Alicia the owner of Journey Toys is a hardworking, nurturing and practical Lady of Abu Dhabi.  I came to meet Alicia about eighteen months ago while teaching a class and the moment I met her I knew she was a FABULOUS person.  She is an inspirational business owner with an incredible passion for education.   I personally have had the pleasure to learn from her, as she is so gracious and willing to support other women.  She has a true belief in creating a sense of community and empowering other lady entrepreneurs in Abu Dhabi.

What do you consider your greatest professional achievement?  

My master’s degree of education in curriculum design.

Do you have children and have they influenced your career?

I have three children. Yes they have influenced my career as I wanted a career which allowed flexibility to be available to the children. First it was in teaching and then in the toy industry.

How do you stay connected through social media?

Facebook works best for me.

What profession other than yours would you like to attempt?  

Pilates Instructor

How do you maintain a work/life balance?

I do so by being flexible. I work while the kids are in school or after they sleep. I make time to exercise daily.

What websites do you visit every day?

ASTRA – American Speciality Toy Retailers Association. It’s an excellent resource to post questions or read about industry news. I have lots of sites I visit several times a week – all industry related. I rarely go to websites for personal use.

Who is your hero and how have they helped make you who you are today?

  1. My mother. She was very supportive and was always full of helpful suggestions. I miss her everyday.
  2. My mentor. Sallie Kashiwa of Timbuk Toys is the Guru of toys. She is the first person who comes to mind when thinking of toys.
  3. It always seems a bit corny to me to mention the husband but he really is supportive. He talks me off the quitting cliff.

What are your top 3 favorite people/places/things in Abu Dhabi?  

  1. Sareea’s house – Sareea is my dearest Emirati friend. Our college aged boys met in KG1. I describe her as a hippy. I love going to her house and having Chi Haleeb. She is one of those women I always feel better when I see her. Sareea has such a big heart! Whenever I have a guest come to UAE, I always take her to Sareea.
  2. Any golf course in AD! I started playing golf again after my mom died. It’s an excellent way to forget my woes and  focus on strategies over the game.
  3. Friday morning breakfast with the spouse. Spent in the garden, by the pool. Life slows down for a bit.

What is your goal for retirement?

I saw a financial advisor about 10 years ago who told me what I needed financially to retire comfortably. All women need a retirement plan, regardless if they work outside the home or not. My second goal is to retire fit and strong. Being healthy is crucial to enjoying retirement.

Do you have any advice for women who would like to start their own company Abu Dhabi?

Expect it to be your greatest challenge. Expect it to be hard, hard work. Things do not go as planned. Expect to meet really great people in unexpected places. Do everything that is expected to start a business here. Don’t outsource immediately. You need to know how things work in UAE! Half of doing business here is knowing how to navigate the department of labor, immigration, municipality, the department of economy and any other departments you business must answer to. Respect and reputation are a big part of doing business. If people meet you and get to know you within all these government offices, they respect your ambition and want to help. Find someone to talk you off the quitting cliff, find a mentor. Everyone needs a support system.

How did you come up with your idea to start your company?

Standing in the middle of my mentors toy store with a long list of toys for my kids to bring back to Abu Dhabi. I had the idea, bring toys for all kids in Abu Dhabi.

What challenges as a business owner have you had to overcome and how?

Keeping up with GCC toy safety laws and general rules for running business in the UAE. Lobbying as the small business owner. Keeping the supply chain balanced. Anticipating trends. Being a business owner, there are always problems as well as solutions.

What would you do if you knew you couldn’t fail?

I’d open a dozen neighborhood toy stores. I’d distribute brands, I’d climb Mt. Evans and walk the El Camino. I’d of had more children and done a Ph.D