Nadia Babiak—a Ukrainian living in Qatar for the past eight years—admits she enjoys living in Qatar and calling it her home. It’s a place where she feels comfortable growing her business, making friends, and enjoying multiple activities to stay healthy and happy.
Nadia is an engaging interviewee who opens up to Dunes Magazine about life in Qatar, what led her here, her Desert Rose restaurant, and future plans.
1. First, tell us a bit about what inspired you to come up with the idea for the Desert Rose restaurant.
I drew on my experience in VIP hospitality to create a world-class restaurant fusing luxury fashion with dining. Desert Rose is a place where every guest feels special with custom-made shisha and luxury tableware.
2. Why did you choose the location of your restaurant?
Well, Souq Waqif is in the heart of Doha, next to Amiri Diwan, with a beautiful view of the city. Seeing modern towers in front of you as you are sitting in such a historical place makes you realize that everything in this world is possible. Obviously, the atmosphere of the Souq is the main reason for choosing this location, especially if you are a tourist and want to experience the traditional vibes. It really is a magical place!
3. What is it like to be a woman entrepreneur in an Arab country?
Honestly, I can't think of a better place to live and do business than Qatar. Qataris are both friendly and helpful. Also, in business, gender is irrelevant. It is all about your knowledge, experience, and self-presentation. When you are doing something good in Qatar, the people here respect you. That is what we are doing, and others regularly commend our efforts. This motivates us to continue to improve.
4. When starting a business in a foreign country, what should we know?
You need to know that doing business is not the final destination, nor is it the hardest part. Making sure your guests are happy every single day is the challenging, yet most rewarding, part of our job. Since opening day, our loyal guests have been part of our family.
To start a business in a foreign country, or in Qatar specifically, there are a lot of rules you need to know. The main issue is that we cannot own 100% of a company in Qatar. According to Qatari government rules, 51% of the shares go to a local partner, while 49% go to a foreigner. However, this isn’t a cause for discouragement. Many people will work with you if you have a unique idea and you can present your plan.
5. What has changed in your priorities since you began?
It isn't true that you become free when you start a business. On the contrary, responsibility grows for the people who work for you and their families. This was especially the case during the COVID-19 pandemic. You realize that if you don't come up with solutions and action plans to manage the crisis, your own situation will get worse, and others’ situations will as well. This gives you the strength to not give up and to keep improving step by step.
6. What is unique about your business?
Every guest should be able to sense how careful we are about the details: from the products we use to the dishes we serve. There are many unique things about our restaurant. We are the only one in Qatar to offer such a wide variety of cuisine, including Ukrainian. In fact, hookahs have made us famous. We were the first in Qatar to offer professional hookah service, and our guests appreciated it a lot.
7. What were your first marketing strategies?
We relied mostly on social media at first. Qatar has a great deal of talent, both local and foreign. Everyone uses social networks, so you need to pay attention to them first. We also became famous on TikTok this year. Another big accomplishment for us was a feature published in Dunes magazine about the restaurant—that was something we were proud of.
8. How long did it take you to achieve success?
Success knows no boundaries, and the most important thing is not to stop, but to keep going, growing, and developing. To be more specific, the restaurant began generating income three months after it opened, which, in my opinion, is a positive sign.
9. As an entrepreneur, what is your biggest challenge?
For every business owner, it was undoubtedly the COVID-19 pandemic that we all suffered through together. However, there are always new challenges because you work with people every day. The most difficult aspect of running a business is the human factor, since a restaurant is like a living organism that clearly senses when someone is depressed, tired, or in a bad mood.
10. What is your definition of success?
It's a success when your guests come back to your restaurant again and again. You achieve success when you have plans for one restaurant, then buy another franchise, and develop additional income points simultaneously. Having a team that is with you from the beginning and grows every year is another key to success.
11. What are you currently working on?
Desert Rose restaurant is focusing more on catering and outdoor events, and we are planning to open another branch in Qatar and one outside the country. Soon you will also see an amazing Turkish project in Qatar, which I’ll mention later.
12. What advice would you give to someone who wants to become an entrepreneur?
Prepare to be involved in all processes, at least at the beginning. Rather than making your business very "commercial," let people love what you do, and you'll reap the benefits.