With the opening of her latest store and the launch of her online boutique, Boom & Mellow founder Sima Barazi Haroun is a leader in style. Here we talk to the Middle Eastern lovely.
It was nearly ten years ago that Sima Barazi Haroun opened the doors to the first high-end accessory boutique in Dubai. Where other start-ups at the time were concentrating on apparel and couture, the young entrepreneur recognized a woman’s desire to decorate herself in jewels that were just as unique and eye-catching as her personality. Even the most exceptional taste-makers would find it difficult to cater to the needs of Dubai’s cosmopolitan market, a market in which women hail from every continent of the world bringing with them an acute and particular style. With an upbringing that saw Sima immersed in varying cultures from Iran and Syria to the USA and France, she was able to define exactly what it was that the region’s women craved. With an eclectic mix of brands bought in from around the globe, Boom & Mellow still leads in its market nearly a decade after inception. ‘Being exposed to many different cultures definitely gives you the privilege of having ‘an eye’ for buying in brands and jewellery pieces,’ says the entrepreneur. And her expertise doesn’t stop there. Sima and her family are also devoted members of their community and take active roles in giving back.
July is our annual travel issue – can you tell us where in the world you spent your childhood?
My mother is Iranian and my father Syrian and so I lived in Damascus until I was eight years old before migrating to the USA with my family. I stayed there until I was 17.
How did this exposure to different worlds change you?
What I am today is due to the mix of cultures and the upbringing I had at home and in the various places that I lived. Being exposed to so much makes you a more open minded and worldly person, which can be of great benefit when you’re looking at the world and the people in it.
So where would you say you feel most ‘at-home’, where do you find your place in the world?
Strangely enough I have a very strong attachment to Nice in France. Every summer from the age of two I’d be there with my family, grandparents and friends – it was the only constant in my life growing up. Later on it became my parent’s home in Damascus, but unfortunately this is no longer the case due to Syria’s recent situation. Instead, I find comfort in my own home with my husband and children.
Feeling safe and at home must be integral to you and your family, is it important for you to help others find the same security in life?
My father is heavily involved in charities back in Syria having opened an orphanage and special needs school. I wish I could be more involved on site and in person but unfortunately it’s not possible given the current situation in Syria, so instead I help as much as I can from here. Boom & Mellow has held several charity events during the last few years where a percentage of sales is given to a specific charity like Brave Heart of the Orphanage of Syria. A few of the brands actually have specific designs in their collections where proceeds go to charities, so we always try and champion these.
It’s really inspiring to see someone taking such an active role in their community, is this something you also encourage in your own children?
On a basic level they always help me sort out their clothes and toys knowing that they’ll be going on to families who are unable to afford the same luxuries. They’re also exposed to many charities in school and thankfully educational institutes today have put a strong emphasis on encouraging children to be empathetic and give back.
How do you juggle time between your young family and a business?
It’s hard, but the only way is to accept that everything will not be perfect all the time and to not feel guilty about it. You need to prioritise and use your instinct to realise who or what it is that needs you most that day.
From whom do you seek your greatest support?
Definitely my husband. He is both the best listener and critic when needs be, but he always supports me and encourages me to excel and take risks.
Did you have to take risks, or face many challenges when setting up Boom & Mellow?
Thankfully I really did not have many challenges, I just needed to ensure that Dubai knows who Boom & Mellow is. It was achieved in quite a short time since there was no other concept like it!
How do you make sure you hold onto this uniqueness?
Women here crave good quality, colourful pieces that are trendy but last and aren’t found in every other shop and website. I have to keep my eyes wide open and continue researching because these days the world keeps changing and it’s hard to keep up if you don’t stay informed. We always introduce new brands and new collections because our client wants to be kept on her toes. My sister and I are at the store as much as possible, which our clients love and appreciate – this and the fact that we’ve been around for almost ten years helps to keep our loyal following.
Did your recent relocation to the new Town Centre Jumeirah store help with this?
Yes, definitely! We moved last November and so far it’s been wonderful. We’re in love with the cosiness of the small mall and the opportunity it allows for us to spend quality time with our clients. It’s a true boutique in every sense of the word.
Was the move a challenge for you?
No, it was exciting. We also started our online store this year, www.shopboomandmellow.com, and technology is certainly not my forte so that was a challenge! I always like to understand and be involved, but this was an entirely new ballgame – I got to learn something new and if our customers love it – which they do! – then that’s a challenge overcome in my books.
If another young, female entrepreneur came to you tomorrow and said she wanted to start her own business, what advice would you give her?
Do it quickly and don’t wait. There is never a perfect time so just go for it! Women often wonder whether they should start before or after having children, I think its actually easier when your children are young as teenagers need you to be there for them more than babies. So don’t hide behind starting a family as an excuse!
Every woman in the region knows and adores the Boom & Mellow name, where did it derive from?
It was a brain storming session between my sister and I, she was helping me come up with words to describe my personality. She kept going for energetic ones like hype, party, fun…and boom. I argued that I was no longer those things, now more calm, boring and mellow. That’s where the Boom & Mellow came together. It’s ‘me’ and at the same time the style and feel of the shop. It worked perfectly!
So you’re both ‘boom’ and ‘mellow’! How does this character come out from day-to-day, do you have a philosophy that you like to live by?
‘Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, today is the present so cherish it.’ I heard it for the first time a few years ago when I was watching Kung Fu Panda! I try to follow it as much as possible.
Tomorrow might well be a mystery, but do you have any dreams for it?
I know I’m supposed to be given a very driven and ambitious answer but my true dream is for my family to be healthy and happy and for Boom & Mellow to continue doing as well as it is today.