InterviewsWomen Entrepreneurs

Building a Social Circle for Children Through Play Dates

Shamim Kassibawi, the Founder of Play:Date, speaks to Small Enterprise about the app and her startup story

Tell us about Play:Date? Who is the target audience?
Play:Date helps moms, dads, kids, and families in general. The primary goal of the app is to help build a social circle for your child via the setting up of ‘play dates’. We understand how vital friendships can be at a young age, and expanding a kids social circle not only helps develop important life skills but it is also less likely that the child will have social and emotional difficulties later in life.

Additionally, users have access to several discounts, deals, complimentary entry at kid-friendly events, etc. In today’s day and age, we understand it can be difficult to run a family due to increasing costs, hence our number one goal is to create a convenient way for parents to build their kids’ social circle and provide families with an affordable experience.

Kids and parents are the core of our business – Play:Date’s target audience ranges from children that are 0 months up until 12 years of age.

How did you start up? When did you start up? How did you arrive at the idea behind your company?
My “appreneur” journey with Play:Date started two years ago when I realized a lot of the kids living in today’s cosmopolitan lifestyle did not have much of a social circle. Everyone is so busy leading such fast-paced lives that a lot of parents often have a hard time introducing their kids to others their age – this was a gap I identified while living with my sister and her kids.

I wanted to help families and this is how the idea was formulated. The next step was bringing it to life. However, a number of factors had to be considered – would parents be comfortable uploading their child’s data online? How would profiles be screened? Was it secure? After lots of research, trial and error, Play:Date was born.

Tell us about your team? How many members? Who is involved in the day to day operations?
I’ve always believed in maintaining a small tight-knit team. Given the right support, a small team can get work done quickly and efficiently. We are a total of 5 employees at Play:Date where everyone is given a responsibility and the freedom to ‘run their own show’. We currently handle marketing/PR, finance, operations/admin, designing and media-buying.

Did you come across any challenges during the initial days?
Personally, it has been technology. For someone that comes from a purely PR and Communications background, understanding the technical aspects was difficult. Technology is moving so fast we can barely keep up. There’s literally a new invention or innovation every other day. However, the solution for this is to constantly educate yourself, adapt and of course, have the right partners/team -you need to have the right people to guide, support, inspire and value you.

How is your service different from similar companies on the market?
We don’t really have a direct competitor. In fact, we encourage entities from the community to collaborate with us and together we can all work towards the same goal – connecting kids and making friends, thus expanding the community. I’m a firm believer in ‘“competitive collaborations”— this long-term partnership, truly do strengthen and mutually benefit all parties involved.

Was the funding self-funded or do you have external partners?
Play:Date has been solely self-funded for the last two years. However, we are now looking at raising capital and growing the business.

What are your future plans with your company? Any new markets/target audiences you plan to reach?
From a future plans standpoint, we’ve got lots of idea’s brewing in the pipeline that we would love to explore. I’d like to provide mothers and women in general, a working environment that is best suited for them. A place where they can work flexible hours, bring their kids to the office and have a nursery/daycare centre at Play:Date HQ – this is my long-term vision.

With regards to new markets, during Play:Date’s pilot phase we noticed that after UAE, the US was our biggest market. It certainly is super exciting to see this grow organically and is something we will be tackling as soon as things are perfected on the ground here. The US is definitely our next target!

What is your advice for aspiring entrepreneurs?
My top three tips for a budding entrepreneur is :

Passion: This is so important! You are going to be eating, drinking, breathing and living your idea – almost 18 hours a day I would say – you need to know your stuff and love it.

Do Not Chase Money: avoid chasing money, money is great and you might be passionate about it, but that’s not enough. As someone once said “Don’t chase the money chase your dream”.

Create A Strong Support System: you need to have the right people to look up to, inspire and value you – the inner circle as I like to call it.

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