It’s Sunday morning and women are gathered at the Table For 20 Event Space in Livonia. They are wearing long colorful dresses and hijabs in various designs. Some are sipping iced tea with muffins.
One by one each woman introduces herself. Some are designers, doulas and caterers. But just about all of them are businesswomen. It’s the kickoff event for the Muslim Women of Business, an organization that hopes to bring like-minded women together.
Khalipha Kane owns Khalipha’s Mobile Kitchen and Khalipha Catering in Detroit. She helped organize the event. Kane says the idea came from a business panel held at a women’s coworking space a few months prior.
“The inspiration for me was that there was a need to do a follow-up to a segment. Typically we talk and we have these dialogues but we don’t do anything after that,” she says.
Kane says she and Aliyah Mahdi, co-owner of The Social Loft, and mindset coach Nikeba Sampson shared a similar sentiment. So they decided to join forces.
“We were just talking amongst ourselves [about] this need to elaborate on some of the things that we’ve been facing as businesswomen,” she says.
Kane says she hopes the organization helps people network without facing the usual barriers as Muslim women.
“The unique thing that makes this Women of Business gathering unique is that we are all Muslim, without compromising our faith in the midst of trying to establish something grand and great we want to keep our priority which is to serve our Lord.”
Kane says the luncheon was a way to figure out what women need.
Bringing like-minded women together
Monique Abdul-Aziz is the owner of The Recruit, a market research business that she founded in 2006. She says she’s interested in learning how the business world will incorporate Islamic values.
“I am probably third generation entrepreneur. I come from a family of entrepreneurs. At one point me and all seven of my siblings have had our own business.”
Abdul-Aziz says she came out to the luncheon to be with the community and meet new people.
She says she was pleasantly surprised that the Muslim Women of Business had something for her members who are well-seasoned in the business world. She says she’s glad to know the organization helps fight stereotypes.
“I feel like it’s needed because you don’t really hear from Muslim women what they do. You know, we sometimes have stereotypes that we’re stay-at-home moms, so for this, it made me feel like I was a part of something with my sisters. It made me feel like, ‘Okay, we’re doing this together.’”
During the event, Kane tells the women that everyone will take a short break for Zuhr, the Islamic midday prayer. Women laid out plastic table covers and jackets on an open section of the floor to bow down their heads in prayer.
It’s one of the many ways the organization honors the Muslim way of life.
As the women return to their seats, Kane asks them to fill out a quick form with their contact information to create a database of the businesses.
LaTerry Ya’Seen is the owner of Sew Modest Studio, a women-only sewing studio offering curated classes. She’s one of the ladies who ‘wore her business’ literally: a black and white floor-length dress with pockets.
She came to showcase her company.
“It means that I can put my goals at the forefront as far as empowering women and networking with women, being very intentional about who and what I buy from in the spaces and connections,” she says.
Keynote speaker Angelica Lindsey-Ali, a certified sexual health educator and wellness coach, encouraged women to include religion and spirituality in their business plans. She’s better known as “The Village Auntie.”
“So is there already a blueprint for accomplishing this goal by looking at our righteous predecessors, by looking at the Mothers of the Believers, by looking at Muslim women and men throughout time? We can learn a pathway in how to craft our business,” she says.
Lindsey-Ali says by focusing on tools like self-reflection, supplication and prayer, women can come out stronger.
She says after putting your trust in God, the rest is hard work and effort.
Kane says bosses who are women aren’t usually highlighted in public.
“We typically think of men as the owners and operators of businesses, but to be a woman paving the way and not only being an example for young girls that you know as brown, like myself, but other Muslim girls, and let them know that you have this idea that sometimes give them that you can do it, that it is possible.”
Kane says the best part is that a team of sisters will walk together on that journey.
Muslim Women of Business will host monthly meet-ups such as roundtables and panels. The next event is scheduled for Friday, March 3 at 6 p.m. at 12835 Conant St, Hamtramck, MI 48212. (Editor’s note: the date of this meeting has been updated since the original publication of this story.)
What started as a simple idea — helping Muslim businesswomen network — has become a way for them to pursue entrepreneurship with faith-based principles. That’s being done by being unapologetically Muslim without having to compromise their faith.
It’s one of the many ways that Muslim women in metro Detroit are finding ways to express their joy in the community.
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