Entrepreneurship is like working on something that you truly and legitimately believe in and also that provides some sort of value or makes an impact on the greater community.
Shaikha al-Thani is a young Qatari entrepreneur who has been working hard to materialise an innovative idea of co-working communities. She is the founder of Thirdspace, a co-working community for the self-employed in Qatar who are looking for a space to work, collaborate, connect, recharge and thrive.
In connection with its ongoing series featuring a start-up entrepreneur every Wednesday, Community recently spoke to Shaikha, who is an innovation strategist by profession. Her start-up concept – Thirdspace – redefines the way entrepreneurs work.
It is a collaborative community that is working towards the same goals. The community stays connected through regular programming, family dinners, and open-plan spaces.
Shaikha has grown up in a diplomatic family moving into different countries. “This has made me and my outlook very international by nature. I take pride in myself for fitting in Qatari culture. I have a career that spans over 10 years of strategic planning, economic development and innovation. This is where my passion lies.”
Shaikha, who has been living in New York and moved to Qatar a few months ago, has been working with different start-ups. “I have been learning from the start-ups through mentoring them. I was also working focusing on innovation and technology that is where I was introduced to the world of start-ups. In New York, I was a member of a co-working space, which is essentially a shared collaborative workspace where entrepreneurs and start-ups go to work in.
“Since I moved to Qatar, I have been thinking about nurturing and bringing up the entrepreneur and start-up sector of the country. In Qatar, I usually work on my laptop and look for a place where I can sit and work. My only options was to either work from my house or from a coffee shop. I could not rent an expensive office. In Qatar, I felt such things are not available for the start-up entrepreneurs. I started realising that there are many people who face similar kind of problems.”
Shaikha came up with the idea to open the first Qatari owned and operated co-working space for the independent start-up sector in Qatar. “I joined the Qatar Incubation Centre where they helped me formalise the idea and validate that there is need for something like this. It was in September last year that I launched Thirdspace as a co-working community. So far, we have hosted two pop-ups in different locations as currently we do not have a permanent location. We now have 104 members in our community. This simply is presenting the concept of co-working and building a community through our pop-ups.
“A co-working space is essentially an open plan with shared office space. Individuals can come in and utilise that space to do their work. It is very affordable for the start-ups. It also provides an opportunity for collaboration while working alongside other people. Thirdspace takes the co-working concept and elevates it little bit more by making sure that it is driven by the community. A co-working space differs from a business centre because the audience is different that they target. The business centre offers private offices at affordable rates targeting the corporate sector. Thirdspace works on the model of flexible membership. Our members pay a certain fee for co-working. They also use our different amenities.”
Thirdsapce has been looking for a permanent location for its co-working space so it can be operational by this year. “Our goal is to partner with different ecosystems in Qatar – innovative start-up ecosystems that are building up in the country,” she says.
She adds, “In a more intangible and more valuable producing manner, we are cultivating a community. Within this community, the entrepreneurs will get access to the people that they would have never been able to access. When you work alone at home, you feel very distracted. We you work around the people, you feel energetic. There are easier opportunities for partnerships and exposures.”
In future, Shaikha wants to see Thirdspace getting nurtured as a real community in Qatar and in the region as well. “Our essential goal is to move on alongside Qatar in its development in becoming a smart city. We want to see more involvement of private sector in supporting the start-up entrepreneurs. There is basic infrastructure available in Qatar. We believe that the private sector will soon be taking more interest in the area.”
For Shaikha, it is very exciting to be an entrepreneur. “A lot of people like the idea of freedom. They want to work for themselves and something they like. To be an entrepreneur it’s all about dedication. It is so easy to get bored of your idea. It is so easy for you to lose your motivation. I think this is where the discipline comes into action. To be a solo female entrepreneur is the hardest thing (smiles). I have to find the motivation within myself. This is why my Thirdspace is the best place where we can get inspiration from others.”
Shaikha thinks that entrepreneurship is working on something that you truly and legitimately believe in. “If I am able to come with an idea that I can work on independently to impact the community, I see that can be a kind of entrepreneurship.”
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