At the time, Faiza discovered the only option to register her business, Dots and Curves, with the Ministry of Trade and Commerce was to create a company with a Qatari partner and split the ownership 51/49. “There was nothing for small scale businesses,” she says. “What they think of as ‘small business’ can be considered as a big-scale business for us!” Over time, the legal requirements of running a small business in Qatar evolved. In 2016, there was a development that allowed small Qatari businesses to operate from their homes, but there was still little for expat-run, small-scale businesses.
Faiza went first to Bedaya, a community organisation offering free advice to home-based businesses and small start-ups. “I wanted to be assured I [wasn’t] doing anything wrong,” she explains. The people at Bedaya explained that artists need not register with the Ministry because of their unique products and low profits. Then, she was approached by Mahara, an arts organisation that facilitates registration for businesses like Faiza’s. She also discovered Qatar Foundation’s Education City Marketplace, a legal and fully registered electronic platform for promoting and selling handmade creations and art.
Today, Dots and Curves is registered through Mahara and Education City Marketplace, and Faiza is busy growing her business. She does worry if the rules will change in future, leaving her unable to operate but, despite this, she’s glad she found a way to make things work. Her pieces have proved popular even through the pandemic, and her business is doing well. She continues to consider legal partnerships with people who value her art and the importance of connecting with her customers.
When asked what advice she has for anyone wanting to set up a small business in Qatar, Faiza recommends connecting with people who have gone through the process and can help navigate the regulations. She adds that businesses need a niche to stand out. Most importantly, she says finding something she enjoyed was critical to making the business a success. “It’s something that really makes me happy,” she comments. “It has made me more aware and connected to myself, more aligned to my values and principles.”
Faiza realises she’s fortunate to be able to enjoy the flexibility that comes with owning a small business. She has also learnt a lot about her own priorities. “I don’t know if I will go back to my [architecture] work,” she says. “It was more profitable, but I realise there is much value in doing something that makes me happier and offers me flexibility. For me, profit is not always financial.”
Faiza Nakib is an artist and designer, and the creator of Dots & Curves. Faiza’s original paintings, handmade home decor items, and fine art prints have been offered by Qatar Museums, Gift Shed, West Elm, Katara Art Center, Education City Marketplace, and local fairs and markets. QatART is running small markets in Katara again—check their Facebook page for details.