Breaking stereotypes & bucking the lockdown trend: Muslim businesswoman shares secrets of her success
Faryaal Hussain, 31, owner and formulator of a luxury skincare company in Essex, has had her best months yet thanks to lockdown – with online sales reaching 13k in revenue, surging 150% from previous months. The entrepreneurial mum of two has gone from strength to strength since she first established her beauty brand, Zahmeen Ltd in 2018. But it has not been an easy road to success…
Before launching her business, Faryaal’s story was very different. She had a successful career in retail management and was a private university law tutor but was pressured to leave that behind to conform to the societal norm in her community - a stay at home cook and housewife.
“Things changed when I got married,” said Faryaal.
“Despite my husband being very supportive of my desire to continue working, my sister-in-laws (who we lived with at the time) had other ideas. Although independent working women themselves, they didn’t want the same for me. They had an ancient mentality which saw my role (as the daughter in law) to stay at home and look after the household. But I had grown up around strong independent females, particularly my mum – so being self-sufficient was second nature to me.”
Over the years of dispute with her sister-in-laws and their attempts to break her marriage, Faryaal developed severe anxiety and depression which led her to have seizures. She was no longer able to work due to ill health but had an idea which changed her life…
“My drive for launching Zahmeen Ltd was so much more than for financial gain - I wanted to break free of the cultural expectations that were restricting me and many other women in the South Asian community.
“My anxiety and depression affected everything I did. Having my children and starting a new business gave me the strength to carry on in some very dark times,” said Faryaal.
Faryaal was also a victim of colourism, a growing issue in the south Asian community where girls of a darker skin hue were seen to be less beautiful and not deserving enough of the same opportunities as their fairer counterparts.
“Sadly we are brought up in a culture where a colour complex is constantly reinforced from childhood to adolescence. For too long, we have allowed this discrimination to fester in our communities and influence our social dynamics. Women are constantly bombarded with billboards and TV adverts promoting whitening creams like ‘fair and lovely’, giving girls like me further complex.
“My passion behind Zahmeen Ltd was to reinforce natural beauty stemming from ingredients that have been used for centuries but forgotten in the growing ‘chemical’ skincare industry. I wanted girls of all colour to love the skin they are in - my products enhance their complexion giving the skin a beautiful glow. We are all beautiful regardless of our colour. I also wanted to prove that darker skinned, married Muslim women like me can also be successful and are built for more than just the kitchen or to reproduce.”
Faryaal is the epitome of a superwoman, proving you can be a woman and have it all – a successful business and a family. She is a role model to other women, empowering them to chase their dreams – particularly those oppressed by gender and religious stereotypes. She uses her growing social media platform to uplift and encourage females feeling trapped in cultural practices.
“I have always believed in giving back,” said Faryaal. “Charity is a huge part of me and my religion, which is why I donate 5% of my business sales towards building an orphanage in Pakistan. I have also raised enough funds to feed 200 people 3 meals a day for a whole month,” she said.