Growing up fast: The JustKidding story

When JustKidding signed a franchise deal with investors AMZ earlier this year, it marked the next chapter in the company’s story of growth. Founder Annemarie Retera spoke to StartUp about how and why her business made this big step, and what it means for JustKidding’s future

Anybody who has brought up a baby will know what it’s like. The constant planning during pregnancy to ensure you have all the items you need when your child is born; the mad dashes to the shops to buy extra food, nappies and wet wipes; the never-ending list of things you need to buy as your baby learns to crawl, walk and talk.

It’s a joyous time, but potentially a logistical nightmare too. Which is why shops such as JustKidding have been such a welcome arrival in the region.

A haven for parents in Dubai, JustKidding launched in 2006 offering a range of premium baby products from car seats and strollers to baths and bibs, and from cots and body suits to toys and trikes.

From its first store in Al Quoz, the company later moved to the Gold and Diamond Park near Mall of the Emirates, and a year later opened its flagship store on Sheikh Zayed Road.

And now, thanks to a multimillion dirham franchise deal, the company will be spreading throughout the region, with seven new stores opening in the coming months, before moving into Saudi Arabia.

The brains behind the operation are Dutch husband and wife team Ben Boenk and Annemarie Retera, who spotted a gap in the market while visiting friends in Dubai.

“A good friend invited us for holiday and we got the idea while we were here,” says Retera. “We had small children at the time and this was definitely a gap in the market. The area had Mothercare and Babyshop, but not much else.

“Because we had small children ourselves we always look at the products wherever we go, and we just didn’t see anything much here.”

So the couple moved their family to Dubai in 2005 and started planning their new venture.

Retera adds: “My husband did hotel management and had a catering company, and I’m a lawyer in banking and insurance management, so we didn’t exactly have a retail background.

“But there were so many opportunities in Dubai. We wanted to do something very different.”

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