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April 25, 2024 28 mins
Host Victoria Guido discusses the therapeutic and community-building aspects of converting hobbies into mental health therapy with special guest Hamidah Nalwoga. Hamidah shares how attempting to learn hula hooping through expensive circus school lessons made her realize a need for a more accessible form of skill sharing. Meet Hobi—a platform where people can learn various skills not as a means of professionalization but for personal therapy and community building. Hamidah explains the challenges and insights from starting Hobi, particularly the hurdles of managing a two-sided marketplace and the importance of community support in the mental health space. While aiming to foster both skill development and mental well-being by providing affordable and engaging group sessions in arts, dance, and writing therapy, the platform also offers these sessions at minimal costs. Hamidah and Victoria also talk about the broader impacts of community-focused initiatives on mental health. With an increasing number of people facing mental health issues and lacking adequate support, platforms like Hobi are envisioned as a bridge to accessible mental health care. Sharing the value of creative expression in mental wellness, Hamidah advocates for a shift towards more community-centric and engaging therapeutic practices and highlights the potential for using innovative tech solutions to address the mental health crisis. Hobi ( Follow Hobi on LinkedIn (, Instagram (, or Facebook ( Follow Hamidah Nalwoga on LinkedIn ( Follow thoughtbot on X ( or LinkedIn ( Transcript: VICTORIA:  This is the Giant Robots Smashing Into Other Giant Robots Podcast, where we explore the design, development, and business of great products. I'm your host, Victoria Guido. And with me today is Hamidah Nalwoga, Founder of Hobi, showing you how to turn your hobbies into a form of therapy. Hamidah, thank you for joining me. HAMIDAH: Yeah, you're welcome. Thank you so much for having me. VICTORIA: Well, great. Well, why don't you tell me something that's going on in your world outside of work, just to intro yourself? What are your interests outside of your startup and your job? HAMIDAH: Yeah, my interests outside of, like, work and business, I would say the biggest one is digital art. I used to be really, really into it, but then I took a break, but now I'm finding it again. So yeah, I've been doing that a lot recently. Also, I'm trying to get into, like, audible books. VICTORIA: Ooh. HAMIDAH: I tried reading, but I can't stand it. So, I'm back to audible books [laughs]. VICTORIA: Oh, nice. Audible books, and you said digital art? HAMIDAH: Yeah, digital art. VICTORIA: What kind of digital art do you bank? HAMIDAH: I'm using Krita. It's a software. I use, like, a Wacom tablet and draw stuff like flowers, sunsets, stuff like that. VICTORIA: That sounds really nice. I love that. I've got a little art project myself coming up on Wednesday this week. HAMIDAH: Aw, that's nice. VICTORIA: I'm a big sister of, you know, Big Sister Little Sister. And so, me and my little sister are going to do these, like, oil paint by number kits. So, it's like a mentorship program in San Diego. So, it's a lot of fun for me and for my little, so yeah, I'm excited about that. And I love your idea of your company. So, you know, a lot of people when you tell them you have a hobby, sometimes they think about, oh, you should monetize it, and you should, like, make money off of it. But I like that your take is, oh, you should make therapy out of it. You should get emotional well-being out of your hobby. So, tell me a little bit more about, like, what led you to that idea? HAMIDAH: Originally, I wanted to learn how to hula hoop. I saw this music video, you know, and this person was, like, looking super cool, doing all these tricks, you know, like, it looked amazing to me. So, I was like, you know what? I want to be able to do that. So, that's how my journey started. I tried the YouTube videos, but it wasn't really helping me as much. I'm more of a person who learns in person, like, someone shows me what I'm doing wrong exactly. So, that's why I tried to find an in-person teacher. But I found a circus school that was charging $80 per lesson, which is just about an hour. That was, like, too expensive for me. VICTORIA: Eight dollars for a hula hoop lesson? HAMIDAH: Yeah. VICTORIA: Wow. HAMIDAH: Because they were charging, like, the rate of the circus school. Like, if you want to have any aerial lessons, hula hoop, it would all go into one thing, so it's like $80 an hour. That's why I was like, you know what? I know somebody in Boston who knows how to hula hoop enough that they could teach m
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