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Despite the woes of the recession, women owned businesses are making remarkable strides. The fastest growing segment of the small and medium size company arena is businesses owned by women. According to the most recent edition of the US Census Bureau’s Survey of Business Owners, women-owned enterprises grew four times as much as men-owned in the same period, even though men still own nearly twice as many businesses as women.
Commenting on the report, The National Association of Women Business Owners’ (NAWBO) President and CEO Helen Han said: “Even in the current business landscape where all businesses are forced to do more with less, and for less, women business owners are holding their own and contributing significantly to the overall economy.”
That contribution is noteworthy. The Center for Women’s Business Research’s 2009 study estimates women-owned firms in the United States have a total economic impact of nearly $3 trillion annually. This impact includes jobs created and maintained, family security, community economic vitality and national wealth.
As more women choose to work for themselves, Muslim women are becoming part of the trend. Stepping into the business sphere and facing both obstacles and opportunities, they are experiencing the thrill and the tests of running their own firms.
When Azizah conducted a small informal poll of Muslim women across the US and Canada who run their own businesses, we learned several interesting things. While there were many different reasons for starting their companies – from a burning desire to fill a void in the community to avoiding the corporate glass ceiling to having inherited business genes – all the women Azizah spoke with expressed passion for their business and a sense of responsibility to run it with integrity. Many had optimistic personalities and several had participated in business improvement events, coaching groups, and networking organizations like NAWBO, eWomenNetwork, Make Mine A Million and Live Out Loud. Each woman had a supportive husband or an encouraging family and helpful friends.
Along with a strong support system, Muslim female businesswomen point to the life of Lady Khajidah as a brilliant business role model and an inspirational force in giving themselves permission to be successful entrepreneurs. These women have established fitness studios, business consultancies, designer clothing businesses, tax and accounting companies, translation services, import-export enterprises, real estate agencies and much more. They juggle their challenges of limited cash flow, work-life balance, stress and deadlines, branding and marketing work, to name a few, with amazing determination and initiative. For the most part, they are succeeding despite the difficulties.
According to the World Trade Organization, women own only 1% of the world’s wealth; traditionally, women have had to ‘make do’ and they have done so while creating more results with fewer resources. Now they are transposing their life lessons to their business spheres.

Here are the five top business secrets from Muslim businesswomen:
• Don’t take anything for granted; be grateful to Allah for everything you have.
• Set a high standard and provide clients and customers with the best quality.
• Stay positive in the face of challenges; believe and remember there is relief after each difficulty.
• Be aware of excess and keep your equilibrium with faith, family, work and money.
• Make a strategic plan to reach your goals and have a Plan B as a backup.

Azra Khalfan has business in her blood. Born and raised in New York, she grew up watching her entrepreneur parents succeed. Her father, Aunali Khalfan, started a sign company in Tanzania and continued after moving to the US in the ‘70s. He also runs a non-profit organization that publishes and distributes Qur’ans. Her mother, Shirin Khalfan, created a company that makes medals, trophies, plaques and awards – Plaques by Azra, named after her daughter (www.azra.com).The couple worked together and invested in real estate properties as another business.
Shirin Khalfan, who also had entrepreneur parents, noticed her daughter’s aptitude for business early. “Since her childhood, Azra spent hours doing her homework at our office after school and other activities. She accompanied us on our business trips and was able to grasp our business ethics from a very young age, even before her college years,” she says. “We have been able to hand down most of our business and property management into her good hands. She has always been passionate about our business and makes us proud. How ironic, her father named the business after her!”
However, it is the daughter who is most proud of her mother. “She deserves all the credit. At one point she was running two businesses and raising three children!” Ms. Khalfan says. When her mother retired in 2009, Ms. Khalfan moved from her position of Managing Director to Chief Operating Officer of the 37-year-old company, while also running the family’s property management and acquisitions company.
She expresses awe of both her parents. “My parents are my motivation. These are the two best bosses in the world – the best role models in the world. My father has run his dawah organization for 30 years. His passion is to share the word of Allah on a daily basis. Everything goes back to the Qur’an and Allah with my father.”

Indeed, Aunali Khalfan has provided emotional and spiritual support to both his wife and daughter. He urges them to capitalize on the opportunities. “In America women are encouraged to run their own business, and the government gives incentives by establishing the Minority Women’s Business Enterprise. Fortune 500 companies across the US are required to engage in a business relationship with such enterprises.”

Ms. Khalfan shares that her father taught her to be discerning about the standard of the company’s products, to make sure the designs and materials are top quality and never to settle for imperfection. Noting that anything with Allah’s name on it should not be made of inferior quality and left to tarnish, she points out the medallions her company creates for Islamic organizations keep their shine.

Hours of Operation Monday through Friday 9:00AM to 5:00PM Mailing Address: 319 Vann Dr Suite E50 Jackson, TN. 38305 Phone: 731-784-6494 To fax copy of FOID or POs : 901-881-0842