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Mumtrepreneur: noknok

Five years ago, neighbours Anna Calderon and Patricia Bizarro saw a business opportunity in Doha selling kid-sized tepees, beanbags, baskets and other bedroom accessories, and so they created noknok. 

In January 2015, Anna moved back to Brazil and developed her own brand of tepees. In the wake of Anna’s absence, Patricia recruited another friend and fellow mum with a passion for sewing, Sofia Pote, to assist with noknok’s growing success.

These creative, passionate mums transform children’s bedrooms and playrooms into wonderlands with their imaginative designs. We take a sneak peak at their success and their story as working mums in Qatar.

What motivated you to start noknok? 

We are friends that work very well together and coincidentally had many ideas for our children’s bedrooms. After a bad experience with an international order that was never delivered, we decided to make our own children’s bedroom accessories. The process from searching to buying the fabrics and learning how to work with a sewing machine was such a joyful experience. We decided to make some more and try to sell them.

What are noknok’s goals and mission?

Our goal is simple: having fun with what we do. Our mission is to make a kid smile when he sees his tepee for the first time because he can imagine the fun he will have reading books, playing castles with warriors and princesses with his friends or even the wonderful snuggles and naps he will enjoy inside when he is tired.

How do you decide what types of products you want to create and sell?

We consider what kids think is fun and comfortable. Our own kids are our greatest source for research when it comes to new products. We ask them what they want and what they need and then we ask ourselves, can we do it? We also ask other mums what products they need to make the perfect room for their kids. We work with them to find the right combination of colours and patterns. 

What is the meaning behind the name “noknok”?

We were looking for a name that would be short and easy to memorize, but also that would relate to kids. One morning during breakfast with my [Patricia’s] family back in Portugal, my mother had the idea of “truz-truz.” Truz-truz is the Portuguese version of “knock knock.” Immediately I thought of a game that I used to play as a kid—“knock-knock! Who’s there? It’s me!” So, we simplified the word and decided for “noknok.” 

What is your greatest achievement?

The happiness of our clients—the kids. We absolutely love it.

As women, what were the biggest challenges to set up a business in Doha?

For us it was not at all a long process. We had the amazing support of QatART and Inspiration Station [no longer in existence] who were very experienced and knowledgeable.

Top lessons to running your own company in Doha?

Be patient, work hard, smile and be positive.

Would you do anything differently now you know?

No. The handicraft community in Doha is very small; very easily you are noticed when you have a frequent presence at the bazaars. In some places you feel very welcome, and in others not as much. 

What do you think is your greatest asset?

We both [Patricia and Anna] came from creative design and marketing backgrounds, so it is very easy for us to develop new and different items. If we go to the souqs to buy fabrics for one tepee, we leave with material for at least six or seven because we get very excited with colours and patterns and the ideas easily flow in our heads.

How do you balance your work and personal life as mums?

It's very hard and sometimes we really struggle. We are mothers with full-time jobs, so it's difficult coming from work to then attend to meals, laundry, baths, etc. And instead of spending time with your kids and husband, we are cutting fabric, sewing, doing the accounts and so much more. It’s important to establish a work-life balance for a healthy happy family.

What’s one thing most people don’t know about you?

Patricia: I’m very insecure person.
Anna: And I’m very shy.
Sofia: My lack of confidence.

How do you banish stress?

P: I love to read a book in my room in silence.
A: At the gym or working out at home.
S: Driving.

What inspires you?

P: The world, cultures, people. I love to travel and have a direct contact with the natives to know their life stories and families.
A: Everything can inspire me; it depends upon the situation and on my mood. 
S: People and their good deeds.

What are you passionate about?

P: Life. People lose too much time on the negative part of life and focus too much on being unhappy. Life is amazing and a blessing that we should take advantage of to learn and become better people. It's all about the experience.
A: I love learning new stuff; it can be anything from an MBA course to a new recipe.
S: Family and friends. Creating new stuff. 

What’s on your reading list? 

P: “Educate with Mindfulness” by Mikaela Övén and “A Wild Sheep Chase” by Haruki Murakami
A:  Right now I’m reading “Brazil: A Biography” by Lilia M. Schwarcz and Heloisa M. Starling and “The Rule Breaker’s Book of Business” by Roger Mavity
S: “Dr. Montessori´s Own Handbook" by Maria Montessori

What’s always in your handbag? 

P: My diary/notebook
A: Hand cream. Can’t live without it!
S: My sunglasses

What are five words that describe you?  

P: Outgoing, independent, strong character, optimistic, communicative 
A: Adaptive, loyal, patient, but anxious and caffeinated!
S: Stubborn, fun, outgoing, perfectionist 

What are you most proud of?  

P: My father, who is going through a very difficult time and always has a smile for me. It gives me some peace when he says all will be fine. He is my hero, always has been and always will be.
A: Myself. I’m being a bit selfish, but I’ve gone through a lot in the past three years. Luckily, I was strong and got everything back on track now. 
S: My son, just because the way he is handling life here.

What is your parenting style?

P: I don't have one. I'm allowing my kid to be a kid, running, falling, climbing trees and laughing a lot. However, I teach him to respect others regardless of their nationality, culture, colour or religion. Tolerance, I think, is the best value that you can transmit.
A: Same!
S: We don’t have a style but because I´m a bit demanding. We have rules that were made to be followed: respect others, be truthful, loyal towards your peers and the most important, be happy.

Five tips for other mums?

Be patient, be patient, be patient, be patient, be patient.

Favourite quote or advice about motherhood?

"Your child will follow your example, not your advice"- Anonymous 

You can check out noknok’s collection at facebook.com/noknokmakesyouhappy or instagram.com/noknokqatar/

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