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The BEEhive: An Edutainment Play Area
My Startup World speaks to Shahdan Elkhatib, the Founder and Managing Director at The BEEhive, about his entrepreneurial journey, setting up an edutainment company
When was The BEEhive established?
The concept behind The BEEhive was conceived during my Masters degree studies (Masters of Strategic Marketing from the Australian University of Wollongong) in Spring 2015. it then transformed into a dream I wanted to pursue in January 2016. The soft play area opened on the 30th of December 2016, followed by an inaugural event on the 27th of January 2017.
Who runs the company? What is the strength of the workforce?
The company is run by myself, and five permanent professionals. In addition to alliances with professional edutainment agencies that conducts our tailored workshops and programs.
How was the company started? The initial days?
The set-up was very exciting yet challenging, as the place was shell-and-core, so from layout, designs and interiors, all were handpicked to cement the brand identity and deliver the experience I had tailored in mind.
Initial days was very successful as parents feedback was very positive and motivating, confirming that it has been a latent need in the market where such service is in need in this location to that age group, not forgetting the unique value proposition and tailored activities.
What sort of funding went into creating The BEEhive? Was it through external funding or was it bootstrapped?
This project is self funded.
What products and services does the company offer?
The BEEhive is an edutainment play area located in the heart of the Dubai Canal. It offers a variety of activities that cater to children from 1 to 12 years old with an aim to provide an entertaining environment that promotes creativity, cognitive development, and exploratory play.
The BEEhive is themed to consist of many independent hives (rooms); each of different interactive activities covering Science, Sewing, Music, Art and Crafts, Doodling, Reading, among others that allow children to explore, learn, break out of their social shell and uncover their hidden talents while acquiring new skills.
The BEEhive is also an ‘electronic-gaming free’ play area which allows children to disconnect from the virtual worlds on their tablets and phones and re-connect with their surroundings.
Who takes care of logistics and customer / tech support?
Logistics, IT and Technical support are provided by external service providers. However, any interaction with our customers and their children is being taken care of by our team as we are very particular about the brand representation, experience and service we are creating in our customer’s minds, therefor service quality and consistency are focal elements to the success of The BEEhive.
Did you face any challenges when starting up? If yes, how did you overcome it?
Yes indeed, as mentioned earlier that the place was shell-and-core (unfinished). So it was challenging to obtain certifications, approvals and permits. However, with a very dynamic and well-organized government in Dubai, we were aware of all requirements and worked accordingly.
However being a new entrepreneur for a self-funded project, time was crucial for me. Thus we worked 24/7 to ensure timely completion.
What are your plans for The BEEhive for the next 2 years?
We aim at cementing the brand identity, value proposition in the minds of our customers in the first year through our daily exploratory play activities, weekly specials and camps. We will be looking at business expansion through the second year, locally and in the Middle East (based on the success rate and brand awareness obtained during the first year).
Which markets do you currently cater to?
Mainly the UAE market, with a provision of expansion in the Middle East, after/ during the second year.
What advice do you have for budding entrepreneurs in the region?
I will advise them with the three threes! 3 to Know, 3 to Validate & 3 to Identify;
a) Know your edge, your customers, and competition.
b) Validate your hypothesis, assumptions and calculations.
c) Identify your strengths, weaknesses and your support system.
Support system is critical because you will break down during this journey and will need your support system around. Whether they are friends, family, an escape place, or even a massage session. As when you are uncertain and need that boost to get you back on track, you will know what exactly to do.
If you learnt one thing from starting up your company, what would that be?
The need of getting out of your comfort zone, and jumping off that cliff when you get the chance! As you will never know what you are capable of achieving until you really jump! However testing, validation & taking many advices are crucial before taking the call. Have faith and believe in making a change.