So, you’re a Muslim sister who wants to run your own business? Well, that’s awesome! Sometimes we are so baffled on where to start, who to talk to, and where to go that we often forget the keyword – START. I’d like to take you on this journey with me through my business start up, my obstacles and my success.
My name is Natashah Azim and I am the founder of the Female Wedding Photography company “Natashah Azim Photography” we cover weddings and events through a storytelling style, with lots of creativity and Art. Our main aim is to present masterpieces, not just snapshots.
When and why did I think it was crucial to start my own business?
I worked for a computer agency when I was 17-20 years old as a customer advisor, however I was also attending college for Photography and Digital Imaging. My school life has been quite the roller-coaster ride. I never liked school very much, but I loved education. I loved learning new things; I loved training my brain to be my most powerful tool. ‘Ilm is the most important & precious commodity there is and my mum hammered this into my head ever since I could remember. She reminded me of the fundamentals of Islam, and how it’s extremely important for a woman to have a sense ‘ilm and deen together.
After finishing school at 16 years old, my aim was to start my own business and get the ball rolling. I had one problem- I didn’t know enough about my craft to start selling it to clients. I decided to go to college for a few years to perfect my art. I learned the basics and it helped me tremendously, but the biggest benefit, for me, was to do the same thing everyday, every-single-day, until I knew my craft like the back of my hand. I’m the type of person who will read something three times to fully understand it. The first time I won’t understand it, the second time I will understand it, and the third time I will know it word for word. You see, repetition is a good thing in business.
When I finished college I had no idea what to do, so I went into another computer firm, and started doing photography on the side. It didn’t fulfil me; it didn’t make me want to get up in the morning. There was something about the thought of fixing someone’s hard-drive and expanding their memory which (surprisingly) just didn’t do it for me. Ever since I was young, I never wanted to work for anyone. I wanted my own life, my own rules and my own money. I strongly believe I got this mindset from my Dad, who is a businessman himself.
I was at this firm for a year when I realised it wasn’t for me. I remember the day clearly: I sat at my desk bouncing my pencil on my keyboard whilst drinking a strong cuppa to get me through my day, it hit me and I said to myself, ‘If you don’t do this now, you will never do it.’ That set me off. I sent my resignation in and left my job. It was the best decision I have ever made. From that same week I left; I picked up my “side” business and promised myself that I’d make it my one and only job. At 21 years old I set off to change my life.
What are the challenges I face as a woman running my own business?
I’ve faced many many challenges. When I was growing up and listening to the elders talk about stereotypes of men being better than women, and how women are not meant to do anything besides cook and clean, I thought that it was something from their generation, and that there is no way that mentality would carry on to my generation. I was wrong. The misogyny and type casting still exists to this day. We are still suffering as business women in our industries.
In the photography industry, women are burgeoning more than men. There is a niche for women in photography as women are more comfortable with another woman taking their photo than a man, for obvious reasons. However I come across guests who looked down upon me and my team or even questioned us. Let me give you an example. I had my male assistant working with me at a wedding to help me photograph. He was at the back of the room and I was at the front when a male guest approached me asking,“Are you his assistant?” I replied “What gave you that impression?” to which he responded “Because he’s a man and he’s older than you so I assumed you were working for him. But good on you!”
I was taken aback by his ignorant and patronising statement but I laughed and said “Thank you.” It was on this day that I realised that people will always think that they can get away with anything when a female is in the room. Sometimes, even women look down on other women because they too don’t believe in the power of their gender and they have been brought up to think that they are worthless, which is quite sad. As women, we have to be louder and firmer. When I am met with comments like this, I think of our beloved Khadijah bint Khuwaylid (RA), who was a most successful, humble and inspiring woman. She ran her own business and in fact, employed men to work for her. When I read stories of Khadijah (RA), I feel proud. Islam gives women and men equal rights to become the best version of themselves and to educate themselves.
Besides obstacles as a woman; there are still difficulties that any business man or woman face. You have to really be consistent to see results, especially if it is a physical job such as photography. Often it’s not just about being the best at what you do; but rather being the best at knowing your business and becoming an expert on marketing yourself well.
Tips for my Muslim sisters starting their own business:
- Do not judge yourself by the expectations of society.
- Do not accept defeat, you will have obstacles, you will have negativity. Rise above it.
- Work hard, very hard.
- Make business plans.
- Make sure you abide by the business laws in your country (taxes, register,etc).
- Stay humble and remember Allah (SWT) blesses those who thank Him.
Inshallah this sheds some light on what it’s really like being a woman in business.
Natashah Azim is the founder of Natashah Azim Photography, a female-focused photographic company creating glamorous collections for your big days.She is a specialist in photo-documenting events and a fine art retoucher. Natashah Azim is a London based and travels nationwide. She is a business women at day and a star gazer at night. See her work at www.natashahazimphotography.com