The Muslim Lifestyle Expo 2016, which took place in Manchester over the last weekend of October, was an exhibition of the many UK businesses that are run by or aimed at Muslims. The event saw over one hundred British organisations under one roof, from Kube Publishing – a relatively new publishing house that prints Muslim-targeted titles, to Islamic Moments – a company that creates Islamically inspired greeting cards, stationery and mugs. Since the event, there have been lots of reports in mainstream media about the rise of the Muslim, female entrepreneur. Of the exhibitors at the Expo, 60% were Muslim businesswomen.
Tahir Mirza, co-founder of the Muslim Lifestyle Expo said, “The stereotype of Muslim women stuck in the kitchen and carrying out household chores are long gone.” While the average Muslim woman is stereotypically and prejudicially accused of being submissive and home-oriented, statistics prove that they are anything but. According to Mirza, 50% of business start-ups in the Muslim community are run by women.
Shahin Hussain, founder of the Mocktail Company, a provider of non-alcoholic mocktails, told the BBC: “I’d always known growing up in Britain that the culture of being British and being Muslim sometimes conflicted, particularly at university when a lot of my friends were drinking. And as I grew older I saw no-one had filled the gap in the market for non-alcoholic drinks aimed at Muslims.”
Though Hussain officially opened her doors three months ago, she reports that the Mocktail Company has managed to sell 19,000 units of Nojito, her non-alcoholic alternative to the mojito.
Reporting on business in the Muslim community, Thomson Reuters reported that consumer spending in 2014 was estimated at £1.5 trillion globally, and was expected to reach £2.6 trillion by 2020. This market continues to expand because Muslims are constantly trying to find alternatives and solutions, to mainstream products and services, that meet their very specific requirements. The kind of issues that businesses geared at Muslim consumers might consider include fashionable but modest dress for both men and women – an area that Muslims across the world spent $224 billion on in 2012 alone, according to the State of the Global Islamic Economy report.
Discussing the challenges she faces as a female entrepreneur, Shahin Hussain describes life as many businesswoman with children would: “It is hard because my little ones are only two and four and obviously they demand all my attention. But…my business is like a third child, as I have to put so much energy into it. Often I have to follow up emails and orders late at night after they’ve gone to sleep – and I’m never getting enough sleep.”
Although there seems to be a huge market that people are finally tapping into, mainstream brands that have tried similar strategies have faced a huge backlash. H&M, Dolce & Gabbana, House of Fraser and Marks and Spencer are just a few of the big names that recently tried to cater to this market. After selling the burkini in its UAE and Libya stores, M&S brought the garment to its London flagship branch in Mable Arch, only to be met by some disapproval. One critic, who incidentally identifies herself as Muslim, said she was “hot with indignation”.
Despite the controversy that may surround some of these decisions, it seems like a profitable idea for company directors and executives to consider. This is a rising market, with the BBC claiming that Muslim consumers spend around £21 billion in the UK every year.