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Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Female foodpreneurs: Samira Hamid on building her dream bistro O’Play

Having moved to Bangladesh after spending almost fifteen years in London for a sabbatical during my pregnancy, I was totally ready to join my father and sister in our family business. However, in a strange twist of fate, a chance conversation with my best friend completely changed my focus. As mothers, both of us noticed a clear gap and need in the market for soft play areas to keep our children’s activity and engagement levels up. 


O’Play turned out to be the dream of four mothers, including the two of us. Our vision was to create the ultimate indoor play centre that provided both active play and imagination-based play activities for fun and development in a safe, bright and friendly environment for children. O’Play’s spacious yard promotes outdoor play and allows children to get fresh air and explore their environment more. Hands-on learning, the natural environment and loose parts in the outdoors stimulate children’s senses through what they hear, touch, see and feel. 


At our very own Italian Bistro at O’Play we try to meticulously pair ingredients to offer the best dining experience possible. Having travelled extensively I was able to discover new cuisines from a very early age and observed that good food is one formula that makes everybody happy, creates lasting bonds and unending healthy conversations.

In November 2018, I started to learn the business from scratch. It was at this time I began to come to terms with the stark reality that gastronomy is actually a fairly difficult business to be in. Studies have found, for example 60-90 percent of new restaurants fail within the first three years. However, it can be a lucrative business but one must be aware of the fact that there are a thousand moving parts, and one needs to be knowledgeable of all of them. Putting up a business is not something that can’t be done overnight. It requires a lot of effort, knowledge on the industry and a lot of good people around you to support you throughout the way. 

The most fulfilling part of running O’Play comes from the fact that I get to spend quality time with my daughter while she plays and I work. Women are good at wearing many hats, and are able to juggle multiple things at once. I love how I don’t have to miss out on her growing up while I am at work. 

April 2020 marked our first year. We were overwhelmed by all the love and support from our clients and saw a nearly two-fold increase in our revenues. 

The current pandemic makes the situation feel a bit apocalyptic, but I believe that in order to restart, we certainly have to be stronger than before – when we can’t control what’s happening, we need to control the way we respond to what’s happening. As they say, “nothing brings people together like good food.” This time, the same quote will hold true, except just with the added caveat of ensuring the relevant safety standards that work in tandem with the pandemic.


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