Small business uprising: How a Muslim student became an entrepreneur during the COVID-19 pandemic by starting an online hijab business

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When the pandemic struck last March, the drastic shift to online learning in Ontario forced many students to rethink their plans. The pandemic prompted a young student to take the plunge Azelefa Co. an online hijab business.

For Azelefa Khan, 20, a student at the University of Toronto at Scarborough, the pandemic was an opportunity to reflect on her future career plans.

Currently a third year student preparing for a double major in immunology and psychology, Khan was fascinated by science, especially brain anatomy.

“I was interested in what I was studying, but I didn’t have the passion to pursue a career there,” Khan said. “I always knew I had an entrepreneurial spirit because I loved taking business courses and I always spoke about my wish to start my own business to my family and friends.”

When classes ended in April 2020, coinciding with Ramadan, Khan embarked on a spiritual journey to help him figure out what to do with his time during the pandemic.

“During my forties, I got closer to my religion, Islam. When Ramadan came in 2020, I started praying and asking for advice, and one of the things I mentioned was that I wanted to be an influential role for young girls and be a positive role model for them. Said Khan, from Abbottabad. , Pakistani. She also lived in the United Arab Emirates before moving to Canada in 2012.

The conversation that started the hijab business

Before Ramadan 2020, Khan had a conversation with his father about his wish to start a clothing brand. At first she thought about launching a line of modest dresses to sell online, then the idea of ​​starting a hijab business came to her mind as it was a way to stay close to her religion.

“A hijab is simple and understated,” and it was a more manageable product than dresses, Khan said.

The launch date of Azelefa Co. was August 14, 2020. Located in North York, Ontario. Khan ships worldwide and orders can be placed directly through the website.

“I wanted my launch date to be a Friday because it’s a blessed day for Muslims,” Khan said. “Also, of course, it was Pakistan’s national day.”

Hijab business designed to solve problems

Rather than majoring in business, Khan relies on Google, informative and influential videos.

“Google is your best friend when you start a business. Google anything and everything you don’t know, ”Khan said. As soon as she got the idea to start her hijab business, she started researching and finding manufacturers.

She expanded her line to include hijab magnets, because “I think it solves the issues with hijabis and girls wanting to wear modest clothing,” Khan said. It is a popular product that keeps the hijab in place “and it leaves no hole or snag your hijab”.

Owner Azelefa Khan discusses one of the most popular items, hijab magnets. COURTESY @AzelefaCo.

Mahnoor Fatima, 21, a University of Toronto student bought hijab magnets from Azelefa Co. to replace the hijab pins she used. “Hijab magnets don’t spoil my hijab and are very strong,” Fatima said. Her hijab stays “on all day.”

Azelefa Co. has so far sold over 2,000 pairs of hijab magnets.

Preparation before launch

Khan started his business working out of his family’s apartment bedroom.

She sold her bedroom furniture and downsized her bed to make room for two sectional shelves to hold her inventory. She also got a large table to use in preparing orders for shipping. Her room was soon filled with hijabs.

“For me, customer service and quality were the most important thing and a top priority. I never want to sell something that I don’t like. That’s why at first I had so many swatches and colors of hijab, ”Khan said.

“I ordered and spent a lot of money on samples. If I had to give you an estimate, it would be between $ 1,000 and $ 1,500. I wasted so much money you should receive samples, but not too many.

Khan worked hard to find the right supplier after discovering that most of the items she received when starting the business were not of good quality.

“I have known Azelefa from middle school. I was super excited for her Before she got started, I loved helping her choose the colors for her hijab business and answering all of her decision-making questions. said Fatima. “The quality of her hijab and stitching is phenomenal.”

Khan has since moved her inventory to 10×15 storage, but she still continues to pack all of her products at home.

Hijab empowerment

For many Muslim women around the world, modesty and the hijab have an important meaning. “The hijab reminds me of my faith in every decision I make,” Fatima said.

“I know a lot about hijabs, and it gives me power when I go out. People recognize it as a hijab. They know I’m a Muslim, ”Khan said. A hijab is so much more than just a head scarf, she said it “is part of me and gives me a feeling of freedom”.

Azelefa Co. sells hijabs made from a variety of different materials including jersey, ribbed jersey hijab, chiffon, and premium chiffon. She also wears tie-dye hijabs, turbans and velvet hijab scrunchies.

“One of my favorite hijabs that I would recommend are the swimsuits especially black (Nairobi), ”Fatima said. She loves them because they are light, do not slip and are perfect in any season.

The black jersey hijab (Nairobi) (left). One of the customer reviews left on the live site. COURTESY OF Azelefa Khan.

Khan also recommends the hijab swimsuit collection because it can be dressed or casual.

“Jersey hijabs are extremely soft and light… they look like a cloud on your head. Made with 95% cotton and 5% spandex, which allows it to stretch without any limitation, ”said Khan.

Social media uprising and tips

The two main social media applications used to promote Azelefa Co. are booming. All the marketing is done through TikTok and Instagram. Azelefa Co. has nearly 10,000 subscribers on Instagram and more than 60,000 subscribers on TikTok.

“TikTok has such an amazing audience and one of the richest audiences in the world. It has helped my business grow. The way the TikTok algorithm works is so amazing,” Khan said.

Khan said hashtags are really important and help target the right audience. They should match the content of the video, she said. For Azelefa Co., the focus is on the hijab and modest hashtags to target the right audience.

Packaging is also an important part of Khan’s business strategy.

“The packaging is so important because it really depends on the customer experience. If your packaging is good, customers want to post a story on Instagram, share it on Snapchat and on TikTok, ”Khan said.

The packaging that Azelefa Co. customers love and demand on TikTok. COURTESY OF Azelefa Khan.

“People have asked me to register their packages on TikTok to see In the wings. Sometimes that’s the reason people even order, and especially being a small business, I feel like I can relate to my client, ”Khan said. Including small gifts in its wrappers, such as candy or a handwritten note, also helps connect with buyers.

Fatima says she really cares about her clients.

Azelefa Co.’s social media content is created to help anyone interested in getting advice, tips, or wanting to wear a hijab. “If I make a video with a lens behind it, or if I impart knowledge and solve a problem for them, these type of videos still work great and I get a lot of follow-ups and orders from that,” said Khan.

Build a support system

When her business started, she was invited to her high school to tell students about the same business marketing course that inspired her.

Three tips and quotes provided by owner Azelefa Khan.

One of the biggest motivators Khan found was entrepreneur Gary Vee.

“Sometimes you just need that energy in your system that good positive energy, ”Khan said.

Azelefa Co. has no employees, but Khan says she receives a lot of support from friends and family. Her parents are the first to help her, her father helps with the packing. A friend helped Khan design the website, and a friend’s dad does photoshoots for her.

Recently, Azelefa Co. launched its very first dress on the site during Ramadan and Eid this year. It was a two-tone satin dress and it is very modest.

COURTESY OF Avelefa Co.

Action of giving

When Azelefa Co. launched an exclusive tie-dye collection, it was a huge success. There aren’t many tie-dye hijab collections available, Khan said, and the only company she came across in her research only sold tie-dye hijabs made from jerseys. To be competitive, Khan launched a tie-dye chiffon collection.

“From the tie-dye collection, I donate like 10 percent of the proceeds. It was during the Eid era and it was to buy Eid gifts for women in shelters, ”Khan said.

Khan also supports Islamic Relief Canada to help those in need across Palestine. She launched a fundraiser for 48 hours and 100% of all sales went to the cause.

“I chose the most reliable source and the one I use all the time,” said Khan, who raised $ 500 through fundraising. It was an accomplishment, she said. “I was happy.”

Khan said she would continue to build a stronger community by making women feel empowered through innovative design once the pandemic is over.

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