Recent News

Restaurant Review: Zafran Indian Bistro

WSB Admin 28/08/2018 0

Earlier this month, I decided to celebrate the weekend by dining out at Zafran Indian Bistro (Rubeen Square) with my husband. Zafran is part of the Landmark Group, one of the largest retail and hospitality groups in the Middle East, Africa & India and is now a year old in Riyadh.

Zafran Indian Bistro is an award-winning contemporary Indian restaurant that offers North West Indian cuisine.

We entered Zafran and were warmly welcomed by Sahi, the friendly waiter who remembered me from the last time I visited. This was over 2 months ago with a large group of expat vegetarian foodies (yup, vegetarian foodies exist). I was impressed he remembered my favourite orders and even what I ordered for take-out. Zafran offers both booths and tables in the family section and caters to larger group sizes with special table arrangements. They also offer set menus on request. The waiter escorted us to the booth we chose. The Manager, Arthaf, took the time to greet us.

I loved their vibrant décor, there is pop art of Bollywood film posters and magazines scrap on the walls and a plush blue upholstery on the booth and table sofas. The tables and booths are well spread out for diner privacy, something I really appreciate when I dine out.

We were served the complimentary papads with 3 dips – a papaya dip, a mint chutney and a date and tamarind chutney as Sahi took our order. We ordered our mocktails – a Lemon & Mint for me and a Kiwi Mocktail for the hubby. Later, Sahi recommended we try the signature Kashmir Dew (a delicious mix of Fresh Strawberry, Lemon & Mint). All three drinks were delicious and refreshing on a typical warm Riyadh day.

I ordered two vegetarian appetisers for us to share – aloo tikkia and a corn & spinach kebab. Both were tasty though I really enjoyed the aloo tikkia, which transported me back to visits to the famous Juhu beach in Mumbai where I first tasted this delicious snack. The potato cutlet was fried just right and was not oily; the bed of chick pea masala and yoghurt enhanced its overall taste.

While I chose to order my vegetarian appetisers and main course from the regular menu, my husband chose to try the special Big BBQ Menu – non-vegetarian. The Big BBQ Menu offered 5 kebabs – 3 chicken kebabs, a prawn kebab and a lamb kebab with a accompaniment of 3 dips – Pickled hummus, Mint Labneh and a Spicy Tomato & Garlic sauce, a mixed salad and a side of Butter Naans. My husband found the flavours very subtle and delicious unlike some of the other Indian restaurants he has eaten in. He especially enjoyed the Malai Jhinge (prawns) and the Zafrani Chicken Tikka for their delicate yet flavourful tastes. He also commented on the freshness of the salad leaves served in the western style salad with radish and rocket leaves. I tried the delicious Pickled Hummus, an innovative dip that is made with a mix of Indian home-made mango pickle and creamy hummus, delicious with a Naan. Loved the flavour and it was the most delicious hummus I have ever tasted. The accompaniments of Pickled Hummus, Mint Labneh and the Mixed Salad are atypical for an Indian restaurant and obviously to cater to their mainly Saudi guests. Smart move and it worked for my palate too.

For the main course, I ordered the sides version of two curries- one was the Mirch Baigan Ka Salan, which was a subtle mild yellow aubergine curry with some really nice & unique flavours. I also ordered a more traditional Paneer Makhani cottage cheese red curry, which was also scrumptious with its soft crumbled cottage cheese. I ordered a selection of naans & parathas to go with the curries. I like that Zafran offers Mains in both Sides & Mains portions depending on if you are sharing or eating it alone. Portions were very generous even for the Sides.

We took a short break from the feasting to talk to the Chef – Mujeeb-Ur-Rahman,– more on that later. We finished the evening with the crowd pleaser dessert – Gulab Jamun made even more yummy with almond shavings sprinkled on top and a platter of 4 mini – desserts. The dessert platter had Flourless chocolate, Zafrani Phirni, Rasmalai & Gajar Halwa. I absolutely loved the Gajar Halwa and the Gulab Jamun and the others were nice too. My husband, the chocoholic in our family, enjoyed the chocolate cake as he did not find the chocolate flavour overpowering the dessert.

We sat down with Chef Mujeeb-Ur-Rahman, the Head Chef of Zafran Indian Bistro. He told us of Zafran’s plans to expand to 11 restaurants across the Kingdom and of a new branch to open in Riyadh soon. He shared how they work with suppliers to get the fresh produce they serve and use only India’s MDH spices to present the most flavourful foods. He explained the concept of Zafran –known for their North Western Frontier Cuisine of India (especially the delicious kebabs) but also including some of the special flavours of the various culinary regions of India – Andhra, Bengal etc. He also talked about the exciting Promotions they have from time to time including the current Big BBQ menu (August & September only) where they try new dishes and test guest response before they introduce it to the main menu. In the Chef’s words, “the USP of Zafran is the quality of food, the fresh ingredients & spices we use & the experience we deliver. “

Zafran definitely delivers to its customer promise and I would heartily recommend you try it for your next dining out experience.

What we ordered

Starters

Aloo Tikkia (potato cutlet, pan-fried on a bed of chick-pea masala)

Corn & Spinach Kebab (grilled corn and spinach patties flavoured with ginger, green chilli & coriander)

Mains

The Big BBQ (Non-Veg) Menu

Murg Angaar Tikka, (boneless chicken marinated with labneh, red chilli, mustard oil & lemon)

Pudina Mirchi Tikka (chicken breast marinated with mint, green chilli, yoghurt & ginger)

Zafrani Chicken Tikka (boneless chicken breast marinated with ginger, garlic, labneh & saffron)

Malai Jhinge (prawns marinated with cream cheese, labneh & fresh coriander)

Lamb Seekh Kebab (minced lamb beat, ginger, coriander, garlic, green chilli & spices)

Trio of dips – Pickled Hummus, Mint Labneh, Spicy Tomato & Garlic sauce

Mixed Salad

Butter Naans

Veg Main Course

Mirch Baingan Ka Salan (Eggplant & green chillies cooked in a peanut, sesame, coconut & tamarind gravy with a hint of jaggery)

Paneer Makhani (cottage cheese cooked in a makhani gravy)

Selection of breads – cheese naan, garlic naan, lachcha paratha and tandoori roti. 

Desserts

Gulab Jamun (deep-fried cottage cheese dumplings in sugar syrup)

The dessert platter:

Flourless chocolate cake (Dark chocolate cake made with eggs & sugar served with caramel crumble),

Zafrani Phirni (Traditional rice pudding made with milk, saffron, sugar & pistachio),

Rasmalai (Cottage cheese dumplings with pistachio in flavoured milk) &

Gajar Halwa (Carrots cooked in sweetened milk). 

Drinks

Lemon & Mint

Kiwi Mojito (Kiwi, Mint, Lemon & Soda)

Kashmir’s Dew (Fresh Strawberry, Lemon & Mint)

How to find Zafran

RUBEEN PLAZA

Hiteen, Exit 2, Northern Ring Road, Riyadh, KSA

Tel : +966 11 562 2229

Weekdays: 11 am – 11 pm |Weekends: 11 am -12 am

Outdoor Seating: Available | Home Delivery: Available

Convenient Parking Options

Also at Turki Square, Riyadh

www.zafranrestaurants.com

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The Caspian Sea Vs The Black Sea

WSB Admin 28/08/2018 0

Planning my summer trip this year to the Caucasus region, I knew that I had to tick off at least two items off my bucket list: visiting the Caspian Sea and the Black Sea. Water excites me, so there was no way I’d leave the place without paying a visit to these two water bodies.

Caspian Sea experience

Being in Azerbaijan first, I was looking for ways to see the Caspian Sea. But, the beach was far away from the main city. And public access was little. And dirty. So, after recommendations from the locals there, I found out going either to Dalga beach club or Amboran Beach club would get me to see the clean, well-maintained part of the Caspian Sea.

I paid 20 AZN for entry into the Amboran Beach club for a towel and rental beach chair included in the price. More on my Amboran Beach club experience can be found here.

I hurried to check out the Caspian sea and swim in it but it was so dirty. It looked like any other beach but when I put my feet into it to go into the water, a lot of seaweed looking algae and slimy sand hooked on to me. I hoped that it would get better once I get deeper, but it just got worse. In less than a minute, I called it quits and went swimming in the pool instead. I was told that the water would get cleaner in a month or two but I doubt that it would be the case.

Ambience                  4/5

Public Access            1/5

Other activities        3/5

Cleanliness               1/5

Value for money      1/5

Black Sea Experience

Disappointed, I decided to postpone swimming in the sea for another country. When I moved on to Georgia after exploring Azerbaijan, I had to have Batumi in my list of places to visit within the country. Why? It’s famous for its black sea. Trabzon, part of Turkey also shares the black sea along with Batumi. So, I finally visited the Georgia part of the black sea which is located in Batumi, the second largest city in the country.

In contrast to the Caspian Sea, the Black Sea is such a beautiful beach to spend your time relaxing; whatever relaxation means to you be it swimming, sunbathing, staring at the blues of the sky and the sea, or just listening to the sound of the soothing waves. You can rent beach chairs for 3 GEL per chair and 1 GEL for the umbrella.

It isn’t a sandy beach. It’s rocky. Really rocky. Expect a natural, painful pedicure if you wish to walk around without slippers. The sand underneath the rocks is dark grey giving it the name, Black Sea. The best part about this beach Is that it stretches for 6-7 kms which means even on the most crowded days, you’d still find a place to unwind without feeling as if the entire population is at the beach.

There were many ongoing projects of upcoming restaurants, boulevards and entertainment options being undertaken around this beach area at the time when I visited (June 2018). Investing here is a good choice if you have some money to spare. In fact, the place is already well developed with a lot of rides for kids and adults, biking and cycling paths two ways, many benches to chill out on and a lot of rental stalls. There’s a lot in the making. I might have to go back to see what Batumi would look like in a few years.

There is a beautiful musical fountain. The scooters are of different kinds, some able to accommodate up to 4 passengers, priced at 40 GEL for an hour and 20 GEL for 30 minutes. The scooters are usually chosen by large families or Arab women who wanted to have some fun. I chose to opt for a bicycle (bike) instead. The bikes are priced at 5 GEL for an hour and have models suitable for both women and men. You can rent it directly from the vendors and negotiate the price if you need it for more than an hour. Alternatively, you can go to the tourist information centre close to the Batumi seaport and purchase a bike card there. This would help you self-return the bike any time you wish to, even if it is past midnight. Self-return machines are available all around the boulevard area.

If you’re travelling with kids, there are a lot of rides for them (and for you) to try. The Ferris wheel, the go-round cup, the 360 degree bus, boxing machine, shoot and win, are just some of the entertainment options.

I ate at one of the Indian restaurants on the beach. The food was a bit on the high side if compared to the Georgian standard, thanks to the premium location. 70-80 GEL for two. Butter chicken and Chana masala with Naan. It was so spicy that I went on gulping water as though there was no end, haha.

Besides this, the boulevard is surrounded with so many restaurants and cafés that you’d be lost in choice. Often, street Georgian dancing is going on. Others are playing different kinds of music on their instruments. There’s a lot to do and you won’t get bored. And if nothing works, just walk.

Ambience                  5/5

Public Access            5/5

Other activities        5/5

Cleanliness                4/5

Value for money       5/5

The verdict:

I’d choose the Black Beach any day over the Caspian Beach.

What about you? Been to any of these beaches before? Which is your favourite?

Log onto www.yallachaloska.wordpress.com to follow the travel blog

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Leveraging Facebook business for entrepreneurs

WSB Admin 28/08/2018 0

Welcome WSB members & readers from the summer break. For the next few months, I plan to feature an article talking about a social media channel you can leverage to grow your business. This month, I am focusing on Facebook business, a handy, mostly free tool to popularise your business. Over 2 billion people use Facebook every month and you may even attract global customers and fans.

Here are a few ways you can use Facebook to communicate with existing & potential customers:

Facebook Page: As a local business, you can create a Facebook Page which only requires you to create a Page Name (ideally similar to the name of your business), choose a business category, add a couple of pictures (your Logo and a campaign or business pic) and a Call to Action Message – Contact Me, Book an appointment etc. And you are all set with your very own Facebook Page. You can then decide what to post – a photo / a video / a milestone / feeling / activity/ offers / events etc. Post regularly at least daily to attract customers. You can also post in relevant Facebook and What’s app Groups to popularise your page.

Facebook Messenger: Turn on Facebook Messenger for your Page to be able to easily respond to customers. Over 1 billion people are using Facebook Messenger every month.

By communicating through Messenger, you can:

  • Have conversations with people directly from your Facebook business Page.
  • Privately answer questions or concerns from customers about your business, their orders or anything else.
  • Let people know when you’re available to answer their messages and Page comments and messages.

Facebook Events: One of the useful things you can do is create a Facebook event (either visible only to your group or public) where you can list special offers or an actual offline event you are hosting like a Book sale. Events let you organize and respond to gatherings in the real world with people on Facebook. You can create or attend an event for anything from a birthday dinner, a store opening or a charity fundraiser. When you create an event, you control who can attend your event.

Facebook Groups: To build a local community around your business, you may like to tap into people’s passions and interests and create a Facebook Group. Facebook groups bring people with common interests together – travel, fashion, shopping, photography, city or even compound. You can create a Facebook Group under your Facebook Page to maximise the benefits to you but remember to post a lot of community-friendly generic content most of the time. Once or twice a week, you can promote your business in a community-friendly way (no spamming please).

Facebook Live: If you have a Facebook Page, you can create a Facebook Live Video Broadcast for your Page Fans. You can have a Live Broadcast and talk with your customers in real time. You can even respond to them by name, personalizing what you say and delighting them. Please do ensure you have a strong wifi or 4 G connection when you plan your Facebook Live Broadcast.

Facebook ads: If you have a little money to advertise your business, you may like to plan a Facebook ad campaign to target new customers or lapsed customers. Facebook ads allow you to market on Facebook, find new customers and build lasting relationships with them. Choose your audience – based on location, demographics, interests and behaviour. Then decide on your ad type – Photo, Video, In-messenger advertising etc. Set your budget –either for the campaign or per lead – and let your ad bring in new business.

I have experienced some very active Facebook Pages in the Kingdom – for eg. Tail – a pet home boarding service in the DQ and WSB.

If you would like to learn how to use Facebook effectively to grow your business, log onto Facebook Blue Print for snappy 5 min tutorials.

Read on to hear more about the world of branding & reputation in future WSB newsletters or reach out to me and we can have a chat over coffee. If there is a particular subject of interest that you want me to write about, do let me know.

Deepa Thomas-Sutcliffe is a storyteller & career communicator. You can visit her profile on Linkedin at https://www.linkedin.com/in/deepamthomas or email her on deepathomas@gmail.com
 

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Finding the Joy: From the beginning…

WSB Admin 26/08/2018 0

Some of you may know me as Lizzie Daniell, Lizzie Whizz or Lizzie_Zen from my positive reflections posted daily from my home in Saudi Arabia on Instagram/facebook/twitter–a small positive moment shared daily with the social media reading community.

Recently, whilst on an amazing two-week retreat in Bali, someone reminded me to think big, find the joy and be the best version of myself in every situation! A wonderful statement… but not always easy to follow and do.

This has sat with me especially during quiet times; it got me thinking! How do I do this? Keeping those thoughts alive in everything I experience and do. So, I decided that maybe I should look at a different way of expanding my words and thoughts to cover inner expansion and radiate to all. A two-way medium to share – this is how my ‘Finding the Joy” blog and website began.

We all need a gentle reminder at times to help us think about and experience gratitude for what is good in our lives and how that awareness of joy can change a difficult situation.

There is so much joy around us we sometimes need to stop, honour and see it. It is in every situation, around every corner of our community, and in everyone. We often get hung up on the small things and negatives of situations, as past patterns become our first action. Maybe we need to regroup and think about what is really happening here! Stepping back and seeing it through clearer eyes (with our hearts open) is kinder to ourselves. Let’s be honest, if we don’t honour our experiences, who will?

So as I start to think big, whilst remembering the joy, I ask you to do the same. As my newsletter/website grows I would love you to share your thoughtful stories or experiences with me, to help inspire us all. With much love and joy, Lizzie Daniell

http://findingthejoy.info

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Four Spa – Diplomatic Quarter

WSB Admin 25/08/2018 0

 

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Go for: the soothing pastel fit out and high-end fixtures.

Try: the spa pedicure for 30 blissful minutes of pampering.

Tucked away between fast food stores and photography studios in the Al Kindi Plaza, Four Spa is a pastel-painted oasis offering a high-quality beauty experience.

The fit out is bright and clean, with sparse, simple furnishings that still feel luxurious. Blonde wood design features lend something of a Scandinavian touch to this desert spa, and complement the chic pink colour palette perfectly.

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The services at Four Spa are numerous, offering everything from eyelash extensions to shoulder massages. The manicures (choose from gel, shellac or spa manicure) are gently but expertly done, the threading is precise and painless, and a blowdry from Four Spa would be enough to make even Kate Middleton envious.

It is the spa pedicure, however, that really stands out. It starts with a deliciously warm footbath and loofah to get your feet ready for sandal-weather, before moving onto a sea salt scrub and moisturising wrap. The wrap is left on for ten minutes, leaving you free to flick through the latest Vogue and enjoy a complimentary coffee.

35226971_10215256445338095_6080629739205165056_nOnce the wrap comes off, the expert technicians at Four Spa get to work. Your nails will be buffed and polished to perfection in a matter of minutes, leaving you to walk away feeling relaxed, rejuvenated and more than a little fabulous.

Four Spa have three locations for the ladies of Riyadh to choose from. In addition to the DQ salon, there is a Four Spa on Takhassusi St and another near King Fahd Specialist Hospital and Research Centre. All three locations will let you book online, and while the prices tend to be on the high side, Four Spa is worth every riyal.

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Forte Village on Sardinia’s southern coast

WSB Admin 30/05/2018 0

forte-village-aerial-view

EXCITING SUMMER EXPERIENCES FROM THE TRAVEL COLLECTION – As many of you are planning to escape the Saudi summer heat, we are pleased to share some interesting and fun travel options for all the family this summer.     

Forte Village on Sardinia’s southern coast is gearing up for a fun-filled summer for all the family. There is probably no other luxury beach resort in the Mediterranean quite like Forte Village. You choose the pace and Forte Village offers the stunning rooms, suites and villas – coupled with an amazing stretch of beach, water-sports and children’s academies from Chelsea Football to Magic, biking and Tennis. With 21 restaurants, some with Michelin stars and a calendar of amazing events, including Sting in Concert on the 26thJuly, what better place to spend a memorable family holiday.

lrs-picnic-during-our-donkey-trailwww.fortevillage.com

Belmond La Residencia on the island of Mallorca offers a peaceful and luxurious setting to explore all that this vibrant island has to offer. With beautifully spacious rooms and suites, La Residencia offers a wealth of exciting family experiences.  The Resort has its own much-loved donkeys –  Pancho, Luna and Alba – they will accompany you on a tour through the hotel’s olive groves, admiring the tranquil landscape before stopping for a freshly prepared picnic lunch in a stone shepherd’s hut. – Just one of the tours on offer.  www.belmond.com

forte-village-childrens-wonderland-2

Are you planning to travel to South-East Asia this summer? – COMO Point Yamu on the island of Phuket offers incredible one and two-bedroom private pool villas and ‘Play by COMO’ – the resort’s own children’s facility. Kids love it so much they just want to stay and enjoy all that’s going on. While Mum and Dad relax by their pool or enjoy the COMO Shambhala Spa, the children will learn how to make pizzas, play games in the oversized swimming pool or even take an excursion to their own Beach club just across the bay. www.comohotels.com

point-yamu-villa_balcony_1a

For those of you planning to head west to the USA, The Surrey in New York has been voted the No1 hotel in New York City by Conde Nast Traveler for the second year running. A luxury home away from home with spacious rooms and suites, the hotel is only one block from Central Park with lots to do for all the family. Take the hotel’s bikes for a ride, or navigate model sail boats on the lake. The kids will never get bored on the city’s Upper East-Side. www.thesurrey.com

private-roof-garden

These are just a few ideas for this summer. For more information on these or any of our other amazing summer holiday experiences, contact mark@thetravelcollection.me   www.ttc.ae

the-surrey-bobbinbike

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Publicity & Social media 101 for Mompreneurs

WSB Admin 29/05/2018 0

This article is mainly aimed at Mompreneurs (Women who run their own small businesses) but I think it could be helpful to any start up, which is beginning its business journey.  I was inspired to write on this topic by the many talented entrepreneurs I met at the recent WSB Connect Networking event, many of who run businesses from home and may therefore be classed as Mompreneurs.  So here is some useful advice to create awareness and build your brand.

  • Embrace Social Media: Many Entrepreneurs are facing a time crunch and in the case of Mompreneurs perhaps multi-tasking raising their families along with running their business. Hence, they need to make the most of the limited time at their disposal. Enter Social Media. It is a very relevant way to reach your target audience at a time when they are relaxed and hence most receptive to your messages. Don’t try and be on every social media channel, instead pick 2 or 3 that you can leverage well. My recommendation: Choose Twitter, Instagram & Facebook. Now, set some goals for your social media activity – it could be increasing traffic to your website, growing your newsletter subscriber list or growing your social media followers.
  • Host a blog or a website: Today, you can set up a blog or a website very easily and for little more than the cost of the domain and the platform. There are many choices out there. Choose one that you find easy to work and is mobile responsive. This website and /or blog is a way to promote your business offering, yourself as the service provider and how to find you. As you build up a customer base, you can request happy customers for testimonials, which can also be featured on your blog. A lot of your social media activity should ideally link to your website and drive traffic there.  Over a period, your articles will be indexed with google and other search engines and more people will find you when they are searching for the products or services you provide.
  • Be an Expert: While you may have more than one service or product category you offer, you should ideally position yourself as an expert on a single subject. For eg, if you are a pet photographer, then stick to this for everything you communicate. Let people associate you strongly with this single subject and eventually that will be what you will be known for. This will draw you many customers in the long run.
  • Build a Community: Now that you are on social media, it may be worth considering building a community of your social media followers. This will involve you creating a Facebook group where they can interact with both you and each other. For example, our pet photographer mompreneur may like to consider creating a ‘Pets of Riyadh or Saudi Arabia’ Group.  The majority of posts by you should be helpful advice, which is useful for owners of pets.  Once in a while, you can put up posts about your recent shoots or your services.  But never oversell or be pushy. Remember social media followers are there to relax and to engage with their friends and will not appreciate being marketed to.
  • Curate or Create Compelling Content: Develop a content strategy. Think about what you will post which would be most helpful to your followers. A good mix of original & curated content is best. Original content can be social posts, images, short videos, infographics. Many of these can be created easily with free online templates and your smart phone & laptop. Our pet photographer could do blooper videos of trying to pose pets. Don’t be afraid to curate content as well, for eg, maybe our fictional pet photographer Mompreneur may like to post celebrity pet photoshoots from around the world (with the appropriate credits) or collaborate with a vet or animal behaviourist either in the Kingdom or their home country who can create content on pet advice. Keep it short and relevant.
  • Tap Local & National Media: While we would love for the media to come to us, often we need to tap them and let them know you exist. You need to have a good elevator pitch, which you can use to pitch them a story on your business. You would also need to identify various media outlets – digital, print, tv and google them to get their contact details. Don’t ignore radio, which can be a powerful channel too. Once you have your media lists, send them an email or linkedin request to let them know how your story can help their readers or viewers. Don’t be disheartened if you don’t get an immediate response. You may need to try another angle or a seasonal story. Eventually, you will get a response from media and then you can keep in touch and be a regular source.
  • Share the Love: Reach your subscribers with a weekly or fortnightly newsletter that provides them with content that is useful and engaging. Some of your newsletter content can overlap with your social media content but at least part of it must be original. Can you collaborate with a non–competing but allied local business to do a joint newsletter? For eg. Our pet photographer may like to collaborate with the animal behaviorist or vet or even a pet shop for content for their newsletter.
  • Network: While you build your online image, do make the time to regularly network. It could be a forum like the WSB Connect or a Chamber of Business. It may even just be a community gathering or your child’s school events. This will enable you to spread the word about your business and increase your awareness. You may even like to offer a free or paid taster workshop at these networking forums so potential customers can get a flavour of your services.
  • Learn some tricks of the Trade: Don’t hesitate to learn some handy hacks to save yourselves time and money. Think about scheduling your social media posts for twice a day so that you don’t actually need to be online at that time. Do consider spending time on your analytics and measure how your posts are doing. Consider which ones are doing well and how you can tweak your content to get a similar response. What days of the week and what times of the day do you get the best response. That will give you pointers for optimum times to post. You will also find some interesting sources for the curated content that you can visit weekly and choose your posts. Just google for the subject you are keen on and then book mark the sites you like to visit regularly.

These are a selection of ideas that I would recommend for Mompreneurs to consider implementing to build their brand and business.

Read on to hear more about the world of branding & reputation in future WSB newsletters or reach out to me and we can have a chat over coffee. If there is a particular subject of interest that you want me to write about, do let me know.

Deepa Thomas-Sutcliffe is a storyteller & career communicator. She is available to consult with businesses of all sizes across the GCC during her tenure in the Kingdom. She lives in the DQ with her diplomat husband. You can visit her profile on Linkedin at https://www.linkedin.com/in/deepamthomasor email her on deepathomas@gmail.com

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Home Business Spotlight: Um Saboon Soap

WSB Admin 29/05/2018 0

Interview by Maria Cometti

um-saboon-home-businessI’m often on the look-out for unique local items to gift family and friends. It was at the last Kingdom Coffee Morning that I was introduced to Um Saboon Soaps. Beautiful soaps, thoughtfully displayed, really caught my eye! Wow! Though I didn’t have time to shop that morning, I was impressed with the soap and later placed an order via whatsapp.

One of the ultimate joys in life is to find work or a hobby that lights passion inside of you. When you meet someone who has found it, you can almost tell by their spark.  Chacha, the founder of Um Saboon, certainly has that spark! In the interview below, Chacha tells us about her journey to create Um Saboon.

Can you tell us us about yourself?

I came to Saudi Arabia eleven years ago, from Spain, due to my work in Aviation.  I consider myself a very active person. That can be both an advantage or a problem, especially when you have a lot of time off. So in order to stay busy I had been in a constant learning mode, from painting walls and canvases, gardening, learning Arabic and more. Then, I found what really makes me happy, and that is the art of soap making.

Why did you start Um Saboon Soaps?

I had always loved natural soaps and I could not pass in front of a shop that had them without taking a huge bag home, so I decided to study and make my own.

As mentioned before, this started as any other hobby would, but something was different. I found myself empty when I did not have a batch of soap to cut. So I started gifting them to friends and family as they started to take up a lot of storage space at home. Their feedback was astonishing so I felt like I could share them also with other people that have the same attraction for handmade natural soaps.

How long have you been in business?

I have been sharing them with other people for around four months, so we can say that my project is still in pampers, but I have plans to grow in the future.

What make your soaps unique?

Well, Um Saboon is a reflection of me, in constant change trying to be better everyday. Um Saboon is not pretentious; they are simple soaps made with love.

I have said many times that the best food I had ever tried did not come from a Michelin star restaurant, but from someone that cooks with love, without the commercial pressure and just wants to share with others, because cooking is their passion.

What is the hardest part of your work?

The hardest part is those days where I cannot find time to dedicate to soap making. It is definitely my favorite activity and I really crave it!

What do you enjoy the most about your work?

Each piece of soap is almost like a baby to me. I like seeing how they change from the moment I make them until they are finally ready to be used. Each recipe is different than the next, because I follow my mood to mix the ingredients every time. I love the whole process, from the design of the recipe, to choosing the colors, essence and decoration, to the packaging and delivery.

Where are Um Saboon soaps sold?

I am proud of my soaps and therefore It makes me very happy to attend events where I can show them and share what I had learned. So far it has been mostly in compound coffee mornings, but I had also take part in some private company events. I also take orders from the Um Saboon Instagram page which I am hoping to develop more and more over time.

What advice would you give to other women thinking about starting their own business?

I will tell them, once they find out what they really like, to be patient, persevere, embrace and learn everything about it. Surround yourself with good people that advise you and give constructive criticism. Be humble. It is a long path, but if you really are passionate and believe in your idea, you can overcome any difficulties and in the end, it will all be worth it.

Contact information and social media:
You can find me in Instagram as #Umsaboon , in Umsaboon@hotmail.com  or call me on 00966563166254.

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Restaurant Review: Yokari By Maria Cometti

WSB Admin 29/05/2018 0

yokari

Real foodies know that the place to enjoy authentic Japanese cuisine in KSA is Yokari Restaurant in Centria Mall. Chef Taki Sato, Executive Chef at Yokari Restaurant, is the only Japanese Chef in Saudi Arabia (apart from the Japanese Ambassadors personal chef). Yokari has made a name for itself here in Riyadh by delighting guests with friendly service, delectable Japanese dishes, in a cool, relaxed atmosphere.

yokari-soft-shell-crab-maki-roll

A couple of weeks back, my husband and I were on the hunt for a new restaurant to try on our weekly date night. We eat Italian food most of the week, and wanted to try something new. Although we weren’t terribly hungry, friends recommended Yokari Japanese Restaurant and the google reviews looked promising, so we decided to give it a try.

yokari-mocktails

Yokari is located on the second floor of Centria Mall in Olaya. Centria mall ( kitty corner to Narcissus Hotel) is home to many high-end fashion houses and some of the best restaurants in the city.

When we arrived, the Yokari staff, led by Restaurant Manager Ben Mhassoun Mohammed, were welcoming, professional, and friendly. The chill-out music created a cool vibe and the restaurant was filled with couples and groups (not the place for children in the evening). We started the evening with a couple of Yokari’s popular mocktails; the ginger bellini and strawberry mojito. They were tasty and refreshing. After some conversation, we looked over the menu. The Soft shell crab maki roll was calling my name and did not disappoint. The ingredients are bursting with flavor and freshness. We also tried the shrimp gyoza, true Japanese comfort food. I certainly recommended both those dishes and just writing about them makes me want to return for a second round!

yokari-date-pudding

Since my husband had another eating engagement later in the evening, we kept our fare light on our date. However, I was so intrigued by the cuisine, I later returned to meet the chef and learn more about Yokari.

Chef Taki Sato started his culinary career in Japan. The son of carpenters, he describes building his own furniture as a child. One day, he decided to trade the hammer and saw for a spatula and knife. The rest is history. He worked his way across the world, from New York to Dubai, and now in Riyadh. Chef Taki views himself and Yokari as ambassadors of Japanese culture and global restaurant trends. He aims to position Yokari as not only the number 1 Japanese restaurant in KSA but also as the leading contemporary cuisine in Riyadh. A few times each year, Chef Takil travels the globe’s culinary capitals to discover new trends and bring them back to Riyadh. He also leads a meet-up group called RIyadh Fine Dining Night (you can join via meetup.com). Each month he and his fellow food enthusiasts dine at a new fine-dining establishment in Riyadh.

Since my first dining experience at Yokari was limited, I asked for Chef Taki’s recommendations of must-try Yokari menu dishes. I can’t wait to get back and try them all! Here they are:

Beverage: Asian passion mocktail

Appetizer: Beef taco

Rolls: Spicy Tuna roll

Main dish: Grilled Chilean Sea bass

Dessert: Date Pudding or Hazelnut chocolate crunch

There you go WSB readers. Maybe we will run into each other sipping an Asian passion cocktail and sampling the Chilean Sea Bass at Yokari.

Yokari Restaurant

2nd Floor Centria Mall, Olaya Riyadh

Ramadan Hours: Sunset – 2:30am

Regular Hours: 1pm-11:30pm

0112886999

https://www.facebook.com/YokariRestaurant/

IG: yokari_restaurant

 

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Seeing is Believing The ‘Eye See… Eye Learn’ program

WSB Admin 29/05/2018 0

the-eye-see-dot-dot-dot-eye-learn-program

One only has to gaze upon a beautiful mountain vista or marvel at the iridescent rainbow captured in a tiny drop of rain to realize the joy in having clear vision. We often take this gift of sight for granted, but for those unable to manage their day to day requirements with visual clarity, it is of inestimable value. Eighty percent of learning is achieved through our eyes; a truly significant factor for children entering the school system, as in order for them to maximize their educational capacity it is imperative that they clearly identify letters, numbers and symbols. Sadly, far too many children begin kindergarten with an undiagnosed vision or eye health problem, which can impede their ability to learn during those first critical years in school. 

In 2003, Dr. Dorrie Morrow, along with the Alberta Association of Optometrists in Canada, partnered with various local health and school authorities and the Alberta government’s Ministry of Children’s Services to launch an innovative pilot program called ‘Eye See… Eye Learn.’ It is estimated that a phenomenal 14% of school-aged children experience some form of vision dysfunction and the ‘Eye See… Eye Learn’ project was designed to ensure that neither vision deficits nor eye health problems were issues preventing children from reaching their full learning potential. Parents with children entering kindergarten were encouraged to obtain comprehensive eye and vision examinations provided pro bono for their child by local optometrists and ophthalmologists. As well, through the generous donation of participating industry sponsors, those children subsequently found to require eyeglasses were given them free of charge. 

Increasing vision-health awareness through education is a pivotal element of the ‘Eye See… Eye Learn’ program. In conjunction with the pre-school eye examinations, a set of books called the ‘Bright Eyes’ series has been distributed to every elementary classroom from kindergarten to grade six, as well as every pediatrician and optometrist’s office within the province. The books are based on six of the most common vision concerns such as myopia, hyperopia, astigmatism, amblyopia and eye safety in sports, as well as one emphasizing the correlation between vision and learning. Written in an entertaining style with beautiful illustrations; the goal is to provide accurate, age-appropriate wellness information to young readers. The educational component also extends to adults, as each Bright Eyes book contains a section called ‘Stuff for Grown- Ups;’ a parent and teacher’s guide to signs, symptoms and treatments for each condition. 

The inaugural year of ‘Eye See…Eye Learn’ was deemed an unmitigated success, and raising awareness around the importance of eye health examinations resulted in more than 30% of Albertan children having their eyes examined prior to starting school. Every elementary school across the province of Alberta has now adopted the Eye See…Eye Learn program, with roughly 56,000 parent information packages being sent out to Albertan homes every year since the pilot and in fact, this incredibly beneficial program is now in place almost Canada-wide. 

In June of 2015, the Saskatchewan Association of Optometrists followed Alberta’s lead and distributed the Bright Eyes series to over 700 locations throughout their province. This very generous initiative provides vision-health education to every school, library and day-care setting within Saskatchewan, and in combination with early childhood eye examinations takes aim to rectify vision deficits before they can impact a child’s potential to learn.

d-lesley-leslie

D. Lesley Leslie is the author of many health and wellness books for children as well as the adult fiction novel, KAVLA. Born in England to South African parents, she was raised in Canada and now resides in the Middle East. She welcomes all suggestions, comments and questions.

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