One need only submit a general inquiry for Islamic clothing through one of the many online search engines to discover the growing number of online businesses that are run by and targeting Muslim women. Part Three of the HIE Muslimah Focus Series examining Entrepreneurialism and Muslim Women Business Owners is highlighting Ummah Couture, an online retailer specializing in hijab scarves and providing handmade hijab pins and tasbeeh beads while offering a selection of modest and Islamic clothing to the Muslim community.
Established in 2010 by businesswoman Mona Hussein, Ummah Couture was a work in progress for two years before being realized through the efforts of Ms. Hussein with the support of her husband, her good friend Mariam, and the loving presence of a beloved uncle who inspired her with his principles of not over charging for the items and services which he provided.
Ummah Couture’s primary inspiration derives from a love for modest dress and fashion and their hijabs come in a wide variety of fabrics and styles fit for any occasion. Their products are carefully selected in order to ensure high quality at a competitive price and Ummah Couture is currently working on offering new items and expanding their clothing line.
The initial launch of Ummah Couture took place at the annual Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) Conference in 2010 where Ms. Hussein was able to meet customers and to talk to them about what their needs were. ISNA holds an Islamic Conference every year where the American Muslim community can come together in one place to network with one another and to learn more about Islam. Ummah Couture attends the ISNA Conference annually to maintain contact with their customer base and is pleased to have customers who are familiar with their brand and who express their delight at finding Ummah Couture present every year.
Sister Mona has said, “The best [part of interacting with customers] is when the customers let us know how they have referred us to their friends and family members because it is the best compliment that a business can get. I think that one of the most important matters for a business is to interact with their customers to better understand their needs. Locally we offer alterations and custom products and Insha’Allah we will be adding this service to our new website which we are currently working on to launch.”
Her friend Mariam, an inspiration and great support in establishing Ummah Couture, comes from a family where many women own their own businesses and she has worked with Ms. Hussein since the start of Ummah Couture. She has helped to keep the growing business grounded and motivated in providing the best products and Sister Mona relates the significance of having a strong support in starting a business when discussing the role of her dear friend:
“She believed in the business and its capabilities and believed in my visions. To this day she is the person that I can call to ask advice and get her thoughts on how to work through things.”
There are quite a few Muslim women that Ummah Couture interacts with who run their own businesses and Ummah Couture provides advice and other kinds of support through supplying some of these businesses with their products and by working with charities to provide modest clothing to recent reverts and Muslim women in need.
Ms. Hussein has said, “An important part of being a Muslim business for me and my business partners is to have a means of giving back to our communities and we are always on the lookout for a charity or organization that we can help as our way of giving back. Also for me I love the opportunity to share my experiences with other sisters to help them succeed and to help them to avoid some of the pitfalls that we encountered when we started out. It is quite rewarding.”
The majority of the Ummah Couture hijab pins and all of their Tasbeeh beads are handmade and also provide a great way of employing Muslim Sisters in the US; they hope to expand this element of their business into a community in the future. Ummah Couture is also working on redoing their website to make it more user friendly with functionalities that allow them to bring their custom made products to all of their customers and not be limited to local customers in Ohio only.
Fortunately, Sister Mona has not encountered much discrimination as a Muslim woman business owner as she usually does business with other Muslims, but she is not ignorant to the fact that it does exist.
“I have rarely felt discrimination but there have been instances when we used to sell items on eBay where non-Muslims would purchase items from us and they would leave negative reviews as soon as they discovered that they were dealing with a Muslim business. Since discovering this we have stopped using eBay and we now get great feedback from the customers that we have and pride ourselves on customer service and listening to our customers for what they need.”
As advice to Muslim women and women considering starting their own businesses Ms. Hussein says, “I would say that you should know what you are getting into. Try something new, do your research, be realistic, and know that growth and success comes with time. I’ve seen so many sisters give up on their business ideas within the first 6 months when there has been so much potential in what they were doing. A simple search on the web will let you know that businesses do not typically make any profit within the first 3 years and have losses more so than gains, this is especially true when it comes to first time businesses. Also if you gave up on your first business don’t think that you can’t get back into it; statistically speaking the second time around you are more likely to succeed as you can use the experience that you had from your first business.”
Ms. Hussein is always looking for new items and new designs and says, “I’m currently working on couture designs that are one of a kind for Ummah Couture.” Stylish hijabs, unique hijab pins, handy pocket prayer mats, 33 and 99-count tasbeeh beads, Kurtis and Tunics are some of the items that are currently available at http://www.ummahcouture.com/.