Women in our Community, Part 1: Meet Mehroo Turel, founder of Mums@Play

Hi Mehroo, can you tell us a bit about yourself

I was born and grew up in Mumbai, India.

After college, I did an MBA in Marketing from the University of Mumbai and then worked in marketing with one of the big conglomerates in Mumbai for 5 years.

Then I became a mother and my priorities changed – my job did not seem to be as important to me anymore, it became harder and harder to balance the time I wanted with my son with the long hours my job needed. I quit my job when he was 2½ years old and then my husband got offered a role in Hong Kong – the timing was perfect. We relocated here in 2007.

In 2008, my second son was born – I was thoroughly enjoying being a stay at home Mum, I’d found my new calling!

By end of 2009, we had moved to London for my husband’s work. I loved being a Mum in London but my boys were getting bigger and I started to think about doing something else too. I thought I would like to be a teacher and that it would give me a good balance between my family and working outside the home.  To see if I would like teaching, I volunteered in local government schools. However, then we were on the move again with my husband’s work taking us back to Hong Kong.

Back in Hong Kong I did a TESOL teaching course and worked as a Teaching Assistant in an International School and as part time teacher for an International Kindergarten. The job turned into a full time role which wasn’t what I wanted with my young kids.

At that time, I started working on a blog and found I really enjoyed doing it. I loved how my life had changed from a carefree young girl in Mumbai to a Mom in Hong Kong. My blog is very personal – it’s about me and my life and experiences in Hong Kong. I love the great outdoors and like blogging about some of the incredible hiking trails in Hong Kong. 

(Check out Mehroo’s blog at http://frommissindiatomotherhood.com/)

I started my store SUMMER approx.. 3 years ago (https://www.facebook.com/styleatsummer/)selling cotton casuals which I source in India. I didn’t have much time to dedicate to it and was just selling pieces from home. I received great support from my friends which encouraged me to keep going. As my boys got older, I had a bit more time and started to do pop up markets and to sell online. At these markets, I met other Mums just like me – Mums first and business owners second and discovered that here was a whole new community with the same concerns and issues.  Escalating market stall fees was becoming a huge challenge for me and these Mums and this was the inspiration behind setting up Mums@Play.

Tell us about Mums@Play

The first Mums@Play bazaar was in Cyberport and our friends and the local community came out to support us. Things went from there and Mums@Play continues to set up bazaars around Hong Kong with one of its main aims being to keep market stall fees down to allow these Mumtrepreneurs a chance to succeed.

Mums@Play is a secondary business to SUMMER but Mehroo gives so much more to these Momtrepreneurs (Our Girls Gang can personally attest to this!) than any financial gain she attains from it. 

Mehroo puts tremendous effort into these bazaars – sourcing locations, keeping costs down, promoting the bazaars, meeting with the Momtrepreneurs to get to know them and their business, helping them plan out their stall pitches, answering questions, giving advice , offering support and encouragement and calming nerves – Mehroo is Mom to the Momtrepreneurs!

Our Girls Gang attended one of the Mums at Play bazaars at Cyberport earlier this year and I was blown away not only by the effort that Mehroo puts into these bazaars but by the warmth and support from the other Mumtrepreneurs at the bazaar – the Moms@Play family.

Mehroo goes onto tell me that at these bazaars, vendors were coming to her seeking business advice to which she did not have all the answers, and this inspired her to set up workshops and bring in experts who could help. It was actually at one of these workshops where I first met Mehroo and heard about Mums@Play – I am somewhat I.T. challenged and I attended a workshop on how to set up a Shopify website for your business.

Other workshops Mehroo has organized included topics like business accounting, business set up, MailChimp, Canva, Facebook advertising etc.

I recently attended a networking breakfast that Mehroo organized where I met other Momtrepreneurs where we chatted about our businesses, the challenges we faced and offered each other advice and suggestions. I left feeling energized and encouraged to keep going.

Mums@Play also organises Pop Up retail space in convenient locations – the next one is SUMMER SALE pop-up on 11th – 13thJune at Usagi, Wah Shin House, 6 – 10 Shin Hing Street, Central. See link below for further information.

https://www.facebook.com/events/453254188765435/

What is the biggest challenge facing Momentrepreneurs in Hong Kong?

Balance! Balancing the roles of being a Mom and a business owner. There are lots of late nights working once the kids are gone to bed which then makes it difficult to spend quality time with my husband.

On the business side, budgeting is difficult with escalating costs.

The market experience is also changing. It used to be a unique shopping experience where shoppers found something different but now, with so many markets in Hong Kong, you find lots of vendors doing their version of the same thing.

Shoppers can also seek that special local product but forget that the vendors can’t compete with big retailer’s prices.

What would be your advice to a Mom with an idea who doesn’t know where to start

First, make sure it is something that you are really interested and passionate about. It needs to be personal to you so that you stick with it during the highs and the lows.

Try your idea out on your friends with a small pop up at home first. Don’t go spending money on a website, company registration etc. until you have tested your idea first.

Do you have a Facebook page where Momentrepreneurs can connect with you / each other?

Absolutely!

Website:www.mumsatplay.com

Facebook: Mums at Play Event

When you were 17, you had a very interesting opportunity – tell us about Miss India.

I used to model in those days and pageants were a natural progression. My mother always encouraged my sister and I to do something for ourselves. My modelling allowed me to earn an income from when I was 16 years old.

I never did take the pageants seriously – I was the girl wearing slippers to be comfortable while others lived in their 5 inch heels. I knew I did not see this as being my future, I did it for the experience.

(Mehroo finished 6thin the 1994 Miss India Competition – you can read all about her experience on her blog – link below to post:

What did you learn most from this experience?

Confidence in myself and that if I put effort into something that I could make it happen, hard work pays off.

After the contest, I became more recognizable and more work followed.

I also learned that It wasn’t a career for me – I needed something more stimulating and challenging. Back then, the model did not have much control and I didn’t like that.

The Asia Pacific contest followed Miss India which gave me the big experience of travelling as a 17 year old. I was very protected at home as a child so this exposed me to needing to be independent and to look after myself.

As a young girl growing up in India what women were role models to you?

My Mum – she was a stay at home Mom. I loved having her around and would be upset if she was not there. I wanted to do that for my kids.

Who inspires you today?

My sons – when I’m having a bad day (“I didn’t sell anything today…” or “I’m frustrated and thinking about giving up”), I share it with them, and they encourage me. My youngest son leaves me little written notes of encouragement and he has a little Treasure Box where he has kept every flyer from every bazaar I have organised. In their minds I’m doing something big – that keeps me going.

(I completely relate – last weekend I was having a bad day as it had been a tough week for Our Girls Gang and I just happened to look out the bus window and saw a young girl wearing one of my t-shirts. That completely made my day – it’s the little things that energise me to keep going).

What do you think are the biggest challenges facing young girls in Hong Kong today?

Girls are so dependent on being liked and negativity spirals when they are not “liked” or “followed on Facebook.

I hate when I go into Starbucks and see a table of girls interacting with their phones and not each other – that’s not real.

What advice would you give 16 year old you?

Make the most of this time.

Travel opens your mind up – It doesn’t matter where you go.

Study – get more qualified and knowledgeable so that you can take advantage of opportunities that come your way.

Take advantage of others advice – I studied Commerce, not because I wanted to but because my friends did – I would have benefitted from some career guidance.

Finally, can I ask youwhat is your favourite product from the Our Girls Gang store?

I love the all the slogans! My favourite is the baby girl’s sunhat “Don’t Call me Baby”

On behalf of all the Mums@Play entrepreneurs thank you Mehroo for your tireless help, guidance and support!

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