Tuesday 28 February 2017

Musimah Entrepreneur Interview with Allya of Mini Muslim Playground

This Entrepreneur Interview and Inspiring Ummah Interview posts will be a series of interviews with entrepreneurs and social campaigners who are making a difference in the world. I find that Muslim women are particularly interested in both of these areas: becoming entrepreneurs or doing work that benefits society, often both at the same time. These interviews will help to shine a light on the motivation and inspiration behind creating your own product, service, social outreach campaign or charity, how to get started and some of the challenges you may face.

As an introduction, can you please tell us about yourself, your background, and what lead you to create Mini Muslim Playground?
My name is Allya I’m 31 years old and happily married and also have a gorgeous cat called Patchy. I have been running various businesses for the past 10 years. My main back ground is Digital Marketing and selling Home Wares online. Me and my husband set-up and successfully run a digital marketing agency and we are also setting up a new online homewares business. However my happiness comes from working on the Mini Muslim Playground. It has been an idea of mine for around two years but other things got in the way and the idea had to be put on hold. Then in 2016 my niece and nephew were born and it just gave me the motivation to really push this idea and make it a reality. Islam is very close to mine and my husband’s heart and it’s a beautiful religion, and we just wanted to do something that made learning about Islam fun for both parents and children.

What made you choose to become an entrepreneur?
I always wanted to be my own boss ever since I was little. I’ve had jobs were I did the 9-5 but I was never happy and wanted more for myself. My parents were very supportive and encouraged my entrepreneurship. 15 years ago my dad had a stroke and seeing how he got himself better and how he came closer to Islam over the years inspired me to follow my heart. So I quit my job and took the plunge. I started my first business selling party favours, décor material, and other decorative pieces, the business was called Wedding Walkway. It was fun but it was also my first business. Soon after that I started my own homewares business where I learnt about digital marketing which I found really fun, I then went out and got a Google certification and started Pear Digital Marketing which is still going strong today Alhumdulillah. When I got married 2 years ago, my husband supported me and my crazy business ideas and he grew Pear Digital. Being an entrepreneur has its challenges but it is very rewarding especially when I see pictures of Muslim Children praying on the prayer mats I sent or reading books with their parents. It’s nice to see Islam entering into their hearts from such a young age.

What is the overall aim of Mini Muslim Playground? What problem are you setting out to solve and how?
I’m not setting out to solve any problems. I’m in fact hoping that through the Mini Muslim Playground I can supplement traditional methods of learning and teaching about Islam. When I was little I’d go to the madrassah and was told to learn the Quran, which I did but the imam never really explained the meaning or the reason behind a particular verse or Surah. I only started to learn the meanings recently, and looking back I wish I had the resources we have today so that I could appreciate our religion even more. There are so many wonderful books, toys and games available today at the Mini Muslim Playground that teach about Islam in a fun and inspiring way that were not available when I was a kid. So in short the aim of the Mini Muslim Playground is to help parents teach their kids about Islam though fun, interactive means that really sparks the child’s curiosity about Islam and Insha Allah nurtures a love for Islam from a young age.

What were some of the biggest challenges for you when you were starting your business?
 Everything. LOL. From the branding, to the logo, to what products we wanted right down to what platform the website should be. But being digital marketers and website developers we managed to get it right and then came the hard task of getting stock. My husband has to keep me grounded as I have a million ideas and want to do all of them all at once. There is so much I want to achieve and do with the Mini Muslim Playground but can’t find enough hours in the day to do everything I want. I’m launching the first of my own product range in a month or so InshaAllah and that in itself is very challenging as a lot of energy has gone into it and I don’t know if it will work or not. All I can do is make dua and carry on.

What do you wish you had known before you had started your business?
That’s a tricky one. Having run my own businesses before I know that setting up any business is hard, risky and comes with its own unique challenges. Some would say that they wish they had known how much effort is involved in running your own business or wish they did better market research etc. But hindsight is a beautiful thing and looking back the past month or so with Mini Muslim Playground I wouldn’t change a thing, and if there is one thing I would like to have known is how happy this business makes me so that I could have started it earlier.

What is the most satisfying aspect of running your own business?
Being your own boss is a dream come true. I work to my own schedule, I create my own ideas and launch them I sometimes work from my home. There are challenges of running your own business such as making sure you’re doing everything properly from paying invoices, to making sure your finances are in order and so on, and there are times where I do get a bit scared and think ‘am I doing the right thing’? But Alhamdulialh I have my level headed husband who helps look after Mini Muslim Playground whilst running his own business and he constantly motivates me and challenges me when I have a down day.  The most satisfying aspect of being your own boss is that no two days are the same. Your free to do whatever you want, when you want. Also seeing my customers leaving kind comments and posting their kids using our products on social media is a big boost to my confidence and always makes me really happy.

Where do you see your business in the future?
I hope to launch my own range of physical and digital products in the future and really make the Mini Muslim Playground the go to place for Islamic toys, books and games. A lot of people assume that you should grow your business into a global success and make millions (which is fine for some and work for some). My dreams for this business are humble and I don’t aim to become a global leader. As long as parents and kids want to learn about Islam, be inspired about Islam and have fun while doing it then the Mini Muslim Playground will always be around to help with that Insha Allah.

What words of wisdom would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs who may be hesitant about taking the first steps towards starting their own business?
Just do it. It’s scary, there is a lot of hard work involved, long hours and sometimes you will feel like giving up. But if you stick at it and pray to Allah for guidance you will succeed. Make sure you get your branding and product choices right. Research your competition but be different from them. Drive traffic through your social media because that’s where your customers are and get your website right. If you don’t know about websites or social media get someone to help you. I can’t stress enough how important this is. Be open to constructive criticism as what you may think is a brilliant idea your target market may not agree. Usually the first year is the hardest but once you get past that you be will on the way to success. Keep a level head and complete one task at a time.

Previous Interview:

Sunday 26 February 2017

Chicken Meatballs Recipe by Guest Blogger Amber from Recipes Pakistan

Amber is a blogger from Pakistan who blogs her amazing recipes at The Recipes Pakistan. Her website features a large array of delicious Pakistani and fusion recipes (from Arabic Chicken Shawarma to Chinese inspired Chicken Manchurian) from both her and famous chefs from Pakistan, recipes are listed by chef or by the course of meal they are usually found in (mains, dessert etc). The website also shares tips for the kitchen as well as beauty and weight loss tips.

Chicken Meatballs by Guest Blogger Amber from Recipes Pakistan

Meatballs are one of the most delicious dishes that can be made with ground meat. I mostly make this with red meat, but previously the Doctor has discouraged my mother from eating red meat, so I developed this recipe using chicken. It turned out really flavorsome. I would really encourage all of you to give a try this appetizing recipe for a pleasant change in your dining experience.


For Meatballs ½ kg chicken boneless 
1 onion (sliced)
4 green chilies
To taste salt
1 tsp red chili powder
½ tsp coriander powder
1 egg

For Gravy 2 medium onions (sliced)
1 tsp ginger garlic paste
To taste salt 
1 tsp red chili powder
¼ tsp turmeric powder
Yogurt 4 tsp
Garam masala powder 1 tsp
Oil ½ cup
Boiled eggs 4
Put chicken, onion, green chilies, salt, red chili powder and coriander powder in food processor and process until the ingredients and chicken are ground.
Take out ground meat in a bowl and mix in the egg.
Make small balls out of the mixture and assemble in a tray. Keep it in a fridge.

In the meanwhile, heat oil in a pan and brown the onion.
Add in ginger garlic paste, sauté, when it gives an aroma; add salt, red chili powder, turmeric and yogurt. Stir until oil comes on top.
Now add one and half glass of water. When it starts cooking add meatballs in gravy. Cook on high heat for 5 minutes then lower the heat. 
Cook until balls tender and water evaporates and oil comes on top.
Now add sufficient water to make your required consistency gravy. Cook for 5 minutes.

Dish out in a bowl, sprinkle garam masala powder, set boiled eggs in bowl and serve with flat bread.

Saturday 25 February 2017

Picture of the Day 20.02.17 - Daffodils

I have started to see the daffodils growing, but I haven't managed to get a decent picture yet (you can see previous years ones here: 2016 and here, 2014, 2013. This jar full of them was sitting on my mum’s kitchen table. She has a knack for setting out things beautifully and making the most of space. I love the cheerful yellow blooms in the simple jar.

Victoria and Albert Museum: Fashion and Style Gallery

The fashion collection gallery at the V&A covers all styles of clothing from the last five hundred years, the museum website describes it as "the largest and most comprehensive collection of dress in the world".

I would have liked to spend a bit more time here, but you really need more than an afternoon to see the whole museum as it is sprawling and there are four floors.  Plus the boys took one look at all the clothing and shoes and started to at as if I was taking them through a torture cell.  They managed to moan at me the whole way through the gallery until we emerged at the end.

The collection is a fascinating gallery of ball gowns, corsets, party dresses and iconic fashion from every decade in the last 100 years.  The dresses from the early 1900's especially were lovely. 

Victoria and Albert Museum: Far East Galleries

Little Lady came to the V&A last year with her school and complained for ages afterwards that she was only allowed to see the Middle East Islamic galleries and that her teacher managed to combine history, maths and every other subject into the trip.  She sneaked into the Japan exhibit and got caught by her teacher and marched backed to the rest of the trip group.  So when hubby took the rest of the kids to check out the half-term activities (building things out of cardboard blocks, which the boys really enjoyed), we take a detour to the Far East galleries.

The Far East galleries cover China, Japan, Korea and nearby areas.

I can't stop laughing at this picture evey time I look at it, it reminds me of someone I know:

Victoria and Albert Museum: Islamic Middle East

I have been meaning to visit the Victoria & Albert museum for years and kept telling Little Lady the two of us would go.  I visited with my school as a teenager and remember two things, the beautiful Mogul jewellery and textiles and getting shouted at for trying to take a rubbing from one of the displays.

As we were already at the Natural History Museum, we decided to cross the road and visit V&A.  Little Lady did moan it was supposed to be just the two of us and not the rest of her annoying family, but I told her you have to take the opportunity when it presents itself.

On entering, we were presented with the foyer and the renaissance gallery on one side.  Hubby got half a glance at the nudes in the renaissance gallery and steered us in the opposite direction, straight towards the Islamic Middle East galleries (also known as the Jameel gallery after the Jameel family).

The gallery includes items from Turkey, India, the Middle East and Central Asia including glass, ceramics, tiles, jewellery and manuscripts.

Oh - and Little Lady got too close to one of the exhibits, she was pointing something out to me and a guard thought she might touch something, we got told off - again :)

Pages from the Quran:

Tiles from Turkey:

Mogul jewellery:

Friday 24 February 2017

Happy Muslim Mama Sponsored Post: SaySubhanAllah.com

SaySubhanAllah.com is a user-friendly and diverse website that brings together a wide variety of Islamic content including Quranic Ayah’s, Hadith and prayers.  The team behind the website say that their goal is simply to “help ourselves and you better understand Islam”

Content on the site is available in English, Urdu and even Sindhi.

The key information and services the website offers includes the following:

The site lists the names of Allah (SWT), their meanings and translations and where they are found in the Quran

The Muslim baby names are split into names for boys and girls and presented in a grid that lets you see 10 at a time in alphabetic order and which is sortable by the letter the name starts with.  The grid lists the names in English and Arabic text with meanings.  You can search the list by name in English or Arabic, but the page also has a unique feature that allows you to search by meaning, so if you search for beautiful, the serach will bring up any names that mean beautiful.

In the Islamic Quotes section the team take beautiful images and overlays them with Islamic quotes, creating beautiful graphics and posters.

Similarly Hadith of the Day creates beautiful graphics with hadith, there are currently 6 pages of graphics, with more being added regularly.

The site features many useful articles including one on how to choose a Muslim baby name and another on Muslim marriage beliefs

SaySubhanAllah.com also features Islamic videos in English and Urdu, some with transcripts, which I found particularly useful, such as this one on Love and Brotherhood.

The website aims to be interactive and encourages users to make suggestions for content or improvements.  They will be launching a dua page soon with dua's for everyday life, such as eating, sleeping and leaving your house.  They are currently in the process of designing a plug-in which will tell the Islamic date and time, be sure to look out for their new pages and new functionality soon insh'Allah.

They will also be launching a dua page soon with dua's for everyday life, such as eating, sleeping and leaving your house.

Disclaimer: Please note that this is a sponsored post and that I have received compensation in exchange for writing this blog post.