Hi, Tell us your name, what you do, and about your business.
My name is Kawthar Suleiman and I am the CEO and co-founder of Hijabican.
Our mission is to make dressing modestly easy and fun so women can focus on building their dreams. We also want to educate women on how to wear a hijab in different styles using our latest designs. We sell modest clothing and hijabs online primarily to the American Muslim woman market.
How to wear Hijab in different styles – Do you teach that?
Well, there are a number of Hijab stylesand to your question – Yes, we do teach How to wear Hijab,
Our idea however, is to bring out exquisite and modern Hijab styles forward. We do it through a mix of educational content and our latest collections featuring innovative product lines like an underscarf, premium chiffon nude hijab color scarf, little black hijab
What’s your own background. Did you always think you’d start Hijabican, or did it just strike your mind one fine day?
Growing up in rural North Carolina there weren’t many options for modest clothing – either you had to rely on something from overseas, or pay hundreds of dollars for boutique styles that were a bit to avant garde.
I am blessed to have mom who sewed most of my outfits, however, as a kid wearing hijab all you want to do is fit in! So I promised myself that I would create a brand one day that would serve American Muslim women like myself with styles that are current, and affordably priced.
What went into designing the initial product? Can you take us through the actual process?
First I wanted to make sure I understood ecommerce as a business – so I chose that path as my professional career.
I finally took the plunge in the spring of 2014 by launching as a retailer focused on sourcing brands that meet Muslim women’s requirements.
From there my husband (co-founder!) and I sourced a manufacturer in China that could produce to our specifications. In the summer of 2018 we made the decision to evolve our business to discontinue sourcing product in China due to the mistreatment of the Muslim minority, the Uighurs, in Xinjiang.
From there, we sourced a local manufacturer (re-shore baby!) right in our backyards here in North Carolina that is now our production partner. We are excited to offer our first American and ethically made hijabs!
Talk us through the process of launch of your business
I am a planner so I did a lot of reading and professional planning to reduce my risk. After all the plotting in planning, you just have to jump in and start somewhere! My best business advice to anyone starting out is just start! It will never be perfect, but keep getting better each day. Owning a business is a marathon, not a sprint!
My best business advice to anyone starting out is just start! It will never be perfect, but keep getting better each day. Owning a business is a marathon, not a sprint!
How is your repeat customer rate like? Can you take us through how you attract and retain customers?
Year to date, we have a 59% repeat customer rate. We built our brand first by attending national Islamic conferences to meet our audience and build relationships. Then we did a lot of online advertising. We have an in house saying of “err on the side of generosity” – we enjoy taking care of our customers and doing right by them which in turns keeps them coming back!
What is the current situation. How do you see yourself in the next 12 months?
We just launched our first American made hijabs from a sustainable fiber – bamboo! We have gotten a great response so far and expect to add even more styles and colors of hijabs made right here in North Carolina.
We have also moved into offline retail.
As a woman founder, do you see this as only financially uplifting? Or otherwise too? If yes, then how?
Being full time employed does not allow you the flexibility of speaking your mind and living life on your terms.
Being a business owner you have the ability to stand up for what’s right without fear of losing your job.
Support #blacklivesmatter? BDS?). It is way more than financial for me – it is a creative outlet allowing me to leave a legacy and live my best life!
What tools or services did you use?
Wow my number one ecommerce platform that I would recommend to anyone is Shopify! I have experience using other platforms but Shopify continues to innovate and impress me. Anyone starting an ecommerce business, Shopify is a good place to start!
What are your key challenges today. How are you planning to tackle those?
Choosing to not product produce in China is uniquely challenging in that we all know China is a low cost leader. Hijabican is adding value by promising a high quality products like hijabs and dresses, ethically made, and reasonably priced. We believe in failing fast – ecommerce is all about testing and learning and listening to your customers!
Which are some resources, books, articles or podcasts that have been useful to you, and would share with your readers
Ooo I love How I Built This with Guy Raz! It’s a podcast featuring totally inspiring stories of other entrepreneurs and how they made it big. I really get a high listening to it and get ideas as well! I’d like to imagine one day Guy Raz will be interviewing ME!
Many a times, women feel that businesses are for only for men. What’s your take?
I personally never felt this way, but you do hear those messages of “a woman’s place is in the home” etc etc which is not unique to Islamic culture. The funny thing is, it is Islamic tradition for women to be entrepreneurs and business women as well! Unfortunately misogynists love trying to maintain a status quo that serves them only! I named my business hijabi-CAN for a reason!
Looking to kick start your own venture?
Hi ! This is Misha ?
My idea is for other women to get inspired by these actionable tell all stories and start their own profitable enterprises.
I am hugely inspired by inspirational interview series starters like IndieHackers, StarterStory by Pat Walls, Failory, SpaceBandits and have put significant efforts in reaching out to women founders in order to gt started.