This week Thrift for Good chat to Auriane Juma - founder of Yalla Kids! about how the brand started, her passion for preloved clothing and family life.
What is your business about and why did you start it?
Yalla Kids! is a pre-loved clothes and accessories shop for babies, children and teenagers. Parents can find anything they need – at low prices and with some branded items - from clothes to books and toys. Customers can also sell their barely used kids’ things through us, which in turn creates a ‘circular’ concept that is sustainable and ethical and gives greater longevity to each piece. We also donate unselected and unsold items to charity projects, to ensure nothing is wasted.
Why did I start it? Well, firstly, I am a strong believer in “buying pre-loved first”. I have always been frustrated that there were so few options available here in the UAE for my kids, compared to Europe where the offer is much wider. I was really missing a website, with home delivery, where I could find affordable second-hand clothing in great condition. And so, seeing that gap in the market and the service it can provide for parents in the UAE, Yalla Kids! was born in 2018.
What do you love about your business?
Really simply, I love giving a second life to clothes, books and toys. It is also deeply satisfying when you’re able to convince more and more people to purchase pre-owned items, rather than running to the mall and encouraging fast-fashion. I also love the selection process, where I choose which clothes will go into our showroom, imagining who might wear them, and finding a new use for all the pretty things hiding at the back of a family closet.
I have also met more ladies in the 20 months since launching Yalla Kids! than I ever have in the eight years I’ve been in the UAE. I just love the social side of it and seeing these lovely mums at the showroom every day dropping off or purchasing products. I have met some really beautiful people.
How do you manage your time between running a business and a family?
It is tough, and more than I had initially thought. At first, it was difficult for my girls to understand that while I was often home, I wasn’t available to play. I am grateful that my in-laws are looking after them when we go to markets or hold our garden sales, and I also have a wonderful nanny who is helping me full-time.
Before Covid-19, I would usually work in the mornings and evenings and then spend some time with my kids in the afternoon right after school/nursery. I would also never miss bedtime stories. Friday is a day-off with my family, but I usually work on Saturdays. My kids keep telling me that I work too much, but we’ve got used to the routine now and they enjoy helping me with easy tasks, like sorting the clothes, preparing the orders or labelling. It’s definitely become a family affair!
My husband has always been very supportive. He also helps me with the administrative and financial side of my business, and sometimes even with local deliveries. But we make it a priority to keep some time in evenings for ourselves when he is not at work.
How has Covid-19 affected your business and how have you adapted?
It has been so hard to find time to run Yalla Kids! since I, like every other mum/dad, have had to be a teacher every day. In summary: shorter nights and a lot of motivation!
Before Covid-19, 90% of our sales were at the showroom or at markets, so we suddenly had a drop in the sales. But I was lucky that I invested and opened an online shop last November. This plan was in place so I could spend what was left of my time and energy in uploading products there and make it a new preferred point of sale with fast home delivery. Online became my new focus.
In terms of business, children not only needed more clothes since they were out of their uniforms, but they needed more games and books to help keep them entertained indoors, since they were also stuck at home for a long period. Which is why we then decided to launch a pre-loved books and a pre-loved toys/games section, which has proven to be a big success. We will definitely be keeping them on our website and adding more and more every day.
Adaptation was very much the key word, but we made it through and now have more than 2,500 items online! We will keep uploading products all year long and the showroom is now open again by appointment. Yalla Kids! are also back at the Baby Bazaar and all details can be found on the website. I want to say how grateful I am to everyone who placed orders during that time, who trusted us by giving us items to sell and who promoted us, because the support has been invaluable.
Any piece of advice to other small businesses owners or anyone wanting to start their own business?
I would say, don’t wait for everything to be perfect, or you will never start… Target the priority expenses and take it gradually. At the beginning of Yalla Kids! there were very few things that I was satisfied with. It was very frustrating, but I did my best with short deadlines and a small budget. Little by little, with time and a lot of effort, things are starting to look like I wanted them to be, even if there is still a long way to go and many improvements to make.
Also, don’t hesitate to hire third parties if you believe it is worth it. I gave up the idea of creating the website on my own and I am so glad that I hired a fantastic web designer to speed up the process and save me many hours of struggling. We tend to want to do everything on our own but sometimes we really need some help, and you should never be worried to ask for it.