“We are all born with a natural drive inside us to create something.” This is the motivational message Rochelle Zonnenberg, a startup entrepreneur and founder of Hobby House Qatar, shares with all those who carry some kind of creative strain and want to follow their passion.
Rochelle, an Indian expatriate living in Qatar for 14 years, started her own company in 2017 as she wanted to do something of her own. “I have a degree in Mass Communications with major in advertising. I have earlier worked in the hospitality sector in Qatar. I got married and had a baby. That was the switch. I wanted to start something of my own. That was the trigger,” Rochelle said in an interview with Community.
Hobby House Qatar is a community-driven project. The business model is bringing people together in an artistic way. It is a creative and community event company.
“Our workshops provide the tools and knowledge to do art. We offer a unique environment that gives art space to breathe, flourish, and grow. Our mentors help the participants learn, enhance and excel at a skill while engaging with other talented artists and craft enthusiasts. The participants can choose to express themselves through different mediums, including water colours, calligraphy, macramé, embroidery, punch needle, cake decoration, gardening, mandala art and many more.
“We genuinely believe we do not create for others. We do not create to impress. We create, because we can. What if you do not know what you are supposed to create? The answer is quite simple. Just try something,” the art enthusiast said.
Rochelle, who comes from a family of artists and designers, believes art has been deep rooted in her since childhood. “I personally like to design by myself. There has always been a need in Doha to do something like this. I, however, did not have enough time to do this. With art and business activity, it is also a bit of women empowerment along with sustainability. People come to Doha and they do not know where to start from. We try to give them a common ground of interest. You could be a great computer engineer but you can also have good artistic skills. You can do both at one time. There is no need to excel in just one thing.”
Hobby House Qatar came into being because of Rochelle’s own needs. “I have been in Doha for a long time and did not find a good place where I could brush up my own artistic skills. There were courses for four to five weeks but it was difficult for me with children to go around the city. As a mother, I also need some time for myself. So, I started doing workshops with friends and people from the community. Everybody was so excited about it. The demand started increasing. I realised that it was a need of many people who wanted to express themselves artistically. The company is also a kind of community venture as well. We also support small startups.’
The entrepreneur thinks that for a woman to be an entrepreneur, it depends on different dynamics. “As a mother, it depends on the dynamics that you have at your home such as how much support you have and how much time you can manage. If you are willing to do it, there is nothing that can stop you. It depends on what works for you as a mother and as a family. There is no easy way out anyway [smiles]. It is hard to be an entrepreneur and a mother.”
The expatriate entrepreneur lauds the country and the local community for being so accommodative. “There is demand. There is support. There is participation. People show up and they are very interested.
“There is respect for the kind of work I do in the community. It is a safe and secure atmosphere. You are just seen as someone bringing more to the country. You are accepted very well. This is in the DNA of some sort in Qatar.”
When asked how the startup helps her irrespective of financial gains, Rochelle said, “I have always been proactive for women empowerment. At a personal level, it is very motivational – satisfaction that no finances can give you. Our activities inculcate a sense of community among people. We make them sit with each other and share the experience of something that they love. Our mentors at the workshops are from all over the world. We are a melting pot at Hobby House Qatar.
“People from different countries and culture live in Qatar. In our workshops when a diverse gathering is involved in a creative activity, the participants are able to break down all the barriers. They share their different experiences with each other. The sharing also becomes a very unique experience. They just love commonness of art.”
The entrepreneur is upbeat about the feedback she gets from the participants. “We have been receiving very positive feedback. They love the idea to take some time off from their daily mundane work and indulge in creative activities.
“In our future works, we plan to focus more on women empowerment. We are also planning to make arrangements for the sale of the creative works. We want to give these women a chance to earn through their creativity. We are going to introduce ‘Do It Yourself’ projects.”
When it comes to women empowerment, Rochelle sees it as a part of the vision of Qatar. “All local Qatar women who come to our workshops are actually working women. There is a certain kind of encouragement for them to go out and work.
“For me, women empowerment is being able to make choices for yourself and not be defined by anybody else that what you need to be. It is to be able to choose for yourself the life you want to live.”
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