By Nohad Mouawad
Claudia Ribas is a Spanish mom of 3 kids aged 10, 9 and 7 along with her Spanish husband Jose-Maria, who also works as a consultant in the UAE. She is an MBA graduate and, after a full career in the corporate world, decided to co-launch the QiDZ family app in Dubai and later in Abu Dhabi and KSA, along with her partners Ines and Simona. After more than 13 years in Dubai, she is proud to call the Emirate home and to play an important part in changing the scene for women in business.
What brought you to Dubai?
It’s a funny story, but I actually came to Dubai completely by chance. I was studying for my MBA with my now husband, and we were finishing up our program exchange in the US. He wanted to work somewhere interesting, and Dubai was one of his options. I literally had to get a map out and find where Dubai is, because, at the time, I had no idea.
When I arrived here in 2009 I didn’t have a job or speak any Arabic, and everyone I knew said “it’s impossible to get a job right now.” I met with so many friends and acquaintances and they all told me that I needed experience in the region and to know Arabic, on top of it being the peak of the financial crisis.
I would work out of Caffe di Roma, applying for jobs, and I had so little money that I could only afford to buy 1 cup of coffee a day, so that they would let me work from there. Eventually, I did an interview with a fragrance marketing company, and I got the job, and a chance meeting eventually led to my next job in Nestle. I always say if you want to work, you find a way.
How did you move from corporate to founding QiDZ?
The job I was doing before at Nestle was like a little start-up, building the business from scratch in different countries. One day I was on maternity leave with my 3rd child, and Ines, Simona, and I (my co-founders) were brainstorming ideas to launch our own business. As moms working corporate jobs, we were always looking for activities and camps for our kids, and we realized that the info about where and what to do with kids was really all over the place.
We had a friend at a tech agency, who said that an app for kids’ activities wouldn’t be difficult to develop, and we ended up working with his company. In 2017, we launched the first version, and by the end of 2018 we fully launched and monetized the QiDZ app.
What’s the story of your family?
My husband and I met when we were doing the same MBA program at IESE in Barcelona, where we are both from. During the program, we realized that our relationship was serious and that we wanted to travel to start our life together. One year after moving to Dubai, we got married! Less than two years later, our first daughter was born and we also had a second daughter in 2014 and a son in 2016.
It has always been quite hectic combining work and family, but, if you are passionate about your work, you can do it. People always think that if you’re an entrepreneur you have more time but you actually don’t, as having your own business takes a lot of time and energy, although you can be more flexible and attend important events at school, etc. I also travel to Saudi Arabia almost every week for QiDZ, as we also have an app for KSA.
As an entrepreneur and a mom, you need a good support system to help you with the kids, and you need to trust those who support you, to be able to get everything done. One of my biggest parenting hacks, is that I try to dedicate one-on-one time to each of the kids, and to do something fun with them, because that quality time really makes our relationship better and deeper.
What were some of the struggles in setting up your company? Were there any challenges specific to being a woman or a mom?
First of all, it is a challenge, because as a woman today you do have to do it all, and many people think that just because you’re a woman, your business is not as serious as a man’s. I always say “I’m running a real business and not a knitting club!”
I co-founded QiDZ along with my two partners and friends, and to grow the business to the level we have today, has taken a lot of time and sacrifice. In terms of fundraising for a digital start-up, very little money goes to female-led businesses (something like 2% of all funds raised), and I am very proud to say that our all-female team has been successful at raising funds.
When we were hiring talent for our app, we realized that there are a lot of moms in Dubai that need a flexible work schedule (part-time, flexible timings), and we made it part of our mission to hire and empower these moms.
What do you like most about living in Dubai?
Like most people, my husband and I moved to Dubai thinking that it’ll be for a year or two, and because we wanted an adventure, but Dubai is now home. One thing I love about Dubai is that it’s one of the safest places in the world, especially with kids. I also love that it’s an international hub, which is great for travel and exposing my kids to other cultures. In my kids’ class, if there are 25 kids, there will be at least18 nationalities, and that has made my children so open-minded. You also always feel like you’re on vacation for at least 6 to 8 months of the year because the weather is so nice!
What’s your favorite neighborhood hangout?
I love my community in the Lakes. It’s a small bubble in the craziness of Dubai. My kids cycle to school every day, and we bike everywhere: to picnics in the park, sports activities, and all around our neighborhood. There really is a great quality of life for kids living this way, because they can play in the street and have some freedom to just be kids.
What’s your favorite activity to do with your kids?
We love going to Kite Beach as a family, walking on the beach and eating burgers, fries and ice cream at Salt. We also love to go out to the desert and go camping. My back usually regrets it the next day, but it’s worth it, having the experience of camping in a real tent with my kids!
If you ever have free time, what do you like to do by yourself?
I really love to go out for a run or walk around my community, whenever I need to think clearly and organize my thoughts. It’s also heavenly to go for a nice massage at Sensasia in Emirates Golf club. If I have the time, going for a manicure is always nice!