Women-owned creative co-working space Mustqr turns three

Women-owned creative co-working space Mustqr turns three
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How MUSTQR started
Women-owned creative co-working space Mustqr turns three
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How MUSTQR looks today. (Supplied)
Women-owned creative co-working space Mustqr turns three
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Mustqr women-only co-working space was founded in 2020 by Saudi entrepreneurs and Dhahran natives, Lamyaa Al-Dajani and Sara Al-Shammari
Women-owned creative co-working space Mustqr turns three
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Mustqr women-only co-working space was founded in 2020 by Saudi entrepreneurs and Dhahran natives, Lamyaa Al-Dajani and Sara Al-Shammari
Women-owned creative co-working space Mustqr turns three
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Mustqr women-only co-working space was founded in 2020 by Saudi entrepreneurs and Dhahran natives, Lamyaa Al-Dajani and Sara Al-Shammari
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Updated 19 September 2023
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Women-owned creative co-working space Mustqr turns three

Women-owned creative co-working space Mustqr turns three
  • It seems fitting that this Saudi-owned business is keeping Vision 2030 in mind while holding a firm — but beautifully manicured — grip on the future
  • Their current priority is the creative Saudi women of Dhahran

DHAHRAN: On the upper floor of a newly established mall in the Dhahran area, a natural flood of light from giant windows leads to the Mustqr women-only co-working space.
It was founded in 2020 by Saudi entrepreneurs and Dhahran natives, Lamyaa Al-Dajani and Sara Al-Shammari. Today, the space celebrates its third year — a few days before Saudi National Day.
It seems fitting that this Saudi-owned business is keeping Vision 2030 in mind while holding a firm — but beautifully manicured — grip on the future. Their current priority is the creative Saudi women of Dhahran.
Al-Shammari told Arab News: “It all started in Lamyaa’s bedroom in July of 2019. We were just talking and I was telling her about a potential business plan I had in mind to open up something to serve the local creative community. She said she had a similar idea. So since we both were headed in the same general direction, we thought, why don’t we join forces?”
Al-Dajani said: “We met about seven years ago at a job we both worked in. We quickly recognized that we were in sync with our work ethic and deep passion. We both left our positions for different reasons, so the timing felt right.
“I said ‘absolutely, let’s collaborate, but with one condition: We have to start it from scratch.’ We had to toss out our earlier plans and brainstorm.”
They took stacks of colorful post-it notes and started writing keywords on each little square by hand, piecing together their vision, one word at a time. Soon, the whole wall was covered and they moved onto Excel, where a sheet was created with a list of co-working spaces that existed around the world. They studied why each succeeded and why each failed.
Then they created contracts for each other as business partners; one that was a “professional contract” and then one that was more of an “emotional contract.” They wanted to make sure they were always on the same page.
According to Al-Dajani, it was important for them to prioritize their friendship: “We were friends first before being business partners and we want to maintain that. We have such a deep faith in each other and we constantly communicate clearly to avoid any pitfalls others may have who have worked with those close to them.”
As COVID-19 was in full swing, they thought outside the box. They saw the gap in the industry and tried to create a secondary safe space for creative women in the area to go to beyond their home, corporate office or noisy cafe.
They came up with a curated space that combined all three of those elements into one. From the lighting to the temperature of the air conditioning to the seating to how the floors felt as you walked across, to how the space smelled — all details were custom-made by other local Saudi women.
“This is our test branch. We wanted to create a complete and holistic experience that prioritizes and empowers creative working women in all aspects. We have the coffee area, a gym and a lounge space in addition to the different work spaces,” said Al-Dajani.
Since they launched at a turbulent time they aimed to create a space which offered some stability.
“We officially launched during (the pandemic) and we brainstormed for a name, we even asked our family members and friends for help,” Al-Shammari said. “We settled on Mustqr, which refers to stability and settlement.”
According to the co-founders, the name was derived from a word mentioned in various verses in the Holy Qur’an. It was also a word often used in physics as well as in psychology. It felt fitting.
Deliberately and delicately placed across the different parts of the co-working space are rocks. To them, a rock is symbolic. It is a grounded and tangible element from nature that is strong, unique and beautiful — exactly how Mustqr views its members.
“We started as just a place to support freelancers but as we made plans to expand, we figured out what our clients might want a more streamlined experience. So then we created membership packages,” Al-Shammari explained.
With a paid membership system, creatives could sign up for the category of their choice and build their network, all while working on their next idea. Their current five membership options are dedicated to graphic designers, photographers and videographers, fashion designers, interior designers and content writers and marketers.
Mustqr has been utilizing social media to help amplify their members. When a woman joins, they conduct a short video interview with and then tag the member’s account on Instagram to introduce them to the creative community. It has been one of their most successful tools to help their members go beyond the physical space and into the digital realm.
On the day of our visit, a model walked round with a flamboyant dress while its Saudi designer proudly looked on. Photographer Shams Tannab told Arab News about her experience shooting her mother’s designs: “A model recommended that we try here. The decor is fabulous— there are so many options for my model to capture the perfect pose with the perfect-colored background. Our brand, Jalwah, creates custom-made traditional wedding gowns from Qatif and Al-Ahsa.
“I have a studio in Qatif — which is a little bit far — so I wanted a place more convenient for my model. Mustqr has been great. They were professional, they sent me a contract via WhatsApp and we signed it. They also showed us photos of where we would be able to shoot. The space is great with good lighting and they have so many more shooting options than in my studio, which has limited backgrounds.”
The co-working space also hosts talks with artists and designers.
Jeddah-based artist Ethar Balkhair flew across the country to give her first ever talk, hosted at the space in late August. Balkhair has established herself in recent years as a savvy and artistic creative, whose Saudi-inspired illustrations have been used in such major campaigns such as Harvey Nichols, Sephora, the Diriyah Biennale, Tumi, and Nivea, to name a few.
Balkhair’s digital illustrations are playful and saturated with color and bold forms representing Saudi women and men — and animals — without clear facial features, in order to keep the drawings inclusive.
Speaking about her experience with Mustqr, she said: “I didn’t know about them but they reached out to me inviting me to talk and said ‘you are the first Saudi to consistently collaborate with global brands and you keep doing that and we think it would be nice if you shared your knowledge.’ At first, I was a bit hesitant. I said ‘not yet, but one day’ … They told me I could do it my way — it wouldn’t be a step-by-step lecture, but rather, me sharing my story. I didn’t want to have it filmed so I could test the experience and they were respectful of my request. My confidence soared after.”
To commemorate the talk, Balkhair made them fine prints of a tiger.
The co-working space includes private and shared offices, a meeting room, an exercise room, a library, a prayer room and a terrace.
“We want to support Saudi entrepreneurs. In Ramadan, when we noticed that the space was quieter, we moved all the furniture to the side and created a concept store within the space to support local Saudi business owners,” the founders noted.
“Now, every Ramadan, we want to activate the space and elevate our heritage and culture by providing this knowledge exchange. People met and collaborated — it was such immaculate vibes,” Al-Dajani added.
For more information, visit mustqr.org.


How a Saudi startup is using AI to boost the efficiency and uptake of solar energy

How a Saudi startup is using AI to boost the efficiency and uptake of solar energy
Updated 19 July 2024
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How a Saudi startup is using AI to boost the efficiency and uptake of solar energy

How a Saudi startup is using AI to boost the efficiency and uptake of solar energy
  • OptimalPV addresses the high costs and inefficiency of solar PV systems by leveraging AI in the design phase
  • Its software uses algorithms to determine the optimal number and placement of solar panels on buildings 

RIYADH: Mindful of their carbon footprint, a growing number of people are opting to power their homes and businesses with solar photovoltaic systems rather than traditional energy sources. One Saudi startup is leveraging the power of artificial intelligence to help increase uptake.

Solar PV systems are a type of renewable energy technology that converts sunlight into electricity, making it a sustainable and environmentally friendly alternative to fossil fuel-generated electricity. 

Despite the numerous benefits of transitioning to solar energy, including cost savings on electricity bills and greater environmental sustainability, the upfront investment required can be a significant barrier to wider adoption.

Abdulelah Habib, CEO and founder of OptimalPV, a distributive solar design startup founded in 2023, told Arab News that the high capital cost for solar systems is primarily due to the expensive materials required. 

“This includes high-quality solar panels, inverters, and other essential components,” he said.

With recent advances in technology, solar PV systems are becoming more efficient and cost-effective, making them a popular choice for homeowners and businesses looking to reduce their carbon footprint and save on energy costs.

From solar panels on rooftops to large-scale solar farms in the desert, Saudi Arabia has embraced renewable energy sources to reduce its reliance on fossil fuels. The country aims to install 50 GW of solar capacity by 2030. 

However, if the government wants to make good on its commitment to encourage the widespread adoption of renewable energy sources, it will need to find ways to make the technology more affordable and accessible to the general population. 

“The company was founded to address the challenges of high costs and inefficiency in traditional solar PV system installations, aiming to make solar power more accessible and cost-effective through advanced artificial intelligence technology,” Habib said. 

An AI-equipped robot helps install solar panels. (Shutterstock image)

OptimalPV’s AI-powered software automates the design of solar PV systems by using 3D modeling and optimization algorithms to create the most efficient and cost-effective layout without needing a site visit.

“While the installation and warranty costs are comparatively low, the operation and maintenance costs can be negligible over the 25-year lifespan of the system,” Habib said.

Unlike traditional systems that require manual design and site inspections, OptimalPV’s AI software optimizes the design process to reduce costs

OptimalPV’s AI-powered software automates the design of solar PV systems by using 3D modeling and optimization algorithms. (Supplied)

“The software uses advanced algorithms to determine the optimal number and placement of panels, considering factors like shading, orientation and solar irradiation,” Habib said.

Supported by The Garage, a tech startup incubator hosted by the King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology, and the Royal Commission of Riyadh City, the company provides solutions for both residential and commercial buildings. 

By providing information, addressing concerns about cost and installation, and offering incentives for adopting solar energy, OptimalPV encourages more individuals to take advantage of this renewable energy source. 

Not only does it reduce installation costs. OptimalPV also maximizes the return on investment for homeowners. 

“The company’s advanced design optimizes the efficiency and capacity of rooftop solar systems, making them capable of meeting high electricity demands in urban areas like Riyadh,” Habib said.

A new startup, The Garage focuses on local and international startups, scouting and inviting them to join The Garage’s programs and events. (Supplied)

“By optimizing the system design for maximum efficiency, many houses can potentially meet their full electricity needs through PV systems designed by OptimalPV.”

Habib said that by reducing upfront costs and ensuring maximum efficiency, OptimalPV helps homeowners to save more on electricity bills and achieve a quicker payback period.

OptimalPV also supports homeowners, local governments and the private sector throughout the process, from the initial feasibility study to post-installation monitoring. 

“Customers can use an online tool to generate a feasibility report, including expected monthly savings and payback period,” Habib said.

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The company helps customers to find affordable financing options, where they are matched with trusted service providers for installation.

When it comes to post-installation monitoring, OptimalPV monitors the system’s performance to ensure it operates efficiently.

As Saudi Arabia continues to invest in solar energy infrastructure, it is start-ups such as these that are helping to pave the way for a cleaner and more environmentally friendly energy future.
 

 


Review: Curva Pilates Studio in Alkhobar

Review: Curva Pilates Studio in Alkhobar
Updated 19 July 2024
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Review: Curva Pilates Studio in Alkhobar

Review: Curva Pilates Studio in Alkhobar

There’s a new way to stay fit in Alkhobar this summer with the recent opening of Curva Pilates earlier this month.

The women-only studio is situated on the second floor of an indiscreet building, marked with the letter A on the outside. It is an ideal place to spend an hour using the reformer Pilates machine, either in a solo session or with a group class. There is limited parking directly outside of the studio space.

Pilates, which is a form of exercise developed by the German Joseph Pilates in the 20th century, helps combat health issues and increases flexibility. It was originally designed to help soldiers gain strength by attaching springs to hospital beds to create resistance. If you have ever done yoga or ballet or gymnastics, you might enjoy this process — but it is its own thing.

You may opt to message their account on Instagram, where you will be asked to provide your name and phone number, after which you will receive a welcome message on WhatsApp, with the class details and some ground rules. “For your safety and to keep up our hygiene standards, you should always make sure to wear Pilates socks when taking a class,” it says.

Once entering the serene space, decorated with fresh flowers and the refreshing scent of lemon detox water, which is free for all customers, you will be given an electronic key to a locker where you can securely place your handbag. You can keep the key with you and return it at the end of your visit. There are hooks to hang your abayas and a shoe cubby.

If you do not have Pilates socks you may use regular ones. And, in case you forget to push your hair back, there are hair clips available in the mirror area to use, and wet wipes at the ready, should you wish to freshen-up before or after your session.

You may take a session with Coach Lubna, who is fair and balanced. For first-timers, she asks whether they have any body ailments they need to be aware of — do they have any existing body aches or injuries, any surgeries or issues with their back, shoulders, arms or legs.

Lubna explains every step briefly, and makes the experience enjoyable. The reformer machine is not hard to use and is ideal for any fitness level.

She makes sure to ask for feedback and listens to all comments and concerns. Lubna believes that consistency is what matters most — no matter what level you are on — and recommends visitors try the reformer three times per week.

Reformer classes at Curva can be purchased either per session for SR175 ($46) each, or in a package for a slightly better rate. Five sessions go for SR850, 10 sessions for SR1,650 and two other package options are available — for 15 sessions and 20.

There is a 10 percent discount for college students and a 10 percent discount for Aramco staff.

While it has become a global trend, this enduring form of exercise that emphasizes core strength, flexibility and overall body awareness is not yet widely practiced in the Eastern Province. Curva is there to change that.

Find them at CurvaPilates.com or on their Instagram, @CurvaPilates.


KSrelief runs medical projects in Sudan, Yemen

KSrelief runs medical projects in Sudan, Yemen
Updated 18 July 2024
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KSrelief runs medical projects in Sudan, Yemen

KSrelief runs medical projects in Sudan, Yemen

RIYADH: The Kingdom’s aid agency KSrelief continues to provide healthcare for vulnerable people in Sudan and Yemen, the Saudi Press Agency reported.
The project in Port Sudan for urology surgery, from July 13 to 20, involves 11 volunteers with training in various specialities.
The team members have already completed six surgeries.
A similar project is currently being implemented for orthopedic surgery in the Seiyun district of Yemen’s Hadhramaut governorate, with seven operations already completed.
Recently, the agency started a training program for people supervising orphans in Hadramout in coordination with the country’s Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor.


Saudi Red Crescent in Makkah region puts in almost 80,000 volunteer hours during second quarter

Saudi Red Crescent in Makkah region puts in almost 80,000 volunteer hours during second quarter
Updated 18 July 2024
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Saudi Red Crescent in Makkah region puts in almost 80,000 volunteer hours during second quarter

Saudi Red Crescent in Makkah region puts in almost 80,000 volunteer hours during second quarter

JEDDAH: The Saudi Red Crescent Authority in the Makkah region revealed its volunteer statistics for the second quarter of 2024, with the number of volunteer hours reaching 79,128.

It said the volunteer opportunities ranged from providing first-aid services to worshippers in the courtyards of the Holy Mosque in Makkah to national occasions, international days, events, humanitarian aid, and sports events.

Additionally, several first-aid courses were held to train male and female volunteers.

The authority indicated that Makkah has the largest number of volunteer initiatives with 273 opportunities, followed by the Jeddah governorate with 207 and the Taif governorate third with 104 opportunities.

The volunteer medical staff included several specialties, most notably consultants, general practitioners, and emergency medicine doctors. The authority emphasized its commitment to developing its volunteers by organizing specialized courses and training them in line with the authority’s mission and work.


Training program for trainers at Princess Nourah University

Training program for trainers at Princess Nourah University
Updated 18 July 2024
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Training program for trainers at Princess Nourah University

Training program for trainers at Princess Nourah University

RIYADH: Staff at Princess Nourah bint Abdulrahman University recently had the chance to take part in a series of training programs to help them develop their own training and development skills, and prepare more effective training resources.

A six-day “Training of Trainers” program, provided by the university’s Deanship of Quality and Development, included topics such as theories of learning and their effects on training; the needs of the trainer; development of the communication model and communication skills; and the design of training materials.

It also covered management of the training process and the evaluation of performance, along with development of the skills required for managing workshops and conducting training sessions, and how to research information in support of training.

The deanship also provided a three-day “Preparation of Training Packages” program. This addressed the practical aspects of preparing a training program that effectively familiarize trainees with the required principles and standards of quality. It included topics such as development of a curriculum, setting objectives, training methods, and the types and organization of programs.

Officials said the initiative forms part of the deanship’s efforts to help achieve the university’s Strategic Plan 2025, the aim of which is to achieve excellence in teaching and learning through professional support, career guidance, and improved knowledge and skills.