Entrepreneurs face a lot of challenges across the globe ranging from finance to market validation to accessing mentors. Muslim entrepreneurs are second to none and when it comes to business a lot of the time people misinterpret Islam as a religion of violence and hatred thus creating a lot of barriers in terms of business, travel and day to day life.
Being an entrepreneur myself I personally face a lot of challenges daily that have a negative impact on the way we do business. Personally, I believe that the following three things impact us as Muslim entrepreneurs.
Access to Finance
Finance is a big part of starting and running a business and to put money in to your business is as equally important as getting the access to the finance. In the UK, there are various ways in which businesses can get funding such as bank loans, venture capitalists and crowd funding. However, being a Muslim and launching my own Sharia compliant financial services provider, that mainly targets Muslims across the UK, I am finding it difficult to gain the funds for my venture. Investors understand that there is a huge opportunity in the Muslim market and they are optimistic about it but the question comes down to “Why do these people not invest? Is it because of the religion itself or the business?”
This is the one thing that really strikes me as a Muslim entrepreneur, I get this all the time saying that Ummah Finance is only for the Muslim community and it’s a niche market and no potential for growth. Well they are wrong about this. In the UK, there are over 3 million Muslims and we are the second largest religion in the world, that’s a huge market. Perhaps the negative connotation behind “Islam” is what drives people to assume that Islamic Finance is solely for Muslims, this is simply not true, in fact it could be more beneficial than conventional finance. With traditional banks, you pay a huge amount of interest compared to the interest you receive. Islamic Finance does not charge interest in simple terms. When talking to developers and investors they always ask me who my main target for Ummah Finance is and the answer is the collective UK market, not just Muslims.
Ignorance and Fear
We fear a lot, I certainly do. I am putting both my time and resources in to my business yet sometimes I think “What if it doesn’t work? What am I going to do? I invested so much time, resources and energy into it”. We need to get out of this mindset and do something we are passionate about. People fail- my first business was a web design business that failed big time, I had only three customers, I had to go back to the drawing board and do a restructure of the company before I decided to end that venture. But I did not give up, I moved on and launched a charity National Association of Pakistani Entrepreneurs following on Ummah Finance. I can easily go back and work in corporations, but is that what I am? Is that what I see myself doing? No.
One other fear that I still have is talking to people, I find it difficult talking to people about Ummah Finance purely because people will associate the business with Islam and the stigma that has stuck with the religion can very well end up affecting the levels of interest shown in such ventures. My advice would be to persevere and continue to be persistent with your idea.
It’s up to us as Muslim entrepreneurs to jump these hurdles and start owning the Islamic industry and make it grow strength on strength because if we want to succeed then we need to start putting that hard work and results will pour in.