The majlis: Wearing three hats is difficult but possible

With every obstacle is a lesson learnt. I have learnt from every decision or past mistake I have made.

Balancing between work and life for an entrepreneurial Emirati woman is challenging. Though it’s not easy, juggling my full-time job at the Central Bank of the UAE, owning Miyabi, a Japanese restaurant with three branches, and being a mother, it’s not impossible.

I opened the first branch of my restaurant on Sheikh Zayed Road in March 2012. At that point, I hadn’t had my first child and I could dedicate my whole time to the restaurant.

Failure wasn’t an option to me – I have always believed in myself and knew that I could do it. For any business to move on the right path, it should have a proper foundation and have the right team.

I dedicated my whole time and effort to ensuring that, and today, I have three branches. I’m aiming for seven by 2020.

Opening a new business comes with many obstacles. For one, hiring was not easy. A restaurant has many positions, and you need to get the right people for each job. From the right chefs, who will produce high-quality dishes, to the servers, who are the first people the customers come in contact with, every individual is important.

With every obstacle is a lesson learnt. I have learnt from every decision or past mistake I have made. I have asked for my father’s advice and support in many decisions because it was something new to me.

When I first told him about my idea, I wanted his opinion on how to start and what steps should be taken. He advised me on everything from how to manage a business and licensing to choosing a location and recruiting. I also looked to him for guidance on gaining confidence to move forward with my endeavour.

Everything became much more complicated when I became a mother a year-and-a-half ago. It’s challenging, but certainly not impossible.

Being a mother is already a full-time job, as is being an entrepreneur. They’re both your babies, so to speak. You feel that you’re responsible for both when it comes to decision-making and you want the tasks to go right. I try my best to manage my time between both without neglecting either one.

I give my son all the quality time he needs from a mother. I make sure that my work and ambitions don’t drive me to neglect my house and son. I usually take him with me to work and he can have a walk while I finish my work. This way I can get my daily tasks done while having him around. He seems to enjoy it and has started to love sushi, too. It’s funny to see a 1-year-old saying: “Mama, sushi.”

I also try to set my meetings and manage the restaurant mostly during the time that he takes nap or when I send him to play dates. Some days it gets very tiring and stressful, but I tend to manage if I have started the day correctly.  

You do, however, need to find the right balance between profession and parenthood. Doing both has taught me how to multitask and various problem-­solving techniques. My tips are to plan, focus and get organised.

For example, I feel more organised when I have my week planned out in a calendar, which helps me remember my ­priorities and what needs to be done. I also try to limit my distractions during the day and whatever that will waste my time.

The most difficult part is making time for yourself during the day. Some days you reach a point where you want to relax. Therefore, a break is recommended from time to time to de-stress. And the most important thing is to love what you’re doing.

Shaima Al Shirawi is an Emirati entrepreneur and owner of Miyabi Sushi.

If you have an interesting story to tell or an important issue to debate, contact Amanda Tomlinson on

Published: January 5, 2017 04:00 AM


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