Posted on Oct 23, 2018
“Mompreneurs” are women who balance being both mothers and entrepreneurs. We interviewed a few of these remarkable women to share their stories, struggles and inspiration for stay-at-home moms or businesswomen outside of their homes.
Le’Jemalik Salon & Boutique
Huda Qahsi, owner of Le’Jemalik Salon & Boutique in New York, was sick and tired of going to salons where hijabi women were shoved into a back room. She passionately believes that all women should feel beautiful when they go to the salon, and seeing this need for a Muslim- and hijabi-friendly salon in the community, she set out to make it happen.
Huda dreamed of opening her own salon for 20 years before she opened Le’Jemalik, whose name translates to “for your beauty,” in January of 2017. A hair and makeup artist since age 14 who previously worked at both MAC and Benefit Cosmetics, she started saving money as a teen – she even saved money from her mahr instead of buying gold, as women who share her Yemeni culture usually do.
While her children were young, she did freelance work, but now that her children are older, she is able to work more. She estimates that she serves hundreds of clients in a year, peaking during bridal season. Her salon offers coloring services, hair treatments, facials, and bridal hair and makeup.
To Huda, the biggest hurdle of being a mompreneur is finding a balance between home and work life. She admits she tends to take on more than she can handle, but she is working on learning time management skills, scheduling time off and saying no. Her family is supportive of the business.
Huda encourages all women who have a dream to start somewhere and build up toward it, whether it’s an educational future or a business. “Don’t ever give up and make a lot of dua,” she said. While women tend to focus on husband, kids and their house, she advises to “just put a little focus on yourself.” Women can begin by saving increments of money, working part-time or freelancing – where there’s a dream, there’s a way!
She advised people to focus on one project at a time. “I put my 100 percent force into one thing. Don’t juggle 20 projects at once. It won’t be successful.”
Huda hopes to franchise her salon and open a beauty school to teach other women how to do hair and make-up. “Right now my dream is to be able to duplicate myself.”
Sereen Al-Tartir is the Founder and Lead Photographer of Zaytouna Photography. Sereen began her business four years ago and her team now includes her husband and an intern. Sereen believes that if you have a dream, you should always pursue it. “If it's something you love, it’s totally worth chasing. There is always a sense of satisfaction when you turn your dream into an action plan and watch it come to life.” Sereen has served over 150 clients since she went into business, and she loves capturing people’s milestones such as engagements, weddings and maternity pictures.
Sereen said being a mompreneur is all about flexibility and time management. “If you had a to-do list for the day but it didn't go as planned because your little one(s) needed a little extra lovin' that day, it’s okay. Step back, and rearrange your timeline. Nothing is more important to me than my daughter, so she'll always come first.”
Sereen believes in working with other professionals to build a business. She hired a graphic designer to create a logo, an accountant for bookkeeping and an attorney to assist in creating contracts. She suggested reaching out to others in the same field of work for expert advice. She said more often than not, people are helpful.
She credits failures as the stepping stones to future success. “The most vital lessons I have learned came from a leap I took and failed. It just teaches you where you went wrong and how to fix it…The next leap you'll take; chances are you're going to make it!”
She hopes to travel for wedding sessions and have her work featured “in some awesome magazine.” Zaytouna is hiring! For inquiries, contact @zaytounaphotography.
Evangeline Do began her business of handmade crafts for two years on Etsy before officially opening her shop in 2016. She creates handmade toys and educational materials. She also teaches children how to sew. She serves about 25 clients each month and enjoys writing about her adventures of crafting, motherhood and homeschooling on her blog.
For her, raising four children (11, 5, 3, and 2) can be challenging, but she works around her kids’ needs and her responsibilities. “I previously closed my shop for a few years to focus on work and my young children, so I know that my business can still thrive even if I take things slow. I always make it a point to not take on more work than I can manage.”
“There is no rush, you can enjoy your family, enjoy your children's childhood but you can also enjoy the journey and evolution of your business,” she said. It is a great time to be a stay-at-home mompreneur with the endless opportunities and customer base on the internet. “Find out what sets you on fire… and think about how you can serve others.”
For Evangeline it was important to have a personal brand that was dear to her heart. “Having a personal brand will allow you to pivot without losing your audience. It will allow you to take time off with baby without having to build your business from the ground up each time you stop. If your customers fall in love with you as a person they will follow along on your entrepreneurial journey wherever that takes you.”
Nutrition by Nazima
Nazima Qureshi is a registered dietician and nutritionist who began blogging about nutrition while taking care of her newborn. When it was well-received, she decided to become a stay-at-home mother while pursuing her dream of helping Muslim women live healthier lives, creating her business Nutrition by Nazima in 2016.
Her work encompasses individual lifestyle counseling, writing nutrition articles for print and online magazines, writing e-books (including the Muslimah's Meal Plan, a 4-week meal plan to help women improve their eating habits), developing and sharing healthy recipes, creating brand content for healthy lifestyles, and participating in research projects.
Being a mother is one of her greatest strengths. “One of my intentions was to be able to stay at home with my children and so by reflecting on this intention time and time again, I don't look as my limited time as an obstacle anymore but rather as a blessing. I find I am very productive in the short amount of time that I have,” said Nazima. “You can use motherhood as that spark to give light to your dreams.”
Nazima said, don’t let perfectionist tendencies and fears stop your dreams from becoming a reality. “Once you get used to that uncomfortable feeling of the unknown, it will be easier for you to take leaps in ways you could've never imagined.”
She aspires to be a role model for her children. “I want them to know that their mom was able to have a successful business without compromising my relationship with them.”
She hopes Nutrition by Nazima will be instrumental in creating healthy lifestyle choices for Muslimahs globally to, “improve their relationship with food, to never diet again, to love their bodies, to find balance, and most importantly be happy.”
Bint Khuwaylid Home Décor
Katja Kathrine Larsen is the owner of Bint Khuwaylid, a home décor brand that puts a Scandinavian minimalist twist on traditional Islamic patterns. She started her business two years ago while she and her husband were living in Jordan. As full-time students who had just welcomed their third child, money was understandably tight. “We were on a serious low budget from what I was used to in Denmark. We ran out of tap water every week. We didn’t have heat in the winter and had days where we couldn’t even buy the basics like diapers. This was a great motivation for me to try to make an income.”
Passionate about sustainable living, Katja wanted to create thoughtful, cleanly designed products that would not only be beautiful, but also minimize waste. Her Ramadan and Eid decorations are reusable, and her products are also GOTS-certified organic.
Though not many people believed in her project at the beginning, she persisted, partially by working through the nights when her children were sleeping. Her business has now grown enough that she is expanding into wholesale.
She advises women to go with their instincts, work hard, and lean on others for support: “If you are starting up alone, find someone who can contain your failures, ups and down and vulnerability, because it will come, and you will need the shoulder to learn on and motivate you to keep going. This can be your neighbor, mother, husband, aunt or childhood friend or anyone close to you.” Even your children participate in your work, such as drawing, sharing a good idea, or taking a picture. “Share the victories with them,” she says.
She adds, “Be patient. Entrepreneurship has lots of ups and downs. Doors will open and doors will close as a part of the journey.”
Safina Mahmood is the owner of Safina’s Photography, which began in 2006. She works mainly with couples, families and recurring clients. She says that as a mother, she works around her children’s needs, including working on the weekends and editing at night when her kids are asleep.
Safina has been taking pictures since high school, having been the photo editor for the school newspaper and a member of the yearbook committee. She continued to hone her craft through photography courses in college.
An elementary teacher by profession, she has been teaching since she was 18 years old, always bringing her camera along to snap pictures of events. She initially began giving her pictures out as gifts and doing photography for fun, until she was inspired to become a professional photographer. Her first “real” gig was photographing the wedding of a university student, and her side hustle grew from there. “I was hired and pursued photography as my side business, while still teaching and promoting myself on Facebook and through family and friends.”
Safina enjoys working with children and families, and she specializes in taking pictures of children with disabilities such as Autism. “I love making people smile and laugh, and they can see that in their images that I take of them.”
She said moms who wish to pursue a business should reach out for support, from family and friends, and even their spouse. She aspires to teach children photography in the future - combining her love for teaching and photography.
Nargis Hakim Rahman is a Bangladeshi American Muslim writer and a mother of three kids. Nargis graduated from Wayne State University with a Bachelor’s degree in journalism, and a psychology minor. Nargis is passionate about community journalism in the Greater Detroit area. She hopes to give American Muslims and minorities a voice in the press. Nargis is a journalism fellow for the Feet in 2 Worlds/ WDET 101.9 FM. She writes for The Muslim Observer, Brown Girl Magazine and Metro Detroit Mommy. You can find her on Instagram and Twitter.