Welcome to our first #FridayStartUp showcase here on the iamsociable blog. Last week on our blog we asked you to get in touch via our facebook roll call and let us know about your creative talents and businesses for a chance to be featured and interviewed! We have had some brilliant talents over on our facebook page and very much enjoyed looking through them all so thank you to everyone who got in touch.
There was one creative in particular who stood out to the whole team for her exceptionally innovative idea. Hajera Memon is the founder and creator of Shade 7 limited who are global multilingual publishers of premium pop-up Qur’anic educational story books and digital apps that help children learn about Islam in a fun way. We got in touch with Hajera for an interview to find out more about her interesting creative start up.
Q1. In summary tell us a bit about your business and the services you offer.
Shade 7 is a global, multilingual publisher of premium pop-up Qur’anic educational story books and digital apps that help children learn about Islam in a fun way.
Q2. What inspired you to start the business and how did you get started ?
After deciding to resign as a finance lawyer in the City, with the advice and support of a group of my closest and most beloved childhood and school friends I bounced around ideas and asked myself, if I could do anything in the world, what would it be? Who could I, as a Muslim woman, become that would bring the most benefit to the world?
My inspiration for the book came from a heartfelt desire to establish a long-term source of beneficial knowledge, which would inspire children to learn more about Islam and their relationship with God.
As Muslims, we believe that certain things we do in this life will be beneficial for us in the afterlife. (for example, some of these are listed below, such as on-going charity, which includes something as simple as planting a tree, because the shade and fruit of a tree provides benefit that lasts for many generations and not just for people, but for animals too, as they can rest in the shade of a tree and enjoy its fruit as well).
Some fundamental principles came to mind (please note these are from an Islamic perspective):
- On-going beneficial knowledge;
‘Sadaqah jariyah’ (which means ceaseless charity in Arabic); those who embody this practice are mentioned favourably in a famous Hadith (Prophetic saying): “Seven types of people will be shaded by God under His shade on the day when there will be no shade except His.”
- Putting knowledge into action
I wanted to turn these key Islamic principles into actions and really make a positive difference, not just for myself, but for everyone involved. With this in mind, Shade 7 and its ambitious creative publishing vision was formed.
Q3. Please describe a typical day for you.
At the moment, we are getting everything finalised to begin the bulk production of the pop-up book, so a typical day really varies. Mornings usually start early, checking through emails, scheduling in production meetings with the printers, regularly liaising with my graphic designer and illustrator and ensuring every stage of the process is on track.
The afternoon generally involves calls and further emails to suppliers and printers, following up on our wholesale and distribution queries. More recently, I’ve been running test prints of scenes from the book, working on the files and liaising with our web designers to develop what we hope will be a really beautiful and elegant website, reflecting our longer-term publishing vision.
Q4. What would you say is the best thing about having your own business?
For me, one of the best things has to be simply having the opportunity to combine my passion for my faith, my belief in God and my love for Islam with creativity, and being able to build a much bigger publishing vision around it and sharing it with everyone around me.
This is very much a journey of discovery for me, and realising that this is my way of making a very small contribution to the world of Islamic publishing for children is really heart-warming. I am motivated by my creative vision of sharing these stories by bringing them to life in an interactive way.
I feel incredibly humbled and fortunate that I have been able to develop a unique children’s book based on a story from the Quran, in a manner that is accessible and enjoyable for a wide audience. Having my own business is very much a focal part of this endeavour.
Q5. And what kind of challenges have you faced when setting up the business?
We face the same challenges as all start-up businesses. Access to finance is, by far, one of the biggest challenges, and choosing not to take out interest-based finance — due to the Islamic principles of avoiding interest-based loans— has certainly been a challenge.
More recently, we opted for the route of product-based crowd-funding, via the online platform Indiegogo, through which we pre-sold the pop-up book to help us raise the production costs. Thankfully, this went well and we’ve been able to put down the deposit and get the production started.
Q 6. Where would you like to see yourself/your business in 3 years time?
We’ve got lots of exciting creative titles planned in our publishing schedule, many of which will form a part of a series of children’s Quranic pop-up story books. We’ve also got a digital side to the business, which involves bringing the pop-up books to life through interactive 3D apps.
In 3 years’ time, I’d absolutely love to have a few pop-up books out, as well as other simpler novelty books and at least an app version of two of our books too!
Q7. What social media platforms do you use to promote and grow your business?
Twitter has proved to be a great way to make new connections and friends across the globe. We’ve met some amazing people who have turned out to be such great supporters, from the USA, Europe and Pakistan just to name a few.
Q8. Who are your creative business inspirations and why?
A particular inspirational person in my journey has been the American Muslim teacher Nouman Ali Khan. He has a unique way of analysing the depth of the Arabic language and drawing out the linguistic miracles of the stories in the Quran in a truly exciting way. He also highlights the connections between the various chapters and sequences of stories, which is important as it allows you to really appreciate the breadth of the stories covered in the Quran and their timely revelations.
Q9. What advice would you give to anyone who wants to start their own creative business?
I think as a budding entrepreneur, you have to do what you love and it should serve a purpose. Meaningful goals make all the hard times and sacrifices worth it; they are the motivator, and creating and developing a product for others to enjoy is just so exciting and satisfying. I would encourage anyone who has a dream to benefit others — by providing a service or developing a novel product — to follow it through, but know that it’s far from an easy journey and, most importantly, it does take time.
Q10. What do you feel has been your biggest achievement so far within business?
I’m grateful for many of the amazing feats we’ve accomplished on our journey so far; these include being invited to No. 11 Downing Street as part of the Government’s celebration of Small Business Saturday, where we had the opportunity to show Chancellor George Osborne our beautiful book. Another highlight was receiving a glowing testimonial from the Editorial Director of Religious Publishing at the world-renowned publishers William Collins.
The biggest achievement, though, would have to be the recent successful completion of our crowd-funding campaign for the production costs of the pop-up book, through which we raised a phenomenal £40,223! But more than this, I’d actually say it’s all the incredible people who have supported the campaign, the book and its vision — for me, that’s the truly humbling achievement, which was just overwhelming as support came from all over the globe. I’m very thankful for my resilient supporters and incredible team who work very hard with me to make this a reality for everyone involved.
It’s a great blessing when people want to be a part of your vision to contribute something special to the world and they pray for your success; I really hope it continues and we’re able to publish exciting material that everyone can be proud of.
You can help them with their current crowd-funding campaign by clicking here: www.shade7.co.uk
We hope Hajera’s story has inspired you – it’s certainly left it’s mark for us! Keep doing brilliant things Shade 7!
‘Till next time,
the iamsociable team x