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Qurtuba: Changing the World One Woman at a Time

Brooke Benoit finds great guidance from author, entrepreneur, publisher and marketing consultant Hodan Ibrahim.

I was sold by the title alone of Hodan Ibrahim’s self-proclaimed manifesto, The Ultimate Guide to Find Your Talent, Break Out of Conformity and Change the World. It’s exactly what I would have wanted to read some years ago when I was doing just that. I was immediately curious if it offered any tips which I may have since stumbled upon on my own or could use in this portion of my life. And then the stark, sleek black and white flat lay cover drove me to rush to the checkout. Now if only I had a time machine to try a do-over. Fortunately I have children who I will be pressing this book onto in a few years, and then there is you, dear reader. I love this book and I hope you will take a peek at the Ibrahim sisters’ catalogue and surely find something among there to help guide you in various areas of your life, be they health and nutrition, starting your own business or just changing the world.



In addition to how Ibrahim illustrates her personal journey to finding herself and her calling, there are two other main things about The Ultimate Guide to Find Your Talent, Break Out of Conformity and Change the World which I appreciated. Firstly, Ibrahim shares a wealth of information that she has unearthed on her own path, but she doesn’t just regurgitate it, she also shares the names, titles and links so you can go and benefit in full from the same resources. Intertexuality! What reader doesn’t love that stuff? The second thing that is especially awesome about this book is the guided exercises in which Ibrahim walks you through self-searches, such as the “Step-by-Step on How To Find Your Talent.” Practical solutions? Ibrahim offers them!



There were just a couple of questions that I had for Ibrahim, so I tracked her down through Ilhan Ibrahim, the co-founder and CEO of Qurtuba Publishing House, and Hodan’s sister-sister.



Brooke Benoit: Would you please explain why this book is especially intended for Women and entrepreneurs of Colour, and why you especially wrote it that way – what are the nuances of difference between how all these big name (mostly white male) life coaches are addressing their target audience versus how and why you are doing it?
Hodan Ibrahim: Women and entrepreneurs of Colour face high barriers at the entry level to entrepreneurship. They don’t have the same level of access to information, to social and financial capital, and this can be seen in the lack of diversity and representation in mainstream entrepreneurial spaces (venture capital funds, incubators, etc). A big reason for this is the lack of access to role models. Role models provide the inspiration, empowerment and encouragement to up-and-coming entrepreneurs. But more importantly, they provide permission to become entrepreneurs. Those who come from minority backgrounds are more likely to face lack of socio-economic opportunities, and therefore their level of risk-taking will be lower than white males, who populate the entrepreneurial space and have resources to mitigate that risk. To provide stability for their families (many of their parents are most likely immigrants or refugees or working-class), they are more likely to go into “stable professions” such as engineering or medicine, and not consider entrepreneurship.



I wrote the book to show people that they can do it too. I take into consideration the unique obstacles and struggles women and entrepreneurs of Colour have to face such as lack of funding, lack of role models, lack of access to social capital (in the book I show you how you can reach out to people and make the connections you need). In addition, a big difference between big name coaches who are predominately male is that they don’t share the lived experiences at the intersection of more than one identity: religious minority, racial minority, gender minority and cannot provide solutions to challenges that a Woman of Colour or entrepreneur of Colour would have to go through. Though they might be able help you navigate the technical aspects of business, they have no way to understand how those experiences affect your ability to start a business, and most importantly, how those lived experiences may give rise to great business ideas. The book attempts to merge the latest business knowledge from the world of business through the eyes of a Woman of Colour and give solutions to other women who are going down the same path.
Brooke Benoit: One of my very favourite things about this book is your suggestion to cut school. I was shocked to read it, but it was exactly what I have pinpointed as my accelerated learning days – when I cut school to hang out at the library or used bookstores. But I think this has to be a bit of a rare occurrence (cutting to read) and an especially arguable one for you to be suggesting. Are you serious about suggesting kids cut school? If they cannot bring themselves to, for legal or other reasons, what might be a close second to this suggestion?
Hodan Ibrahim: It’s important to give people the agency to be able to choose how to use their time. Everyone has a limited amount of time and instead of spending it listening to a professor or teacher who isn’t bringing value to you in the classroom, I don’t believe there is anything wrong in trying to create value for yourself outside the classroom. More than anything, I’m encouraging people to experiment, try different things and break out of the conformity and monotony that the education system is training you for.



Growing up, I knew what classes I could afford to cut and what not to cut. You definitely need to use your own discretion here. But I would encourage any student to try their best not to rely on the education system to give you what you need in the real world – developing your intuition, networking and connecting with interesting people in your city, and exploring your passions. If you cannot do this during the classes that you are cutting, trying slotting these activities in between or after classes to help enrich your life experience.

Hodan and her sisters at Qurtuba Publishing House have released several titles aiming to help Muslim women in “Reclaiming our narrative and changing the way stories are told.” Please visit www.qurtubapublishing.com to view their entire catalogue and CLICK HERE to read an excerpt from their title When They Just Don’t Understand: The Ultimate Guide for Practical Solutions to Dealing with Overbearing Parents and Cultural Pressures in Immigrant Communities.
Brooke Benoit runs a small family business (or a few) out of her home on the coast of Morocco with her seven unschooled children.




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