A homegrown brand for kids called Lalapaloza has launched complete with a spa, salon, retail shop and party room. We speak to co-founders Eman Salman Al-Khayat and Nash Elkounfoudi about this veritable candy land which also aims to promote a healthy body image.
Walking into Lalapaloza in A’Ali Shopping Complex is like walking into your childhood. Hundreds of brightly coloured sweets and candy-inspired toys greet you on arrival, alongside inviting and intermingling smells of chocolate, strawberries and other mouthwatering flavours.
In one corner, you’ll find a miniature salon known as the Lala Mini for girls to makeover their dolls, while another corridor takes you into the spa which offers services, such as flavoured hair cuts and mani-pedis, for kids aged four to 14 using homemade, paraban-free, organic candy-inspired products. In another room, just opposite the spa, there’s a decent-sized party room with an interactive gaming projection and digital screen.
On the day we arrive to meet co-founders Eman Salman Al-Khayat and Nash Elkounfoudi, the party room has been decked out in full Hawaii-themed regalia. We sit at a kid-sized table, being careful not to tear delicate multi-coloured streamers, to chat while Lalapaloza staff happily mill about preparing for a full day of kiddy fun ahead.
Eman, who is originally Bahraini, and Nash, who’s a certified life coach from the Dutch Caribbean, make quite a pairing. Nash’s enthusiasm and inspired personality rubs off while Eman seems to be more business-minded yet still very friendly. And both of them are quite clearly passionate about their new project, which they started along with Eman’s husband Dr Hassan Ali Mulla Ahmed.
‘We were thinking a long time ago of having a dedicated project but it wasn’t actually aimed for kids,’ says Eman. ‘My husband has a family background where they really love entrepreneurship and to embrace new ideas, and my last job was dealing closely with small and medium enterprises in Bahrain.’
Eman has been documenting and promoting homegrown successes in the country for a while now, through KPMG Fakhro and the Tamkeen Enterprise Development Support Programme, continually being inspired by other people, until one day she thought, ‘Instead of creating success stories for others, why not create my own success story?’ So, Eman, Nash and Dr Hassan then set about looking for a truly unique and creative concept. At first, they began negotiations with a couple of US-based businesses until they realised the restrictions of owning a franchise. Instead, they set about coming up with something on their own. By merging two or three interesting and inspiring concepts from America, they soon came up with what is now Bahrain’s own Lalapaloza.
This concept is in no way limiting and even though they already have a huge range of services for boys, girls and mothers, the trio are simply drip-feeding us with tasters of what’s to come. Already, since opening after the summer, they’ve introduced dedicated spa services like superhero cuts and aloe vera-based pedicures for boys aged up to 11, have started welcoming adults and offer a fun twist on the traditional henna party.
‘This is our first stage,’ says Nash. ‘We wanted to do it in steps to keep the concept alive, because here in Bahrain concepts might die really quickly when people get used to it.’
Eman adds, ‘The concept is new in the market so we’re just gradually unfolding it.’
One of the main highlights of their planned expansions is the Lala spa factory, which allows kids to be involved in producing the cosmetics at the spa. Soon, the Lala Mini concept will extend to allow little girls to have a makeover with their own dolls. Then, they plan to roll out workshops and day camps for older tweens, introducing ideas on how to naturally take care of their skin, how to look and feel good, and ultimately aim to boost their confidence.
‘We do makeovers and things in our spa but this is not about children looking like grown-ups,’ Nash explains. ‘We don’t have full make-up makeovers and hair dos, we do things with glitter for instance. We actually want to introduce a healthy way of dealing with makeup and also how to deal with your skin when you start reacting to hormones.’
As mothers themselves, both Eman and Nash are very focused on promoting not only a healthy body image but also with providing safe and natural ingredients. As there were so few products already available in Bahrain, they decided to develop their own cosmetics using all-natural, organic ingredients that are hypo-allergenic. Meanwhile, staff undergo rigorous training in health and safety, how to deal with kids, and on the concept itself so they can pass on their inspiration and passion to their clients. ‘It’s important for our staff to be cheerful and smiley so the place looks fun and feels fun,’ says Eman.
‘We want this to be a place where they can come and have fun but we’re also giving something to take with them that’s actually valuable,’ says Nash. ‘We want the concept of Lalapaloza to actually be something that stays with our clients.’
Lalapaloza is located opposite the food court in Al A’ali Shopping Complex, Seef District. Visit www.lalapaloza.com or call 1619 1612.
Core services in brief
This mind-boggling multi-concept offers a lot to families. Here are their current core services…
A range of candy-inspired services are available in their full-on spa suite for boys, girls and mothers. Among numerous options, there’s the mini-mani or mini-pedi, ice cream flavoured treatments, mint hand and foot treatments for boys, super hero and flavoured hair cuts, face painting and even a Mommy and Me mani-pedi bonding session. Prices range from BD1 (nail art) to BD18 (cupcake mani-pedi).
Catered to little princesses who love to play with and pamper their dolls, Lala Mini let’s her be a mini hairdresser with provided dolls, miniature salon space and hairstyling equipment. There are packages that range from 15 to 30 minutes and BD2 to BD8.5. You can also leave your child in their hands while you shop.
The Lalapaloza party room can be transformed into anything you like and it comes complete with a digital screen (fit for karaoke and movie screenings) and interactive gaming projection. They offer Mini Sweet, Start Sweet, Deluxe Sweet and Super Sweet packages with prices starting from BD150 for 2.5 hours (up to 15 kids). This includes invitations, music, games, food, snow cones, karaoke and more (depending on the package).