With the beginning of Covid, rising living costs and social media, more people are choosing to work for themselves than ever before.
Living under a capitalist regime in the West means it is easy to get caught up in the rat race of life. Work has now become a bigger priority than our health, well-being and spiritual needs. Because of such, thousands of people are stuck in jobs that they dislike, jobs that clash with their morality and jobs that are openly exploitative. Why? Because of the need to put food on the table.
This, paired with the instability of the job market, poor working conditions, long hours and the lack of loyalty to employees, means more people are creating side hustles in a bid to exit the ever turning hamster wheel that we’re forced to run on.
We spoke to Omar Dacosta Shahid, successful business owner and Forbes 30 under 30, who spoke on his motivations behind starting his businesses.
“I pursued journalism for a couple of years working for the Times, Guardian, Independent, and the New Statesman, then I left the industry to go into marketing and influencer management. In 2017, I set up my first company called MIN, which was, and still is, the world’s first Muslim influencer agency, where we connect global brands with the Muslim market via leading Muslim influences.
“One of the things we’re passionate about is inspiring influencers to use their platforms for good and empowering them to realise the potential that they have to put out positive content. We also have a publication within our group called Mvslim, which reaches young Muslims across the world.”
“I believe there are two reasons for more people wanting to have their own business; one is because of social media and the other is lockdown, which gave people a chance to explore their own ambitions and want more flexibility with work.”
Social media platforms like TikTok have spurred people on to begin their own businesses because of the sheer reach of the app. It’s inspiring younger people to tap into their creative side and begin passion projects simply for the joy they bring.
Lockdown also became a turning point for many people, and third party selling platforms like Etsy saw a huge spike in businesses. This was a period where people were tuning into their entrepreneurial spirit for many reasons, some being because they had extra time or became unemployed.
In 2020, Etsy, a third-party selling platform popular for small businesses, had 2,540,000 sellers. In 2021, this number shot up to almost double at 4,702,000.
Whilst having your own business is tough, it gives you the freedom and space to grow that most jobs don’t. It doesn’t limit your ideas to a glass ceiling, but instead, the sky becomes the limit. More young people are choosing to rent properties to air BnB, create their own food businesses, and even creating their own niche business ideas like handmade clay items or typewritten personalised letters for lovers of sentiment.
We spoke to one such business owner, Nassim, who began her custom crotchet business under such conditions.
“I always had a dream to make baby clothes after my firstborn, however never had the time or motivation to fulfil it. AYASlittleboutique started in 2022 just after my second child, a baby girl. I named the business after her as she was my motivation.
“Dressing her in knitted items and small headbands made me realise that now is the time to start selling my own. I have since started my business and developed my items from handmade knitted headbands, to baby jumpers, cardigans, dresses, skirts, scarfs, hats, blankets, etc. All items are handmade and each has a unique design which you can’t find anywhere. I am proud to hold this brand in my daughter’s name, and hope I will do her proud.” You can see the range of products and request custom orders here.
What does Islam say about entrepreneurialism?
Having your own business affords you the freedom that modern day working culture lacks. This means being able to align your work passions with your morals, values and beliefs.
The history of Islamic entrepreneurialism is as old as Islam itself, with it being encouraged in order to link socio-economical, ethical and spiritual pillars. Entrepreneurialism is meant to help one live a more virtuous life and benefit the community through good & supportive work.
The best example of this is looking at the entrepreneurial spirit of our Prophet Muhammad (pbuh).
The beloved Prophet (pbuh) had a reputation as an honest and trustworthy merchant since a young age. He went on to be a successful businessman that traded abroad 18 times by the age of 23 through collaboration with Khadijah (r.a).
Islam insists on absolute honesty in business because of the indispensable nature of business to the economic well-being and social harmony of the community.
Omar shares his advice for Muslims who are contemplating setting up their own businesses.
“Setting up a business is not an easy thing. You need thick skin because entrepreneurship is really difficult. If you look at the studies, there’s a lot of mental health issues that entrepreneurs face because of how tough it is to run and grow a business.
“That being said, starting a business is a good thing and it’s encouraged within our faith. Building generational wealth within the Muslim community that Muslims can lead on is one of the most important things of our time.
“The current economy that we’ve inherited is fundamentally flawed. It’s based on greed and a capitalist system, which is exploitative and makes the elite richer. An Islamic economy would be very different to that, and would prioritise ethics and fairness.”
“We should be thinking within the next 100 years to have our own Amazon’s, our own Facebook’s and our own Twitter’s because then we can try and create businesses that are impacting society in a positive way, rather than damaging society and exploiting people.“