I visited the Qatar Business Incubation Center (QBIC) where four speakers shared their experience as entrepreneur in Qatar. When a young Qatari woman took the stage, presenting her new business concept, I was instantly hooked. She shared her struggle to study and pursue the job of her dreams, animator. Her inspiring story is one of strength, perseverance and most of all: never giving up. This determined young woman is Aisha Al-Jaidah.
Inspired by Walt Disney, she dreamed of studying animation. At that time, animation was unknown in Qatar and Aisha had a difficult task ahead. For two months consecutively, she visited the Council of Education every day to apply for a scholarship abroad. She pursued her dream until she succeeded. And she did, with honors.
Currently, Aisha works full-time as animator for one of the TV channels based in Qatar and is in the midst of launching Qatar’s first Animation Studio. Her success is founded on her dedication and the support of her family, a loving husband and three strong boys. We are proud to introduce Aisha Al-Jaidah, Qatar’s first animator!
You are the first Qatari Animator. How did you manage to get a scholarship to study abroad for such a ‘rare’ major?
Because of my high grades in A levels, the Supreme Education Council of Qatar granted me a scholarship. I was entitled to study a major of my choice in one of the listed countries. Unfortunately neither animation nor Kingston University London were on that list. It took a lot of convincing and perseverance to obtain approval to study such an "unfamiliar" major. But I pursued my dream and I succeeded. With a lot of determination, patience and support of my parents, I managed to graduate from Kingston University London as the first Qatari citizen to hold a BA Honors in ‘Illustration and Animation’.
How did you find work after your final exam?
Finding work was not easy. I applied for many jobs, both in the private and public sector. I was fortunate that one of Qatar’s well-known TV channels mentioned my name, and one thing led to another. This year is my sixth year as a senior animation producer.
Who helped you succeed in reaching your professional goals, and how did they do it?
My parents and my husband. Their support not only helped me get through four years of university, but kept me motivated throughout my professional career. I am very lucky to have such understanding parents. They never stood in the way of my future. The same goes for my husband. His background and experience in business gave me guidance in the workplace
and helped me establish my own company.
What has been the most satisfying moment in starting up your business?
Getting satisfying feedback and recognition from clients and random people.
What is your favorite aspect of being an entrepreneur?
Having the freedom to make mistakes, learn from them and grow. Because of this, I am able to put more than 100% effort and passion in the things I do.
What does your typical day look like?
Since I am a full-time employee, I work 8 hours a day. I try to schedule any client meetings in the late afternoon. After work, I go home and spend time with my three lovely boys for a few hours. Once they are in bed, I focus on my private business for another 3- 4 hours.
What challenges did you face and what did you learn from them?
Since I am full-time employed, I found it difficult to manage my time between my daily job and starting up a business. I did not want either one to affect the other. That was extremely difficult. Especially in the beginning, because a new start-up requires your full attention and dedication.
Another challenge was getting local clients to trust us with their projects. The projects are usually outsourced out of Qatar. We explained that they could benefit by working with us, as we make the communication easier, the time frame shorter and explaination simpler since we are well aware of the culture, religion and traditions of the country. This ensures an ease of mind while clients still receive impressive quality.
What is your greatest fear?
Not spending enough time with my family.
Has being an entrepreneur affected your family and social life?
At one moment, I no longer had a social life! My friends got upset when I stopped attending their gatherings and declined their invitations. Luckily, my husband helped me regain some of those relationships back. He helps me manage my business and find a good work-life balance. While I work full-time during the week, I have my weekends to spend with my family. I dedicate my weekends solely to them.
What keeps you motivated?
Successful entrepreneurs! I enjoy listening to their accomplishments and learn from them. Films and animations also motivate me. I love learning the new techniques that are incorporated in animation or filmmaking, or the thoughts and actions of the director.
What advice would you give other Qatari women who want to be entrepreneurs?
Use your time wisely. Increase you knowledge. Seek support. Surround yourself with people that add positivity to your life. This will not only make you stronger, but will keep you determined to proceed and grow. Don’t be afraid to fight for your beliefs and passions. If you believe, your company will stand out and succeed, so will the people around you. To conclude with some wisdom from Walt Disney: If you can dream it, you can do it!
What three skills are needed to be a successful female entrepreneur in Qatar?
Good communication skills, time management and the ability to multitask
What are the five key elements for starting and running a successful business in Qatar?
1: Be patient and believe in yourself. If you are confident in what you do, clients will see that and approach you with assurance.
2: Solve a problem. People will come to you if they are looking for a solution to their problem. If you do not think your company is unique or there is a lot of competition, find something that will make you stand out from the rest.
3: Sufficient funds. This might be a problem to some, but there are other sources that can help, i.e. bank loans or family support.
4: Don’t wait. If you are waiting for the perfect time, someone will beat you to the chase. The perfect time does not exist! Grab the chance while it is in your reach.
5: Always be curious. Ask people anything you want, their answers will help your business grow. Go search and read. Try to find solutions. Experiment. Practice makes perfect!
Finally, what is your vision for the future?
We at Blue Penguin Animation are proud of the vast development Qatar is facing. We hope to show residents of Qatar, as well as those of neighboring countries, the creativity and inspiration our home country has to offer. We aim to encourage creativity and appreciation of art in Qatar. There are many artistic talents hidden among us in the country. They are unable to express their talents, which makes our artistic awareness limited. Blue Penguin Animation would like to contribute by supporting passionate artists that need a little push. To give something back to our community, we have partnered up with charity organizations such as ROTA. We have collected donations for ROTA and hopefully we will reach out to many more in the future.