share them with other moms in hopes of encouraging healthier eating habits in children.

Waiting until her youngest child started school, she launched Catwalk Cow in late 2009, becoming the first manufacturer in the Middle East of gourmet, healthy, all natural dessert mixes. (For example, brownie mixes where all you need to do is add yogurt and bake.)

She is firm believer in avoiding chemical preservatives and other artificial ingredients.

“These additives have been proven to be harmful,” she says, “and have been linked to so many behavioural issues with kids.”


As a start-up she’s on a very tight budget, so she’s had to be creative when it comes to marketing and advertising. Although she’s active in social media like Twitter and Facebook, she finds her most effective advertising comes from face-to-face product sampling. She bakes up the desserts and brings them to chilldren’s events like organized mom and child playgroups, music groups, school bazaars and fairs, and even through birthday planners. In addition, she also holds samplings at gyms, spas and ladies’ organizations.

With just one assistant, Samia does most of the work herself, from running the machinery in the factory and monitoring every stage of production, to sales.

“At this early stage, I have to be on top of everything personally,” she says. “I am also trying to expand into new markets in the Middle East and as a new company with a very niche product, I need to handle talks and communication with potential distributors in those regions myself.”


One of the major issues when launching a food manufacturing business is the amount of regulatory and health related processes and challenges one has to go through. The United Arab Emerite (UAE) and other Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries have some of the highest, stringent standards to comply with for food manufacturing – from factory fit-out, food processing, packaging, labelling and actual claims made by the manufacturer. In addition, retailers demand products with a shelf life of at least one year.

“Taking the recipe from a ‘home kitchen’ version to one that can meet those demands without the use of artificial additives and preservatives was a huge undertaking,” says Samia.

Family Life

A stay-at-home mom for nine years, Samia is working hard to make sure her business activities impact family life as little as possible. She reserves time in the evenings just for her and her husband to have dinner and hang out together after the kids are in bed, and during the day, she works in the office while the kids are at school. She’s there for dinner, to help with homework, and still finds time to squeeze in a few phone calls and emails where she can. Weekends are family time – the kids look forward to spending time at the beach with their grandparents, while Samia brings her laptop in case she can find a few hours during the day to work on her business. However, she does most of her work at night, and she admits it’s an exhausting schedule.

She says her days feel more hectic because she’s always on a deadline, but finds it easier than being a full-time, stay-at-home mom.

“The challenges may be different but nothing wears you out like being a mom, especially mentally,” Samia says. “Motherhood definitely enabled me to be where I am today. It perfected my skills of multi-tasking, made me an impeccable organizer and the physical stamina well, let’s just say I have been working 16 hour days seven days a week for seven months now and you couldn’t pay me to go back to motherhood hours!” 


Business Tips:

 1. Have a very strong work ethic: being an entrepreneur is much more demanding than people think. It is not a more comfortable alternative and be prepared to put in many more hours of work than what would be considered the norm.

 2. Be prepared to make decisions quickly: you'll be bombarded with areas that you've never been exposed to but you’ll have to adapt and learn fast.

 3. Professional integrity is everything: your company's reputation is a directly linked to how you conduct yourself in business. Never compromise your integrity for a quick profit.

 4. Details, details, details: that’s where all problems stem from. Be prepared to get into the lowest level of detail with everything in the early stages of your business.

5. The challenges never end: as you overcome some, new ones pop up and I have found that focused planning will give you more 'heads up' visibility on the challenges that lie ahead.

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