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Qatari surgeon Dr Jowhara Al Qahtani tests samples of new sportswear line


Qatari surgeon Dr Jowhara Al Qahtani tests samples of new sportswear line

Tired of searching for functional but modest sportswear, two women in Qatar are working to design their own collection.

And this morning, they have launched a crowd-funding campaign to support their work.

Oola Sports is one of Qatar’s first homegrown companies to specialize in clothing for women who want to cover up while working out.

It is the brainchild Haya Al Ghanim and Amina Ahmadi, who grew frustrated with finding the proper sports attire while training for and climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro nearly two years ago.

Oola founders Haya Al Ghanim and Amina Ahmadi


Oola founders Haya Al Ghanim and Amina Ahmadi

The women spent more than a year creating and fine-tuning their ideas for loose-fitting activewear with a designer.

They are now appealing to the public for financial help to actually get their clothes made.

Through Indiegogo, they aim to raise some QR55,000 (US$15,000).

Any additional money raised will go toward producing more items for sale, and contribute to a modest swimwear line, the women said.

Debut collection

People who donate will be able to pay a discounted price for items from the first collection.

It features non-slip, breathable head scarves as well as loose and sweat-wicking sports tops that are longer in length and have full-length sleeves.

Other items in the planning include a long-length jacket for working out or traveling, and specially-designed pants.

Oola co-founder Haya Al Ghanim


Oola co-founder Haya Al Ghanim

Short-sleeved t-shirts and sports towel have also been designed specifically for the crowd-funding initiative, but won’t be part of the debut line.

Those interested in contributing can spend anywhere from $15 for a microfiber towel to $69 for a hiking top.

The buy-in prices offer donors a discount of up to 25 percent on what the items are expected to sell for when they properly launch on the website, CEO Al Ghanim said.

The high-performance hijabs are likely to be among the most popular items in the inaugural collection.

They come in different colors and separate pieces that can be linked together according to the coverage and look the wearer wants to achieve.

Each part is made of breathable material that takes sweat away from the body. They’re designed to be non-slip, with press-studs linking the separate pieces to ensure they stay attached.


Al Ghanim only became active in sports three years ago, while studying for her MBA at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Boston.

There, the 31-year-old said she was inspired by a 78-year-old woman who finished the 26-mile Boston Marathon.

Since then, Al Ghanim has taken up running, cycling and hiking across the world. It was her “frustrating” experiences trying to find suitable work-out clothes that ultimately inspired her to set up Oola.

Haya Al Ghanim

Oola Sports

Haya Al Ghanim

Speaking to Doha News, she said:

“Everybody in Boston runs, so I started running. I tried to mix and match some clothes so they were modest and conservative enough for me to wear.

I had to find the right material for a hijab, which was near-impossible, and I found clothes which were extra, extra-large in size so they were loose enough to be modest.”

When she returned to Qatar, she tried to continue exercising outdoors, but found it even harder to find suitable clothing.

But it was the experience of training for, then climbing, Mt. Kilimanjaro with architect and Qatar Foundation employee Ahmadi in January 2015 that really drove the pair to action.

Mt. Kilimanjaro

Yazan Abughaida

Mt. Kilimanjaro

“I thought: we need suitable designs for sportswear in the right fabrics. I wanted something comfortable and chic so I wouldn’t be ashamed to wear it if I went out for a coffee after exercise,” Al Ghanim said.

Ahmadi added, “We made up our minds that we were going to go back home and do something about it.”

From idea to reality

By last June, Ahmadi and Al Ghanim had sketched out their ideas and linked up with fashion designer Lilian Gabriel Barbosa to develop their first designs.

Al Ghanim recalled: “There were challenges. The fabric also had to be breathable and light enough, but not see-through. We needed dark colors, but also bright colors to accommodate different tastes.”

Oola logo

Oola Sports/Twitter

Oola logo

They put together a trial collection, and tested it out on a group of women to check sizing, functionality and comfort, before fine-tuning the designs.

Through the new range, the women hope to inspire others to get more active. They are already working on future lines, which they plan to roll out if the main launch is successful.

“I want Oola to encourage other women to be active, challenge boundaries, enjoy the outdoors without thinking twice about apparel and comfort,” Ahmadi said in a statement.


Demo Day

Neha Rashid/Doha News

Demo Day

Budding entrepreneurs in Qatar pitched a mix bag of business ideas to a local incubator yesterday, including custom perfume lines, an app to book restaurant reservations and a service that allows customers to pilot a jet plane.

But only half of the 16 presentations made the cut with investors during the Qatar Business Incubation Center (QBIC)’s Demo Day at the Qatar National Convention Center.

QBIC is a mixed-use incubator, founded by Qatar Development Bank and the Social Development Center, with a goal of developing the next QR100 million companies in Qatar.

QBIC Demo Day

Zakaria Fawaz

QBIC Demo Day

Those who presented yesterday had already gone through a 10-week LeanStartup program where they tested the willingness of customers, partners and suppliers to use their product or service.


Eight of the businesses, whose founders needed to explain the competitive landscape, detail budgets/forecasts and specify what they wanted from QBIC, were chosen to be incubated and awarded QR100,000 each.

The winners are:

  • Lazy Eight: A company that offers an aerobatic experience to customers, allowing them to take part in loops, rolls and more maneuvers in a jet, while accompanied by a trained pilot;
  • Tashasheel: A restaurant in a boat that gives visitors a taste of authentic Qatari food and highlights the country’s history of pearl diving;
  • Garçon: An app that lets people find and book restaurant reservations;
  • SIA: A made-to-order line of oriental and western incense that meets specific customer criteria;
  • Maren: A program that uses interactive games and sporting activities to help preserve the Arabic language among the youth;
  • ArsenalA firm that builds 3D architecture mock-ups with various materials to help developers and interior designing firms solidify their ideas;
  • Techaid: A service that provides door-to-door maintenance of digital hardware and software while keeping the customer’s security intact; and
  • Practica: A collapsible coffee mug with a built-in heating system, targeting university students who need a quick on-the-go drink.


Other start-ups that didn’t win included Snaplee, an app that helps travelers discover places to go and save photos and videos from these experiences.

App users can also upload photos from their own travels and relive their experiences with geotagging services. However, judges showed concern about whether this was different enough from what Instagram currently offers.

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Lori Ho/Flickr

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Judges also passed on, Ammo, a paintballing venture developed by three Qatar University students.

Their plan was to operate a portable paintball truck that travels across Qatar, setting up private events for groups and parties.

Speaking to Doha News, co-founder Mohammad Waqas said that the idea came about while talking to potential customers who wanted something different to do in Qatar.

What’s next

The eight winners will join some 52 other start-ups already incubated with QBIC and undergo a three-month probation period.

Within this period, they will set milestones that meet QBIC requirements. Once the three months are over, the start-ups will launch their product or service into the local market.

Speaking during Demo Day, QBIC’s CEO said the incubator prides itself on facilitating the growth of entrepreneurship and the private sector in Qatar.

Aysha Al Mudahka added:

“We anticipate that soon, entrepreneurship will be comfortably viewed as a legitimate career-choice amongst many Qataris of all ages, bringing us one step closer to achieving our mission of developing the next QAR100 million companies in Qatar.”


Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Flazingo Photos/Flickr

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

In a bid to help small businesses through tougher economic times, a Qatar-based company has launched a new online network that allows firms to swap goods and services in lieu of cash.

One of the first websites to offer this service in Qatar, Gulf Barter is particularly aimed at supporting entrepreneurs and SMEs struggling to keep afloat, its founder said.

But it has also attracted interest from bigger companies, Fahad Al-Ameri, founder and CEO of Al-Ameri International Trading, said.

Speaking to Doha News, he explained that businesses can register with the bilingual (English and Arabic) site, and for a QR1,000 annual charge, can post as many times as they like, offering to exchange anything from advertising space to left-over stock with other companies on the network.

The concept is based on the ancient model of bartering that was used throughout the world without the need for cash.

Al-Ameri told Doha News that he first thought of the idea nearly 20 years ago, but felt that it wouldn’t be popular when the economy was booming.

Fahad Al-Ameri, founder of Gulf Barter


Fahad Al-Ameri, founder of Gulf Barter

But falling global oil prices and the resulting effects on businesses in Qatar made him reconsider the plan early this year, he said.

“When the oil prices decreased, I started listening to business people saying they were not getting paid on time and the problems they had with this.

The market has slowed and it has become difficult to find liquidity. As a businessman I wanted to do something that would assist small enterprises particularly but also bigger holding companies, to allow them to conduct commerce without using cash,” he said.

Deciding that now was the “right time, right place,” Al-Ameri returned to his idea and worked with Pakistan-based Al-Rehman Technologies to develop the platform.

While the site is currently targeted at businesses, Al-Ameri said it may later be developed for individuals to trade with each other.

Cartoons in English and Arabic on the website describe the idea behind the network, and how it operates.

Companies can register with their email address and some basic details and after paying an initial QR100 fee, can start advertising what they want to swap.

Companies interested in the offered deal can then message them to negotiate the trade.

Barters currently live on the site include an ironing company requesting a trade of services with a construction company and a car exchange.

“I wanted to make the site as simple as possible to use. We don’t charge commission and we trust people to conduct the trades fairly. The QR1,000 annual charge covers the cost of running the site, but we wanted to keep costs to a bare minimum, for small businesses to be able to afford,” Al-Ameri said.

Al-Ameri ultimately aims to attract interest from companies across the Gulf and the wider Arab world.

“The after-effects of these low oil prices will be felt for years to come, and the time has come now for barter to come back into play, to help businesses,” he said.

Changing landscape

Encouraging more entrepreneurship and the development of the private sector is at the heart of Qatar’s national vision, which aims to diversify the economy from oil and gas.

Authorities have in recent years introduced a number of measures aimed at making it easier to start and establish a business.

Last month, the Ministry of Economy and Commerce rewrote some of the rules that entrepreneurs had previously said were potential blocks to getting their initiatives off the ground.

For example, one of the most onerous requirements, needing to raise QR200,000 before applying for a commercial registration, has been done away with.

However, other changes such as barriers to opening a bank account remain problematic, entrepreneurs said.

Would you use this site? Thoughts?