Dubai: These 3 teenagers launched their businesses during Covid as they studied online

From making lessons easier to reselling sneakers and starting an eatery, they have come a long way



Image used for illustrative purposes.
Image used for illustrative purposes.
by

Nasreen Abdulla

Published: Mon 26 Sep 2022, 5:13 PM

Last updated: Mon 26 Sep 2022, 6:12 PM

The Covid-19 pandemic was a game changer in more than one way. While online learning and Zoom meetings became the new normal for students and office goers, for many young minds, it was a catalyst to think outside the box.

Khaleej Times speaks to three UAE-based bright teenagers who launched their businesses from lessons they learnt from the pandemic. Whether it was making learning easy for peers, reselling sweets to home-bound friends, or curating a menu based on family recipes, these youngpreneurs found their calling during Covid.

For 17-year-old Aisha Siddiqui, it was a passion to share knowledge that turned into the non-profit organisation Siddiqui Academy. During the pandemic, when online learning became the only tool to learn and impart knowledge, Aisha began thinking about how to apply the lessons learnt from it to help benefit her peers. “I could see that many of my friends were struggling, and there were some gaps during online learning,” she said. “Some people were afraid to ask questions while others had difficulty concentrating.”

The coding enthusiast decided to develop her website where Year 10 and above students could volunteer to coach young learners in subjects they needed help with. “It is a great experience for the tutors because teaching helps them to understand the topics better,” she said.

Aisha Siddiqui
Aisha Siddiqui

She has been running the website for over two years now with the help of a team of friends. For her efforts, Aisha was awarded the Diana Award in 2021, the highest accolade a young person can achieve for social action or humanitarian efforts.

The Cambridge International School, Dubai student, who started the project also as a way to honour her late grandfather, who was a champion for children’s right to education, said tutors are vetted before being registered on the website. “We first interview them,” she said. “If they pass the interview stage, we ask them to give a demo. We make sure that the tutors know what they are doing.”

Completely free, the academy allows those who need tutors to browse through profiles and select one whose teaching topics and schedule match their needs.

Harry Tomkinson
Harry Tomkinson

A zeal for reselling

For Brighton school student Harry Tomkinson, it was a chance encounter during the Covid pandemic that set him on the path of entrepreneurship. “At the peak of the lockdown, all 12-year-olds had to stay home,” he said. “I had just turned 13, so I went to my local supermarket and bought sweets and chocolates. I then resold it to my friends at a slightly higher price and made a good amount of money.”

This was the trigger for him to move on to sneakers - something he has always loved. When four pairs that he bought resold at a good price, he decided to set up VIP Sneakers. Today he stocks more than 500 pairs of sneakers on his website, with a back office logistics and a team that takes care of the marketing and merchandising of the products.

The youngster who does Business Studies as part of his GCSEs said it has been the best learning experience for him. In order to help those like him, earlier this week he organised an open day for people to know about VIP Sneakers better and for students to do internships with the company and got a tremendous response. “Over 3,000 people turned up,” he said. “I am excited to start sharing my knowledge and experience with my peers.”

Maryam AlHashimi
Maryam AlHashimi

A passion project

For 16-year-old Emirati Maryam AlHashimi, her father’s request to set up a coffee shop within his fitness concept was the perfect outlet for her passion for health and fitness. While her sisters Fatma and Amna concentrated on the business aspects and interiors respectively, Maryam set out to design the menu of Kona House Coffee, located inside Just Padel.

“Since it was a place that catered to sportspersons and fitness enthusiasts, I did a lot of research on post workout meals and what kind of food would give our clients the most benefits after a good workout session,” she said. The teenager, who is a student at Repton School, also wanted to pay homage to her family on the menu. She incorporated a pistachio cake which had a special place in her heart. “It is something our mother makes every Ramadan,” she said. “Meanwhile the banana cake is my grandmother’s recipe and has been a family favourite for over four decades.”

Since Kona House Coffeee opened its doors in January this year, Maryam said she has learnt a lot. “It has been a steep learning curve,” she said. “Some of the items which I thought was great didn’t really work on the menu and some which I thought were not very good became very popular. So I keep experimenting all the time and we have a constantly evolving menu."

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