1. Please introduce yourselves to our readers:
I’m Kuwaiti-born but have lived and studied abroad for many years. I was trained in engineering and finance so I usually approach problems with an analytical mindset to tackle them in the most efficient way possible.
2. Tell us about your education.
I did my Bachelor’s at MIT in Cambridge, Massachusetts and ended up staying longer to attend extra classes. University was very challenging, but ultimately, it was the best experience of my life. Most of my professors were Nobel prize winners and deeply inspirational. Their goal was to push us to go out into the world and build solutions. Most of our coursework was practical problem solving instead of theoretical memorization.
3. How did you all meet?
Noor is my sister and has been helping since the beginning. She, as well as my other siblings, have been helping since I finished building the very first MVP for Bookr. After Bookr launched, I was blessed to have met Dana through LOYAC and was inspired by her hard work and dedication. Basma was fortuitously sourced through an HR agency that provided me with her CV.
4. How and when did the idea of a booking app come up? Who had the initial idea?
In the summer of 2014, I came across a website marketplace for salons and spas in London and decided to adapt the idea for the Kuwaiti market, but as an app. I found a development company online in October 2014 and started from there.
5. How did you your idea become a reality?
Share briefly the journey. After doing some research on different development companies locally, I decided to go with an offshore company to build a cheaper MVP. After I had completed the MVP, I got validation and support from family and friends. Later I was
accepted to the Zain Great Idea program and that accelerated my progress, helping me take Bookr to the next level.
6. When was the app officially launched and how has the response been?
The app was officially launched in early 2016 and the response has surprised us. Many people appreciated the idea of online booking and loved the ease and convenience it provided.Growth has been steady and consistent despite the competing apps that popped up after our success.
“In order to help you free up more time and energy, entrepreneur Zaina Albader invested her efforts and hard work into creating the booking app that is now changing the face of wellness in Kuwait! Bookr is a chic and sophisticated directory app connecting Kuwaitis to the best salons and spas around, which means you can book appointments with ease and say goodbye to playing phone tag with your favorite stylist. As the founder of Bookr, Albader speaks to the advantages and disadvantages of being a female business owner in the Kuwaiti marketplace, her visions for the future, and the dynamic team of women that make Bookr a success. Always looking for solutions to improve the world and daily living, Albader is an inspirational entrepreneur with an eye for efficiency and a passion for innovation.”
7. Explain Bookr briefly. Share some salient
features of the app.
Bookr is an app-based market place for salons, barbers and spas. It will soon encompass pet groomers as well. Users can browse salons in their area, read reviews, and book and pay for appointments directly through the app. They get rewarded with free services with points they collect from their bookings.
8. Any special feature that sets Bookr apart from the rest?
Bookr is selective of the salons and spas on its system as it puts an emphasis on clean, quality salons whose stylists are well trained and hygienic. Our pick of places is like a personalized guide. We also reward our users for their bookings and allow them to collect points while offering them exclusive discounts at our vendors.
9. Who is an ideal customer of Bookr?
The ideal customer of Bookr is anyone who needs a grooming or beauty appointment, and prefers to make an appointment as opposed to going and waiting in line. We also appeal to
those who are concerned with the quality of services they get and like to read reviews about the salons before they visit.
10. How did you agree and decide upon the different roles amongst yourselves?
When I first started Bookr, I did all the roles myself so I understood how to do each one and what it needed. I try to give varied responsibilities to each team member to see where
they excel, what they are good at and what they enjoy. Based on that information, I ask them to take the lead in that role so they can specialize in it and be the main decision maker in that field.
11. How do you resolve conflicts amongst yourselves if they arise?
When conflicts arise, we all discuss our points of view and someone ends up convincing the rest. If there is not aconsensus, then we agree to try someone else’s way and measure the results, and decide whether to try another way or continue in it.
12. What are some of the difficulties that you faced in the initial stage of starting your
One main difficulty was trying to convince salons to use this new way of taking appointments.
13. What are some of your marketing strategies?
We rely on word of mouth as our main source of marketing, but we also use Sponsored ads and get a lot of free press because everyone is interested in tech startups—especially if
they are run by a woman.
14. What are the challenges that you are currently facing and how are you overcoming
Currently, we face the challenge of how to scale most efficiently to the different markets and demographics.
15. What do you consider your biggest achievement so far?
I consider my biggest achievement to be the realization of this app—an app that started out as a dream, an app that everyone said was too ambitious of an idea, an app they said
would never gain traction—get over 200 bookings a day! I still remember friends and family members that told me, “No one will every use this app,” yet today they use it to book almost all their appointments.
16. Share some of your future plans for your business.
We plan to move into the pet grooming space as well as expand our choices of salons in spas. We also want to move into new markets and offer multiple language selections in
the app to cater to non-Arab, non-English speaking users.
17. What, according to you, are the benefits and disadvantages of a women-owned business in Kuwait?
The benefit is that you get a lot more press, but the disadvantage is that you have less access to funding because investors generally prefer male founders.
18. Share one important entrepreneurship lesson that you have learnt in business?
I have learned that you must take risks in order to learn what works and what doesn’t, even if you don’t find outside support.
19. Your message for aspiring entrepreneurs.
Stay focused, stay committed, and keep pushing even when you don’t feel supported.
20. Your message for us at StartUps magazine:
Keep pushing through. You have a great idea that could be a main platform for transmitting news and ideas between startups.