Friends Suzanne and Laurence have launched Qatar’s newest ladies group for fun-loving gals looking to let their hair down, bag some discounts and raise money for charity. Lisa Travell finds out why you just have to join.
Qatar is not short on groups. There are groups for mums, professional women, American women, Spanish Ladies, Australian and New Zealanders, Canadians, Irish, South Africans, Lebanese - I could go on. What Qatar lacks is a fun social group for ladies where the only stipulations are that you are over 21 and want to take part in activities and events tailored for women, by women.
Not anymore because that gap in the market has been filled by SOCIAL. An exclusive women’s only club in Qatar, SOCIAL is the brainchild of friends Suzanne Henderson and Laurence Udo who were inspired to start the group when they complained to each other about the lack of these types of get togethers. ‘We went to Bahrain at Eid and we were laying at the pool talking about Qatar,’ Suzanne explains. ‘That’s how it started and within half an hour we had ideas and even the logo!’
With Suzanne’s background in hospitality and Laurence’s marketing skills, it wasn’t long before the idea became a reality, with numerous high profile partners now backing SOCIAL, including Etihad Airways, W Hotel, Four Seasons Doha, Grand Hyatt Doha, Oryx Rotana, Global DJs, United Fashion Company and Hospitality Development Company. Such is the interest generated by SOCIAL that new partners are apparently being added daily. ‘The number of partners we have now has taken us a bit by surprise, we didn’t imagine we would get so many so quickly,’ says Laurence.
Membership of SOCIAL will be available for six or twelve months and members will receive a card enabling them to take advantage of numerous special offers from the associated partners, such as discounts on hotels, flights, restaurants, spas, fitness, salons, retail outlets and much more.
The official SOCIAL launch party at W Hotel in December was a huge success, with ladies sampling a specially created range of signature mixed drinks and dancing to the latest music, courtesy of a female DJ. Monthly social events are now set to be a permanent diary date. ‘There will be a fixed monthly get together where you can come and relax, have a drink with friends or meet new people,’ says Laurence. ‘It will be great for newcomers.’
Suzanne tells me they intend to organise a variety of other events, too. ‘Our group will give women a chance to become part of a community and go to events that people are excited to go to. For me, personally, I don’t always want to go to beach parties. I want to go out for dinner or vino and cheese evenings.’ Laurence agrees adding, ‘We’ve also been talking to people about life coaching, Chanel about classes on makeup tips and tricks, and on the fitness side we’ve managed to partner with Bootcamp Qatar, plus we have a yoga teacher solely for SOCIAL and she will teach on evenings and weekends.’
We all know that expat life can be transient. As soon as you make firm friends, they then seem to fly back out of our lives. SOCIAL intends to facilitate the process of meeting new people in a comfortable environment. ‘I’ve been here two and a half years, and when the first phase of my friends left I became a bit of a hermit for six months,’ Laurence tells me. ‘I just couldn’t be bothered to make new friends, even though I’m quite a social person. This group will be great for that.’ Plus, being a women’s only group also means all the usual unwanted attention can be avoided. Suzanne adds, ‘It’s sometimes quite hard to go out and relax and enjoy yourself without the hassle of being approached.’
SOCIAL isn’t just about making friends and taking part in fun social activities, however, there’s also a more serious side to the group. ‘We intend to donate fifty percent of the money we raise to a different women’s charity each month and women will also be able to nominate which charity they want the profits to go to,’ says Suzanne. ‘The other fifty percent, we will roll back into events, so we won’t personally make any profit.’
In December donations were made to PlayKenya, a Kenyan charity dedicated to supporting traumatised children living in orphanages, in memory of Lauren Patterson the British teacher who was killed in Qatar in October 2013. Suzanne states that safety will be a key topic among members of the group.
Laurence and Suzanne’s enthusiasm for SOCIAL, coupled with the obvious niche for such a group, is bound to guarantee its success. ‘This is a completely new type of group and we are both so excited about it,’ gushes Suzanne. ‘You see, for me, I work all day and you don’t always want to network, sometimes you just want to have fun!’ Which leaves me humming Cyndi Lauper’s classic ‘Girls just want to have fun’ all the way home. Perhaps it could even be their theme tune?
A six-month membership costs QR250. Annual fees will be announced soon. For more information contact firstname.lastname@example.org, call 3329 2924 or visit ‘SOCIAL’ on Facebook.