Meet the Founders: Amina Ahmadi, the Product Innovator Behind Oola September 29, 2016 – Posted in: Behind the Scenes – Tags: Amina Ahmadi, Design, Modest Activewear, Modest Sportswear, Oola Founders, Oola Team, Production, Sports Hijab
You haven’t experienced true definition and articulation until you’ve met Oola Design & Product Development Director Amina Ahmadi. An architect and design thinker by trade, Amina is one of the most detail-oriented planners and implementers in the field. Co-founding Oola Sportswear is just one of the many examples of her ability to execute a thorough and well-spec’ed roadmap, in fact.
After training with future Oola co-founder and CEO Haya Al Ghanim for a Mount Kilimanjaro hike and making it back from the hike that ensued, Amina led initial product sketching and ideation until the team brought on a professional designer, who they found in designer and friend Lilian Gabriel Barbosa.
Amina likes to joke about her “ugly” early sketches, but we’re not poking fun at those doodles at all — after all, they were the drawings that allowed the early duo to communicate their vision to form the perfect co-founding trifecta: Haya, Amina, and Lilian. Amina is, in a word, design-oriented… and in two more words, impeccably thoughtful.
Amina at a Glance
- How She Stays Active: Cycling and working out at her office’s gym
- Favorite Place to Run: While in Doha, she loves Oxygen Park for running, the Corniche for walking, and Lusail circuit for cycling (when it’s open to cyclists).
- Craziest Adventure: Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro!
- Most Ambitious Goal in Life: “For myself, striving to maintain a balance between work, community, and family while continuing to grow myself, and then enjoying and sharing it with my loved ones. For larger than myself, contributing to my community and causes I believe in. Right now, my dream is for Oola to flourish and help many women out there find great joys and support from the outdoors!”
- Proudest Achievement: “Going to bed on time, having cooked a healthy meal, putting the kids to bed on time, and knowing that during the day, I’ve done my best at work, working on Oola, and having some spiritual time during the day as well. When I’ve managed to somehow balanced all of these things, I feel quite proud!”
- Biggest Fear: Surprisingly, heights!
- On Her Playlist: A few songs she and friends played while training for Kilimanjaro: “(Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher and Higher” by Jackie Wilson; “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” by Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell; and “Touch the Sky” from the Brave Disney movie soundtrack. See a theme there? She also loves everything by Mohammad Abdu and Fairoz.
- Her Passions: Urbanism, cycling, traveling, hiking, and making things!
Discovering Her Love for the Outdoors
Amina is a self-proclaimed hiking fiend, but it wasn’t until her late twenties that she became emphatic about the outdoors or physical exercise in general. As a child, she was passionate about drawing and reading. Those hobbies led to her lifelong love of architecture and design. Spending her time changing the world one structure at a time, though, left little time for exercise or outdoors reflection.
Furthermore, Amina didn’t enjoy exercising at the “Female Only” gyms in her hometown of Doha, Qatar. The only venues for exercise for covered women, these gyms are often overcrowded and uninspiring. Amina explains: “Though they provide ultimate privacy where women can dress as comfortably as they wish without being seen, that also means that these spaces lack views to outdoors and daylight — elements I am fond of as an architect.”
“Not finding suitable clothing for outdoor sports while remaining within the realm of my values was frustrating and often led to me not participating in a number of outdoor activities,” she says. So, she made time and space to be outside. She spent a week at a resort located in the northeastern Italian mountains, the Dolomites. There, she did all the things she had never imagined possible.
My program during that week included personal training in a gym with daylight, hiking up the mountains every morning, eating healthy food, and relaxing. I was completely immersed in beautiful, natural surroundings, an experience that made me feel alive again. I simply fell in love with the mountains, and longed for those hikes almost every day after I returned to Qatar.
— Amina Ahmadi, Oola co-founder and product developer
On January 1st, 2015, Amina became one of many to summit Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, as part of a fundraising campaign for Palestine Children’s Relief Fund. It was during this feat that Amina realized the lack of modest, functional and suitably designed clothing for women in hijab. Being an architect, a creative with a love for design, it was only natural that Amina would develop sportswear that is modest, contemporary and fashionable. “I want Oola to encourage other women to be active, challenge boundaries, and enjoy the outdoors without thinking twice about apparel and comfort.”
When Amina doesn’t have her head in the clouds (hiking, that is), she is spending time with her family and enjoy the beautiful world around her. She holds an MSc in Advanced Architectural Studies from UCL. The way she balances it all, is another indicator of her phenomenal ability to plan, execute, and make a difference in the projects and communities she touches.