Monica Malhotra and Doug MacLennan are a wife-and-husband team with ambitious plans to expand the Kidville franchise in the Emirates. The owners talk about growing to 10 locations by 2015 - and the dynamics of working together while married.
You've said the Kidville franchise, which you imported from the US to Jumeirah Beach Residence (JBR) last year, isn't a nursery, play group or an activity centre. What exactly is it?
Monica: Kidville is an early-learning development centre. We try to function as a home away from home. We provide classes for kids, from newborns to five-year-olds. We are a membership-based facility, which means you sign up for a class and automatically get discounts in our boutique, salon for haircuts, on birthdays and priority invites for events. We have an indoor and outdoor play space, and state-of-the-art gym.
You plan to open 10 more centres by 2015, including two in Dubai set to open this spring. But each location requires a US$500,000 (Dh1.8 million) to $900,000 investment. Is business really booming enough to warrant such an aggressive expansion?
Monica: We believe in the concept full-heartedly. I spend a lot of time at the JBR facility and talk to members, who oftentimes say, "where are you opening next and can you open one in my neighbourhood?"
Doug: We did a lot of research in the neighbourhoods and demographics of the next two locations that we've chosen. We have those statistics, and we also back it up with a lot of anecdotal evidence from members who come from far away. That was the impetus to coming into the UAE - there was a real need for this Kidville concept.
Have you ever disagreed with one another on your expansion plan, and how have you navigated that?
Monica: Yeah, of course we do disagree on things. We're both professionals. You stay disciplined by applying those workplace rules. When you're working it's like working with a peer. Then we go home and relax and try not to discuss work.
Do you ever bend that rule?
Doug: The exception is if one of us approaches the other really nicely and says, "I know you're reading a book right now, but is it OK if I ask you a question?" Monica is known to BlackBerry me right when I'm sitting on the couch.
Monica, care to elaborate?
Monica: The age of BlackBerry is so addictive. I'm so compelled to respond to e-mails. When I do it, I [copy to Doug] and he picks it up the next morning when he's at the office. It's to get it off my list. It's not that I BlackBerry him to respond to me. We talk. It's not that bad.
* Neil Parmar