You see many people can spot a gap in a market place, but very few will actually throw caution to the wind and try to fill it… Nazia is one of those few!
She is not who most people would think of as typically entrepreneurial- an audiologist and young mother, there was little to suggest that she would one day be making a cracking success of her own award winning niche online retailer. But as we always say, entrepreneurs come in many shapes and sizes.
Nazia is the brains behind Ibraheem Toy House, the UK’s first online Islamic toy shop, winner of a Mumpreneur Silver website award, finalist for Entrepreneur of the Year at the British Muslim Awards, and subject of many blogs, interviews and features!
We were lucky enough to have a chat with Nazia and pick her brain about the process of creating a niche estore, balancing her family commitments, overcoming obstacles and seizing opportunity.
Some essential reading for anyone who has ever considered starting their own business.
Hi Nazia, so first of all can you give us a little insight into your background and how you arrived at the decision to create your own online Islamic toy store?
Hi, I am a mother of two and an Audiologist by profession. I started Ibraheem Toy House (Online Islamic Toy store) while I was on maternity leave. Ibraheem is the name of my youngest who is 18 months and it is also the name of a prophet in Islam.
As a mother I found it difficult to make religious learning fun for my four year old daughter and I struggled to find good quality educational Islamic toys and books in one place so I decided to launch my own Online Islamic Toy store. My main aim was to make religious learning fun and interactive by providing a range of products. I want children to love their faith and be proud of their religious identity.
We were rather surprised to learn that Ibraheem Toy House is the first online Islamic Toy store in the UK. Can you give us a sense of what the market for Islamic toys is like in the UK, and why you think it has taken so long for someone to bring it to the online space?
There are many large Islamic stores in the UK that sell a range of products from clothes, books, toys and home decor. These stores also have their own websites. There are also individuals selling a few Islamic toys on sites like Amazon and ebay. When we launched our website there was no Online Islamic Toy store. Ibraheem Toy House is different because we are a family business. We provide a range of products from toys, books, DVDs and prayer mats that are not available on the high street. We also share parenting tips and advice on our blog. Our customers know us and trust us as we started our company on Social Media. We initially started with four products and over the past 7 months our product range has increased and our customers have increased.
What have been your biggest achievements since launching your business?
We have been listed as the top online Islamic Toy store by two top Muslim mummy bloggers. We have been featured in the UK’s leading magazine for Muslim women called SISTERS magazine and I have had the opportunity to attend a TV interview at the British Muslim TV to talk about my business.
How do you manage your time with a young family and running a business? It was very difficult in the beginning but I have finally managed to follow a set schedule and have strict office times and family time. Throughout the day I work in 20 minute blocks, which has been a good time management strategy, so I spend 20 minutes checking and answering emails, 20 minutes packing orders, 20 minutes writing social media posts etc. I will need to work out a new routine soon as I will be starting work for 3 days a week so I can invest in my business. That’s the next big challenge!
Creating a niche service like this is obviously a daunting prospect for anyone to undertake, what advice would you give to someone embarking on a similar journey?
I think as a startup it is best to cater for a niche market because we simply cannot market to everyone on a limited budget. As long as your niche market is growing and has a demand for the product or service you are offering I think you should go for it. My advice to any startup would be to make sure you know who your ideal customer is and what makes you different from your competition.
The e-store is up and running now and looks great, but what would you say are the key lessons you have learned that you wish you had known when you began the journey?
I had no business knowledge and no idea on how to run an e-store, I was just very passionate about my Idea. I wish I knew that I could get a template website from Wix and Shopify. I paid so much money for a custom website (which I love). My advice would be to use more established platforms like Amazon and ebay before launching your own website. I am learning as my business grows, sometimes I wish I had attended these training programmes before I started as it does get overwhelming at times with orders, young children and attending training sessions.
There are obviously some very unfair prejudices being voiced at the moment with regards to the Islamic faith. We don’t want to dwell on the negatives, but our community will be interested to know whether you have experienced any hostility, prejudice or indeed discrimination in relation to starting Ibraheem Toy House, and how have you managed to overcome these?
I haven’t encountered any negativity so far. Most non Muslims really like my idea, especially the mothers. I have met some amazing people at networking events who feel this is what our community needs - products that teach children to love and respect their faith as well as other faiths.
Many people starting businesses struggle to find the support that they need to help make their idea into reality. Can you share any organisations, groups, or websites that have helped you through the process?
I have been very lucky as I enrolled on to the School for Creative Startups in London as soon as I started my business. I have met some amazing creative people with different skills and ideas and I am part of a supportive entrepreneurial community. I have one of the best business mentors from the US and an amazing family that support me. I also religiously follow a business coach called Claire Mitchell from The Girls Mean Business. I find her webinars, podcast and training material very motivational and inspiring as a startup.
How do you hope that Ibraheem Toy House will grow and develop over the coming years?
My goal for 2015 is to brand Ibraheem Toy House as the UK’s leading online Islamic Toy store. This year our product range is increasing every month and we are working with some amazing organisations to brand our company. I also have ideas for products that I want to design launch in the next few years.
Thanks for the chat Nazia, and for being a very inspiring lady. Best of luck with Ibraheem Toy House!