Nestled within the concrete lanes of Alserkal Avenue lies a grey, industrial warehouse like any other. But when entering this particular warehouse, a burst of something quite the contrary to its exterior façade hits you in the face – and for one reason or another, you begin to beam with a smile and wonder why. With a splash of glitter and the kick of a balloon – The Happy Studio seems to have won the hearts of adults who thought their inner child had faded. As a result, a wave of rainbow adorned Instagram posts have swept across the UAE and press from all across the region have scurried towards the pop-up installation, with a curiosity for this new and exciting concept.
When meeting Jumana, the founder of both the Happy Box and it’s factory, The Happy Studio, one is instantly hit with the same giddy sense of positivity that emanates from the inner walls of her studio. Her energetic demeanour and inviting smile forces you to beg the question – what’s her secret?
Growing up as the daughter of a UN diplomat, Jumana had the privilege of expanding her horizons and getting a taste of multiculturalism, giving her a perspective that not many get the chance to have at such a young age. As she grew older and moved to Dubai, she was lucky enough to work in His Highness Sheikh Mohamed Al Maktoum’s office – the place that gave her the fearless attitude she so evidently emanates.
“When you work in His Highnesses office, under his vision and mandate, you realise the importance of thinking big – there’s no such thing as impossible.”
We sat down with the woman once dubbed by The National as “The Queen of Happiness’, to find out what drove someone who worked in social development for the government, to take the leap of faith and become the ambassador of happiness.
“There was one night when I woke up and I felt like I could move mountains – it was such a bizarre feeling” said Jumana, as she explained the process of forming The Happy Box, a package filled with activities and other goodies – with the purpose of bringing families closer together.
Despite adversities, societal judgements and the risk of failure, Jumana took the plunge and has never looked back. Starting off with the overarching theme of ‘happiness’, she used the business planning tools that she gained working in government to refine her strategy and come up with a niche concept that would soon become an international franchise. From being featured on the cover of Harper’s Bazaar magazine to establishing a ‘Happy Studio’ both in Alserkal Avenue and the US, it was inevitable that this brand would only continue to move onwards and upwards.
While some would attest this success to themselves, it became increasingly evident that much of Jumana’s influence and drive stemmed from family members, who she holds close to her heart. The short encounters of quality time with her UN diplomat father is what inspired the underlying theme of the ‘happy’ concept – which is essentially an encapsulation of moments in time. The true reason for embarking on this journey was thanks to the current Chief Confetti Princess of the Happy Box, Jumana’s daughter Ayla Nouri.
“I started The Happy Box for my daughter – I wanted her to be part of seeing something grow.”
The very latest milestone of growth for the unicorn-loving glitter queen was establishing The Happy Studio in Alserkal Avenue. One might wonder why a company with such exuberant aesthetics would choose an arts hub whose look and feel was raw and gritty – but according to Jumana, there couldn’t have been a more perfect location.
“I’ve been to many community spaces in Dubai and I loved them all. But with Alserkal Avenue – I just felt at home and I couldn't envision The Happy Studio anywhere else. It’s raw and real – if I walk around with a crown on my head, nobody’s going to judge me.”
She went on to express her eagerness to work with emerging artists within the region, continuing the vision of supporting homegrown talent that Alserkal Avenue holds as one of its pillars. And while The Happy Studio stands alone as one of the more unique concepts on the Avenue, it widens the scope of opportunity and expands the foundation for the burgeoning arts and culture scene in Dubai.
With visions of increasing her involvement in philanthropy, expanding the brand internationally and continuing to spread happiness – The Happy Studio need not be reduced to being defined as a glittery wonderland, but is also a vital element in broadening the horizon for local talent in line with his Highness Sheikh Mohamed Al Maktoum’s vision in making the UAE the happiest country in the world.