For 33 year old Jumana Al Darwish, spending quality time with her daughter, creating memories, and helping her learn and grow while leading a busy corporate life as the Head of Corporate Planning and Development for Dubai Cares was crucial. And when she realized that there were many mothers that were keen to do the same, she decided to team up with her sister in law to create The Happy Box. Sharon Carvalho finds out what it took to become Happy Officers
How did the concept for The Happy Box come about?
Just over a year ago, exactly on New Year’s Day 2014, my husband and I were having brunch in New York City with my brother and his wife – my sister-in-law Linda. I was opening up to Linda about how dissatisfied I was feeling, how my busy lifestyle and intense workload meant I had little to no quality time with my daughter and my loved ones, and how I wanted 2014 to be the year I changed that. She understood completely as she felt the same! We couldn’t get away from the idea that happiness was simply a series of moments where we are truly present with those we love. And by the time we were done eating our French toast, our idea for The Happy Box was born, exactly from our belief that there were women out there just like us.
Explain the concept of The Happy Box.
It’s a monthly box filled with eight educational activities plus a book and it is personalised to the child’s age and gender and sent out straight to the child’s doorstep at the start of every month. Each month has a theme, with activities relating to it, packed with fun and creativity so that they are educational without the child even realising it. We develop the projects in a way that allows us to promote cognitive development, creativity and fine motor skills. All the materials required to complete each activity are included in the box with step-by-step instructions and suggestions in both English and Arabic.
What have you learned about yourself through working on the concept?.
Well first of all, I don’t need as much sleep as I thought! I laugh about that, but the truth is, it stems from the realisation that if I’m doing something I believe in, something I truly love and I’m passionate about, then it’s no longer work – it becomes something I live and breathe and I’m willing to dedicate all of myself for it. I’ve learned that I always have to be 10 steps ahead of the game and I’ve really learnt to juggle! I’ve also learnt that I wouldn’t have it any other way.
How has it changed your relationship with your daughter?
Even though The Happy Box has taken over my entire life, it’s also the best thing that has ever happened to me as a mother, and it’s priceless in terms of what it has done for my relationship with Ayla. It’s allowed me to be present in her life, to be there for her when she comes home from school, to spend quality time with her while we test out the projects that we develop in The Happy Box, watching her grow and learn with each experience while also thriving from the attention I give her as her mother. Plus she derives such incredible pride from being our ‘littlest employer’ – she rushes home from school every day so eager to ‘help mommy’. Ayla and I have become even more inseparable, because I’ve found a way to integrate her into my work life, and that’s just priceless to me as a mother.
What feedback have you received from customers?
The number of families who have been in touch with us and told us how much they enjoyed their Happy Box is just overwhelming. It’s a full job just compiling them to upload onto our website, and I’m so eternally grateful and delighted every time I receive feedback from a happy customer. I love when moms tell us that they secretly are as excited as their kids to see what’s inside The Happy Box each month – it’s like a chance for them to connect with their inner child!
What are your future plans for The Happy Box?
Oh, we have endless plans, and the ideas just keep on coming! We definitely hope to have a global presence soon, without losing the principles and the foundation that The Happy Box was built on. We’ve been so privileged to have received so much interest from countries all around the world eager to adopt our model, we had no idea we’d grow so quickly or be such an instant success so we’re incredibly grateful and so ready to take it on.
Photograph by: Sarfaraz Ali Photography