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.
My name is Subah, I’m a mum to two boys, married and living in Berkshire. During the first lock down I took up embroidery as a relaxation hobby and found that I absolutely loved it! From there I started very slowly to practice the art and gradually made pieces that I liked and that appealed to me. Eventually, after much thought I decided to open an Etsy shop online to sell my hand embroidered hoops. It’s all very new to me, I’ve only had The Happy Stitch Studio (Etsy shop) open for a month or so, so I’m still learning!
What makes your business different from your competitors?
I think that I’m different to a lot of embroidery artists as I am now focusing on mainly Islamic inspired and henna inspired embroidery art, which I have not seen a lot of. All of my embroidery hoop designs are hand drawn and embroidered, making each piece unique. I do also have embroidery hoops that are aimed for children with a rainbow theme, a custom embroidery hoop that can be tailored to the individual with whatever design is requested, and some Eid inspired embroidery hoops. I am also branching out with some Eid gift bags, and In’sha’Allah in the near future I am planning on starting a collection using Arabic calligraphy for personalised names. There are so many ideas I have, and with all things that are hand made and small scale (just me), it takes time.
What inspired you to start working from home? Did anyone, in particular, inspire you?
I think for me it was the attraction of being able to fit in my work within the school day that really appealed to start working from home. I have worked lots of part time jobs and always felt like I was missing out on time at home with my boys. So, this seemed like a great opportunity. Yes, it is hard and sometimes I feel like stopping as the market seems saturated with embroidery hoops and designs, but I think that I have something different to offer, and that keeps me going. Also, I know that it can take time for things to get moving, In’sha’Allah my time will come. And I do think my mum inspired me a lot, as I remember when I was younger, she would always be working doing some kind of home working job, as well as looking after myself and my siblings, and being the best mum ever.
Is your family supportive of you being a working mother?
My family have always been supportive regarding my being a working mum. Especially my husband. He knows that I can tend to get bored sitting at home (although no one ever just gets to sit around at home with young children haha), and is always happy when I want to get back into work. My mum always worries I’m doing too much, but that’s what mums do I guess. Personally, I have worked in some kind of fashion since I was 16, so it’s part of my life and something that I need. Working from home is like the best of both.
What are the main challenges you face as a mum and an entrepreneur?
The main challenges I face as a mum and small business owner are trying to fit in time to embroider when the boys are at home, as well as doing the household chores etc in the holidays. For now I think the biggest challenge is just trying to get out there and get my embroidery being noticed. I do use social media to promote my designs and hoops, so I do the whole Instagram thing with posting updates and such and also Pinterest, but it can be hard work sometimes, especially when you have a six and three year old trying to get some ‘mummy’ time! I sometimes think it would be easier to be back in an office, but then I know how precious this flexibility is, that I have, so those thoughts are short-lived!
Describe a typical working day. Are there specific times in the day that you work on your business?
A typical working day at the moment would be waking up at 5.30am, praying fajr, attempting to do some yoga (probably 10 minutes is all I can manage haha), reading a chapter of the Quran and then starting the ‘school rush’. Basically, getting the boys up and ready for school, lunches packed etc, my husband will take them to school/ nursery. I will then have a general tidy up, get any washing out of the way etc, and then start my working day. This will roughly be around 9/9.30 am. I usually try to finish any embroidery that I have started and then look to see what other designs I have ready to start. Typically, I start to think about a collection that I can have, for example Eid embroidery and jot down some ideas for hoops or other items I can embroider. During this time I start to take photos of finished pieces that I can add online & promote, then get a listing ready on Etsy. This takes time as I try to include all the relevant details to ensure people get a full overview of the product. I do try to have set times that I can do some designs/ sketches or embroider and then ‘switch off’ from work and focus on home. This is mainly during school hours, and no work on the weekends. That’s time to spend with family and catch up on outstanding housework (that never ends).
What are the pros and cons of being a working mum from home?
Pro’s and cons of being a working mum from home: pro’s – flexibility with time, I can pick and choose what I want to do for the day and when; time off – if I have appointments/errands I can always take time to do those and this won’t affect my work; more time with family – I don’t miss time with my family due to being at work in the evenings of finishing late in the day; being creative – I can try new things that I haven’t seen anywhere else and create and modify designs and sketches that I have. It’s a very rewarding feeling when I start with just an idea in my head that I sketch on paper, transfer to a piece of fabric and embroider in whatever colour palette I want, then seeing the finished embroidery hoop!
Con’s – trying to do work related things when the boys are running around interrupting me (but it’s one of those things); getting people to notice your products in a very competitive market. You may not be aware of all the tools you can use when working from home, that would be available to you in a job that was for a company rather than working for yourself. Having an area that is specific for your work – currently I have my work space in the spare room, and utililsed what’s in there. It’s not ideal, but it works. I don’t really think of the cons, as this is what I have chosen, yes it is very small scale at the moment, it’s not paying huge amounts and there’s a lot of trial and error, but isn’t that how all businesses start?
On your toughest days, what helps keep you motivated?
On my toughest days, and there have been many recently as it’s all so new, my passion and love for embroidery keeps me motivated. Sounds cliché, but it’s true. If I didn’t enjoy doing this, I would never have started the shop. And I embroider designs that appeal to me, and that bring me joy. I could just do the same as everyone but that’s not what I want to do. I want to try new and different, and the whole variety aspect is something that motivates me. You can literally embroider anything – I did an embroidery replica of my friend’s mums house as a housewarming gift. It took three days, but it was worth it knowing how happy she was. That kind of thing keeps me going.
Where would you like to see your business in the future?
In’sha’Allah I would like to see my business grow to being more than just an Etsy shop selling handmade embroidery hoops. I would like to expand into other items, but that takes time. I would also like to be able to have a customer base that allows me to have my own website instead of relying on an online selling platform. And to have customers who return due to the quality of the products they receive and the happiness they get from a handmade embroidery hoop that is mad with passion.
What advice would you give to mums considering taking the step of being a working mum?
My advice for mums who would like to be working mums, would be to do your research in the area that you wish to start your business in. Lots of research! Check out other similar businesses to see what they are doing, think about what you would like to do and take a leap of faith. Trust in Allah SWT and do what you feel is best. It will be hard, you will want to give up, but keep faith and trust in Allah SWT.
As an introductory offer, I will be offering a 20% discount on all my hoops with the special code of MUMSLIMMUMMY20 used at the checkout. Thank you!
Thank you sister Subah for taking part in my series. If you’re interested in knowing more about Subah’s work at The Happy Stitch Studio then you can also find her on instagram: The Happy Stitch Studio.