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Najla Al Bassam: The Hustle of an Art Entrepreneur

Nurturing a mere once-upon-a-time passion has landed her as founder of two creative design studios today. Saudi art entrepreneur Najla AlBassam is the genius behind Haya Design Studio and Kartt & Co.

As a child, she envisioned finishing college, pursuing her master’s degree, enrolling in a job and following the typical lifestyle. But that’s not the path AlBassam’s life decided to follow. She signed up for a job that allowed her to do what she loved doing everyday which is graphic design, only to realize that she was not given the opportunity or the platform to really express and explore the many things that she wanted to do. “That was the main drive for me to go out and start my own thing,” she said.

That was when epiphany happened and got AlBassam into a pool of mixed emotions. “It was extremely scary,” she said. “I felt vulnerable because it wasn’t a very common thing to do back then in 2010 – to leave your job and do your own thing. But slowly I noticed people started responding and supporting my idea even though I started small – with a desk at my house working on my laptop doing designs and going from one place to another to meet clients and present to them.”

That is how Haya Design Studio was born. “Slowly, things started developing. Life takes you through many courses and of course as a start-up, you get those doubts if you should work in a part-time job or if you should leave and go back to a full-time job.”

AlBassam believes in practice over theory. That got her to try out different things and tread several paths. “I worked in a different field for a while; I worked in a part-time job for a year and tried a lot of things to see what would work best for me,” she said in a recent interview. “What kept me going back to Haya Design was that I knew that was my passion and that is where I should be growing while helping people to grow with me.”

Haya Design Studio is a platform, according to AlBassam, created for designers with different backgrounds to meet and express their design style and beliefs.

Her work at Haya Design helped her build a network of artists from the Arab region which gave her insight into the potential of multiple expressions of art with different ages, nationalities and genders. So when the idea clicked her and she wanted to build a platform where artists receive a chance to create, with no strings attached, Kartt & Co. was born which was also inspired by her long-time love for stationery and greeting cards.

Kartt & Co. is the collaborative product line by Haya Design Studio that have local talented artists produce and distribute high end greeting cards and stationary.

Sending a note of advice to youth, AlBassam said “In any practice, craft or anything in life, I believe it is about passion. So if you are passionate about something, from the smallest thing to the biggest, nurture that and make it grow. Work on it and it will happen. If you believe that it is the right thing for you, just do it. Don’t wait for anything else because we always have the usual obstacles of money, society and many more. But trust me, if you just take the first step, everything will grow out easily.”

Speaking about the future of women in the Kingdom, AlBassam said that women are part of change and they are very powerful today. “The more women believing in themselves and showing confidence will not necessarily take over men’s roles but will actually be part of the change at being equal,” she said. “Voices are now being heard because they are demanding that and they are doing a lot. Change will not happen completely in the world without the aid of women.”

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