Starting your own business – Muslim Entrepreneurs

One of the most consistent themes in conversations I have with people of my generation is the desire to unlock their entrepreneurial spirit, get away from being employed, and start their own business.

The reasons for this are numerous and often intertwine: from simply wanting the freedom of being constrained by the grind of office hours, to wanting to drive social change, it seems that founding your own successful business is now the pinnacle for many, whereas in the past it might have been ‘finding a good job’.

I am sure many readers of this blog will be in the position of wanting to break away from employment and do their own thing. Some will have made the move, others will be dreaming about it, and many will be at varying points in between. Leaving a steady job and career path for the unknown and isolated world of starting your own business can be scary: I thought it would be useful to talk about a few pointers here and encourage conversation.

1. The idea isn’t everything

People often have this misconception that starting your own successful business is about having some million-dollar idea that nobody else has thought of. But ask yourself: can you name ten recent companies that were founded within the last ten years that have a truly novel idea? There have been many novel ideas in this time of entrepreneurial spark – companies like Uber and the like – but very few are profitable entities.  Of course there are exceptions in the form of truly revolutionary companies that are profitable, but these are in the minority.

In fact, the businesses that tend to do well are either modern re-workings of concepts that already exist (think about how something like Just-Eat is a sort of modern version of the old Yellow Pages, but specifically for food), businesses that address new problems, or simply not novel ideas at all. The key is in the execution of the company and delivering the very best.

So do not worry about not having some bright idea: it’s probably not what you need. Focus on making lives easier, solving problems, or making people happy – if your business does that, you probably have the right ingredients.

2. Don’t quit the day job just yet

I’ve seen two types of extremes: on one end of the spectrum, you have people who forever dream about starting up their own business and never do anything about it (they often fall into trap 1 above and say ‘if only I had an idea…’); on the other end of the spectrum, you have over-optimistic people who quit their day job to pursue their business idea (no matter how good or bad that idea is).

The truth is that it’s a very rare type of business that needs your full-time input from day one. Sure, it might get to the point where, in order to grow the company beyond a certain ceiling, you simply have to quit your day job and dedicate all your time to your own business. But before that point, there is no reason why you cannot work early mornings, evenings, weekends, and holidays to get your business off the ground. If it doesn’t work, it’s not going to work if you quit your day job either and you’ve probably saved yourself a load of grief.

It won’t be possible for all types of businesses, but the way to do it is to start slowly and prove that the idea works first of all. There’s a lot to be said for growing slowly and organically, with minimal expense (look up the concept of the minimum viable product if you are unfamiliar with it!).

3. Get the legal things right

Depending on the type of business, please check you have all your legal and regulatory requirements squared off. It’s an area many people skimp on, especially when starting out, but something going wrong could cripple you personally from a financial perspective. For instance, if something went wrong and you were sued, what is your protection? Equally, do you know whether or not you need regulatory approval from a particular body for the sale of your product?

There are many questions in this domain – make sure you ask them of yourself, or speak to people and find out what the questions you should be asking are! It’s not an area that you can afford to get wrong.

4. Funding

Access to capital is another reason why people hold back from trying to start their own business. However, if you are able to demonstrate proof of concept, there is no reason why you should not be able to obtain funding from somewhere – it is simply a case of finding the right people!

Of course, debt finance from your typical high street bank is haram. Sharia-compliant, halal funding options for your startup are not exactly readily available on the high street. However, if you tap into the right networks, lack of access to capital should not hold you back.

5. Network

When starting a business, a really important element is to have people who you can turn to for help, advice, and mentoring. You can use them to bounce ideas around or ask for more pointed advice if they have been successful at whatever you are trying to do.

If you want to discuss your ideas or want general tips, feel free to get in touch through the comments or via that contact us page! We would be more than happy to discuss things (we’ve historically helped people in points (1)-(3) above) – we always encourage entrepreneurial spark!

PS: This article was recently featured by our friends over at Wahed. Check them out (and get a £25 bonus) through this IFG link here.


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2 Comments. Leave new

  • Umair Saeed
    April 3, 2018 5:52 pm

    Thank you kindly for this advice. I’ve read and understood and hope it will be of benefit. I’ve actually left my role at a charity to do something else. I have many ideas but am currently struggling on deciding which to focus on alone.

    1 – Start up business ( I am putting together a business plan for a project)
    2 – Study ( I have an option to apply for a scholarship which will allow me to focus solely on studying)
    3 – Write a Book (I have an idea for a project along with details of what it would include)
    4 – Produce Documentary Project (I’ve been working on a pitch for a documentary with a production house but it will need at least 3 months of work. Is it viable to focus on this at the expense of above?)
    5- Property Development (Start with a small scale project)
    6 – Find another Job (Back up Plan if none of above fails to materialise)

    The vision is that in 9 years time I will have the network, research (understanding) and funding available to set up my community project.

  • Ronnie Chowdhury
    May 5, 2021 10:39 am

    How do you pay zakat on a business that you’ve started? I’ve started a couple and they are bleeding investment cash as expected and not expected to be in profit until year 3. But technically the valuation is X millions and I own 50% of the shares; but I’ve got no income until we make a profit (Y3). Is this treated as an asset? or something else?


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