Through Her Venture Niya Yoga, Qatari Entrepreneur Jawaher Al Fardan Is Creating A Vibrant Yoga Community In Doha Al Fardan set up Niya Yoga with an aim to spark the wellness revolution in Qatar by creating a vibrant yoga community.

By Pamella de Leon

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Niya Yoga

For Qatar-based entrepreneur Jawaher Al Fardan, the adage of following one's passion ignited her jump to entrepreneurship. "I always knew I would dedicate my life to be in service of wellbeing, and what that means to me evolves along the way," Al Fardan says. Al Fardan's background is in psychology; however, she found the clinical setting to be unable to "provide lasting solutions to people who simply wanted and needed to change their environments."

This is what led Al Fardan to discover "the power of mindful movement," with her becoming an advanced yoga teacher who has, to date, undertaken more 500 hours of training in the discipline from the United States, Indonesia, and India. "It organically altered my own life, seeping into the way I ate, lived, felt, and about 10 years ago, I decided I wanted to share this," Al Fardan reveals. "I think entrepreneurship happens spontaneously- find something you love, and if no one else is offering it, then why not start it?"

With an aim to spark the wellness revolution in Qatar by creating a vibrant yoga community, Al Fardan set up Niya Yoga alongside her other venture, Evergreen Organics, a fully plant-based café and market. Founded in 2016, Niya Yoga started off with pop-up classes on local beaches and hotel cabanas in Doha, as well as private sessions in Al Fardan's private home studio. "I used to teach a lot of the classes myself, and test recipes in my own kitchen," Al Fardan recalls. "My house was our first headquarters. A lot has changed since, and Niya is no longer just a yoga studio, but a holistic community space."

Image courtesy Niya Yoga.

With six specialized wellness and fitness studios, the startup today offers classes, internationally-led workshops, holistic therapies, wellness weekends, yoga teacher training courses, and more. With the goal of offering a sanctuary and a home for "a conscious community of seekers and shakers," Al Fardan is keen on ensuring the brand is different because of the intention of the brand. In fact, the entrepreneur shares that Niya translates from Arabic as "intention" too. "You can build a gorgeous space anywhere, but the purpose infused in your work will always speak for itself," Al Fardan explains. "It's felt in its intangible essence. It's not a huge space made out of the finest materials, but what it is, is simple, natural, earthy, and simultaneously uplifting and grounding... It's born out of pure love, and not ego. It's not a business just to be a business. It's an offering. Everyone in the studio shares from that place."

Set up under a holding company called OxFitness Lab (founded by Al Fardan and Mohammed Abu Issa), the self-funded brand offers unlimited memberships or pay-as-you-go plans for people who wish to make use of its offerings. The brand offers 20 full-time and part-time instructors, as well as another 50 across all studios. Al Fardan explains, "Our trainers are our partners and work independently, at their own time and schedule, with a profit-sharing model."

Attempting to make an impact in Qatar's wellness space has come with its share of ups and downs, says Al Fardan. "I'd say the biggest challenge in building this business was also our biggest blessing," she says. "We were the first to bring this offering to Qatar, which meant that many people were so new to these practices and workout culture. We got to build a community around it, and train people to teach, and watch people evolve so much." While seeing this growth firsthand was rewarding, Al Fardan notes that it also encouraged new players to the market. "The success of our impact also meant inspiring lots of competition, but that's always a great way to keep learning and growing," Al Fardan says. "We had to keep an open mind, stay grounded in our intention, and trust the integrity of our work."

Image courtesy Niya Yoga.

When asked if being a female entrepreneur in Qatar has brought with it any challenges of its own, Al Fardan negates that notion. "I don't think it makes any difference being a male or female entrepreneur in Qatar," Al Fardan says. "I didn't face any setbacks because of that at all. If anything got in my way, it was my own deep-rooted conditioning on gender differences, and those layers are ones we all have to continuously overcome."

That also leads into Al Fardan's advice for entrepreneurs, which is centered on finding one's intention in entrepreneurship. "Be very honest about the purpose of your business, because the outcome will always be connected to that," Al Fardan says. "Don't just do something just because everyone else is." Al Fardan also points out that mistakes and hurdles need to be considered as being part of one's journey in entrepreneurship. "It's in our failures that we really ever learn anything, so don't be too disheartened when that happens," she says. "A setback is always a set up."

In terms of the road ahead for Niya Yoga, Al Fardan says that the enterprise will continue to evolve with its circumstances. "I can't say too much about the future, except that the space is a living entity that matures with our community, and is undergoing a subtle adjustment that reflects that, while maintaining and even further committing to its initial seed intention of community service," she explains. This sentiment, by the way, happens to be reiteration of Al Fardan's personal thoughts about entrepreneurship. "Let your brand evolve with you," she declares. "Stay true to your vision, not to a vision. If it no longer resonates, let it grow."

Related: Five Minutes with Entrepreneur Asma Hilal Lootah, Founder of The Hundred Wellness Center

Wavy Line
Pamella de Leon

Startup Section Editor, Entrepreneur Middle East

Pamella de Leon is the Startup Section Editor at Entrepreneur Middle East. She is keen on the MENA region’s entrepreneurship potential, with a specific interest to support enterprises and individuals creating an impact.

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