My Muslim Mums in Business series focus’s on inspirational Muslim women, who are balancing the art of motherhood along with running businesses.
Please introduce yourself and your business.
Assalamu’alaikum, I’m Naomi and my business is Anafiya Gifts. It is an online Islamic store for children of all ages, with a few items thrown in for parents too! I have 2 daughters “Ana” and “Fiya” hence where the name Anafiya came from.
As a revert to Islam, one aspect of my childhood I missed was the excitement around Christmas. This was something I feel was lacking with my daughters when Eid came around. We do not get the benefit of the whole country putting up decorations everywhere like in many Islamic countries.
Many of my friends in my local community shared the same concerns. I found a sister who was wholesaling Eid decorations and by making a large order, I was able to then sell these decorations on. From there we expanded into Islamic gifts, specializing in gifts for children.
As we expanded so did our intentions. We want to encourage a love for Islam and make it easier for parents to teach their children in a fun way, whether that is through toys, books, fun activities or Eid decorations.
What makes Anafiya Gifts different from your competitors?
Our vision is to make our products easily accessible to everyone. Our items are typically found in Islamic bookstores, but we have found that most have been very slow to adapt to the surge of online shopping. The online shopping experience they offer is below par. We want to offer the same high standards that our customers are used to when shopping at the leading retailers.
Due to the way we operate and our business model, we are able to price our items competitively. The majority are listed at RRP or cheaper. We are also unique in the sense that we are able to offer Free UK Delivery when spending a certain amount. We think this is an important benefit to our customers as we also find delivery charges annoying when shopping online.
Customer service is extremely important to us. If a product is faulty, or the courier loses the parcel, we always step up and resolve this asap. It has always been our policy to make things right, often with a financial loss.
Lastly, we have been around for a few years now. Although that doesn’t sound like much, we have seen many businesses come and go within this time. This strengthens the fact that what we are doing works, and that we’ll be around for a while insha’Allah.
What inspired you to start working from home? Did anyone in particular inspire you?
I had my first child when I was 20. My husband was still studying at the time, and when he graduated and was offered a job, it was natural that I stepped into the “full-time mother” role. I definitely did not intend to start this business, but alhamdulilah it has grown alot and is now a big part of my life.
I would say if anyone inspired me to carry on with this business, it was my children. When we launched, they were both under 4. I had always wanted to homeschool even before I had my own kids. So working from home allowed me to do both; work and also teach my children.
Is your family supportive of you being a working mother?
Naturally, our busiest period is during Ramadan up to Eid. This is the biggest test for us. Juggling the increasing demands of the business, with the spiritual commitments of Ramadan. I had never felt the level of Ramadan Guilt – the feeling of not doing enough – as I did in this period.
So combining the many sleepless nights running the business, with the long summer fasts and evening prayers, it was inevitable that the family steps in and supported me both physically and emotionally. Whether that was helping with the orders, or keeping the kids entertained. Alhamdulilah, I feel very blessed to be able to ask family for help as I know this isn’t always the case for others.
My husband works as a software developer, so he has been able to take over much of the technical side of things. I believe we complement each other on the diversity of our strengths. Although this was very new to the both of us, we weren’t afraid to learn new things. Between us, we have had to learn a range of topics that go from digital marketing, photo editing, search engine optimization, to also the legal stuff such as GDPR.
What are the main challenges you face as a mum and an entrepreneur?
The biggest challenge for me is separating work life from family life. As most of my work can be done through my phone or laptop, it is very easy to fall into the trap of working throughout the day when I should be concentrating on the family. It can take over your life at times.
Describe a typical working day. Are there specific times in the day that you work on your business?
The flexibility of my work means that I get to work around my own schedule. So there are no typical work days. Some days I may work from a coffee shop or shopping mall, and other times at home. I try to concentrate the most of my work when the kids are in classes, or in the evenings after they sleep. Like right now, I am in the kids bedroom whilst one refuses to sleep, typing this out in the dark.
What are the pros and cons about being a working mum from home?
The pros of working from home for me are spending more time with my kids and family and the flexibility of taking the day off (sometimes weeks) if I need to. It also allows me to work from anywhere in the world, and I do love to travel!
The cons are it’s so easy to get distracted when working from home. I do not have a dedicated work space, so often need to escape to a coffee shop (and away from the housework!). It can also be hard to disconnect from work during family time as there is a constant stream of emails popping up on my phone.
On your toughest days, what helps keep you motivated?
As I have children of my own, I can see first hand how beneficial our products are in helping teach Islam in a fun and engaging manner. Being able to share these with others is a major motivator.
It has always been a long term goal to become financially independent. To not have to report to a manager, and have the rigidness of a typical job, is something I will strive to work for.
Where would you like to see your business in the future?
I would love to see Anafiya Gifts design and launch our own range of products, we are in the long process of this now!
We would like to grow both in the UK and worldwide. And help inspire many more adults and children to embrace their identities as Muslims and grow their love for Islam.
What advice would you give to mums considering taking the step of being a working mum?
My advice is mostly to those who run their own businesses. If your work does not align with your passion and goals, you will find it hard to motivate yourself. Make sure you are doing something you love.
Do not give up! Sometimes, especially when you are starting up it can be so tough with long days and little results, but keep at it. More importantly, work smart. Don’t be too proud to admit when something isn’t working. There is no shame in going back to the drawing board.
Embrace competition. It can be intimidating to see other people targeting the same space as you, but see the positive side. Healthy competition is good and will challenge you to be creative in the ways you can succeed. It also raises the standards of service so customers benefit greatly.
Utilise people around you and learn to delegate parts of your business when it becomes financially viable. Trying to do everything yourself will eventually lead to burnout. Your health is more important than making money, so do not turn your business into an obsession. With the right intentions, hard work, and lots of dua it will pay off inshaAllah.
If you are a muslim mum with a business and would like to feature then drop me a message in sha Allah.