Muslim-owned small businesses thrive in America

Combination photo of three people (© Antar Hanif, Courtesy of Saffron Road Foods and Courtesy of Turajii Shakoor)
Clockwise from left: Interior designer Saudah Saleem (© Antar Hanif), Saffron Road Foods founder Adnan Durrani (Courtesy of Saffron Road Foods) and Turajii Shakoor, owner of The Sunnah the Better (Courtesy of Turajii Shakoor)

There are 32.5 million small businesses in the United States, and a growing number are Muslim-owned.

As America’s Muslim population approaches 4 million, “it’s not surprising that business ownership is also increasing,” said Michael Verchot, director of the Consulting and Business Development Center at the University of Washington’s Foster School of Business.

Small businesses, those with fewer than 500 employees, make up the majority of U.S. companies, and the relative ease of registering a new business — which takes an average of four days — has prompted many Muslim Americans to take the plunge.

Verchot cites New York City’s 96,000 Muslim-owned businesses and the state of Michigan’s 36,000 as barometers. U.S. Muslim entrepreneurs serve both a growing domestic population and a global halal economy. Products certified as “halal,” or permitted, under Islamic law are attractive to Muslims and non-Muslims alike.

“It’s exciting to see the emergence of American Muslim-owned small businesses that are meeting the needs of customers and clients around the globe,” Verchot says. He cites the Muslim dating app Muzmatch, which has 50 employees and 4 million members, and grew out of Silicon Valley in California.

Other small, Muslim-owned companies like ATM World, a New York-based firm that provides banking equipment and services, and Plaques by Azra, a New York maker of awards, are being recognized by corporate clients as among their best suppliers, according to Verchot.

Here’s a snapshot of three other Muslim-owned businesses in the U.S.:

The Sunnah the Better (San Antonio)

Turajii Shakoor has managed her family’s Islamic-themed gift shop, The Sunnah the Better, for nearly 30 years. (“Sunnah” refers to the body of traditional social and legal customs of Islam.) The shop sells clothing, books, prayer rugs, games, bath products, herbal teas and more.

Combination photo of carved wooden Quran holder, silver prayer wall hanging and miniature glass buildings (Courtesy of Turajii Shakoor)
Merchandise offered by The Sunnah the Better (Courtesy of Turajii Shakoor)

Shakoor began by selling merchandise out of a truck, but 10 years ago she and her husband moved the business into a brick-and-mortar store. Running the business, she says, “offers a connection of diversity and inclusion across many cultures.”

Prospective business owners, she says, should “be open-minded, courageous, and in a continual pursuit of knowledge.”

Saffron Road Foods (Stamford, Connecticut)

Packaged chickpeas, chicken tikka masala and chickpea masala (Courtesy of Saffron Road Foods)
Food items from Saffron Road Foods (Courtesy of Saffron Road Foods)

A leading brand in the natural and organic food industry, Saffron Road Foods was founded by Adnan Durrani in 2010, a year after he established its parent company, American Halal. Saffron Road offers halal-certified, kosher, antibiotic-free frozen meals, simmer sauces and snacks.

Durrani says receiving accolades from customers and spending time mentoring employees are the best parts of running the business.

He has some advice for aspiring entrepreneurs: “Assume your business model will do half the sales and require twice the capital you forecasted. Hard work and long-term staying power are key.”

Saudah Saleem Interiors (Baltimore)

Since opening Saudah Saleem Interiors in 2014, interior designer Saudah Saleem has helped clients refresh and re-imagine their homes. Her work has been featured on the HGTV website. Saleem says she draws upon fashion, culture, art and history to create an aesthetic that is “sophisticated yet approachable.”

Curved olive-colored couch, oval glass table and white chairs in front of fireplace (© Keyanna Bowen)
Living room designed by Saudah Saleem Interiors (© Keyanna Bowen)

The best part of running the business, she says, is working with clients. “Everyone deserves to love the space they live in,” she says.

To those hoping to follow her career path, she says: “Learn as much as you can about the design industry, and don’t be afraid to reach out to those already in the profession for guidance, advice or opportunities for hands-on experience.”