by NATHALIE HODGSON
The secret to her success
Elsbeth builds her success by making the development of those around her a key priority.
As one of Qatar’s first employment agencies to focus exclusively on the recruitment of women, Elsbeth’s candidates are from different educational backgrounds with varied qualifications and skills. With running her own business and being a mum to a six-year-old girl and one-year-old boy, Elsbeth understands the needs, concerns and demands of the new age working woman. Whether you are a working mother or not, the company recognises the importance of accessing the right building blocks to create your career path and add to individual development goals.
“We chose to focus on women, as women in Qatar are important pillars of the National Development Programme (2011-2016) and Qatar’s National Vision 2030 and they are very eager to work and to further progress their careers. We have placed more than 100 women in their dream jobs and are working on many others to achieve the same in 2014.”
An interview with Elsbeth
When did you move to Doha and from where?
We moved to Doha in September 2010 from Amsterdam. My husband was head-hunted for a job here and it was our first time in the Middle East after some ten years plus in London. I joined Pricewaterhouse Coopers (PwC) to set up a mobility practice for the GCC region in 2010.
What motivated you to start your own business?
In my first year in Doha I worked for PwC and was the Chairman of the Dutch Business Council. During this time I received many CVs mainly from women who were looking for a job. I discovered that the Qatar job market is not very transparent. Then I met my partner, Danielle Duttenhofer at an Arabian Business Forum where she told me that she was playing with the idea of setting up her own business and asked if I would like to join her (we had never met before!). We discussed recruitment to help people in Qatar find a job. We took the deep plunge and both resigned from our jobs and immediately started setting up our business. We did market research and then decided to focus exclusively on women.
What are the company’s goals and mission?
Our mission is to help women find a job in Qatar that enables them to start or continue their careers and develop themselves. Our goal is offering a successful recruitment service to our candidates and clients, ensuring both parties reach their professional and individual goals.
What is your greatest achievement to date?
That our candidates give us a big ‘thank you’ for their successful placement, for personalising our services and making them feel part of Qatar’s society.
What were the challenges for a woman to set up a business in Doha?
Everyone around us was very enthusiastic. All the paperwork and the legal challenges of setting up a business was by far the biggest challenge. Information was not always easy to find, but by speaking to many different people we got there in the end!
Did you think it was harder being a women and an expat?
I think it is harder being an expat, but not any harder being women. There is not a lot of information around; we spent most of the time going out and talking to people, seeking the right sponsor, sitting in lines and waiting to gather the right information to finalise the process. This was time consuming and who knows if it would have been any easier being a local?
Would you do anything differently now that you know the process?
No. You always have to make a few mistakes to get where you are now. As long as you learn from them you grow and become stronger and wiser.
What do you think is your greatest asset?
Being a woman in this country and our personal approach.
What are some top lessons to running your own company in Doha?
Keep building on your network. Go out there all the time to meet new people and discover opportunities to further build your business.
Do you have a business philosophy? A favourite, quote or mantra?
I don’t read management books, philosophy or strategy. I follow my instincts and trust them 100 per cent. This has been proven to me over and over again. If you don’t follow your heart, it fails; it is that simple.
What would you say about balancing work and personal life as a mum?
By being a business owner I manage my own flexible working hours. And being an expat, we have the luxury of a nanny which has allowed me to create a perfect work-life balance. My husband is also very supportive in what I do and makes sure that I can achieve my goals. He is always there for me and the children. We make a good team together enabling each other to reach our personal goals.
What are your future plans?
To further enjoy life in Doha with my family and to keep building Global Women Qatar.
What five words or short phrases describe you best?
Open-minded, direct, big sense of humour, passionate and being very curious.
What’s one thing most people don’t know about you?
My passion for interior design.
What inspires you?
The different people in my life, like my mother (who always tells me to be independent and to provide for myself), and the new people I meet and their interesting life stories.
What are you passionate about?
To make life as enjoyable as I can, whether it be with my family, at work or with friends. I absolutely love travelling and exploring new countries and cultures. Even now, with small children (the youngest being one), we take every opportunity to go somewhere new and exciting and to explore as much as we can.
How do you banish stress?
Just keep on smiling and see the humour in everything. Taking things too seriously all the time would kill me!
What is on your wish list?
For everyone to stay safe and healthy. Also to make Global Women Qatar an even larger success.
What’s on your reading list?
I love detective stories and read many books by American and UK authors. Now that I live in the GCC, I read books about the region, especially on female issues.
What’s always in your handbag?
My phone (which is actually always in my hand) and my business cards.
What are you most proud of?
Where I am now in life with so many lovely people around me, supporting me and being there for me at all times.
What is your parenting style?
I am an open and direct mother. My children can always turn to me if there is anything bothering them, if they want to talk about something or if they want to ask any questions. I tell it as it is and don’t hide them away from the big world out there. I am also a very cuddly mother and make sure my children feel safe. I want to make sure they grow up in a very loving environment where they can be themselves and I provide them with opportunities so they can make a good life for themselves once they have flown the nest.
Do you have a favourite quote or advice about motherhood?
Go with the flow and enjoy the ride!
What’s your favourite date night venue?
Isaan at the Grand Hyatt—the most delicious Thai restaurant in town.
What’s your favourite family outing?
Going to the park, meeting friends and having a coffee and a chat whilst the children are playing and running about. Then going for a great dinner, either with the whole family or just with my husband.
Elsbeth Blekkenhorst MSc studied at the Amsterdam Business School and at South Bank University in London where she gained her Masters in International Business and Marketing. After graduating, Elsbeth joined a boutique consultancy firm, ECA International, in London where she was taught all aspects of expatriate management. To get a broader perspective on human capital consultancy she made the move to a US human resources firm, Mercer. Due to the nature of Elsbeth’s work she has gained great insights into different cultures and their ways of working. Companies she has consulted regarding their Human Capital issues are Shell, ABN Amro, Unilever, Philips, Deutsche Bank and Robert Bosch. In 2010 she joined PwC to set up a mobility practice for the GCC region and in 2012 set up Global Women Qatar.