Monday Motivation from Kim Shamsiddin, Founder at Al Shams

Mondays can be rough and, sometimes, we can all use some motivation. Our #MondayMotivation blog series brings you tips and life hacks from industry leaders and some of the most creative entrepreneurs out there.

We sat down with Kim Shamsiddin, Founder at Al Shams, a luxury apparel brand for the sophisticated Muslimah whose style embodies elegance, grace, and modesty. She discusses starting her business out of pure frustration, keeping her product high-quality to meet her expectations, and the importance of flexibility in starting a new business.

What inspired you to start your business?
I started Al Shams out of pure frustration with the lack of choices for Muslim women’s apparel here in the U.S. I used to spend hours in major department stores trying to find garments that would cover me properly, but in most cases I would find pieces that were too tight or too revealing. I knew I couldn’t be the only Muslimah feeling this way so I reached out to friends and family and pretty much heard the same from them. That’s when I knew I had to start the company.

What’s been the biggest challenge you’ve faced so far?

Working with offshore manufacturers has been a huge challenge in terms of bringing them in line with my expectations regarding quality for both the construction of the garments as well as the fabrics. The Al Shams brand is known for high-quality abayas and I am unrelenting in ensuring that the quality of our garments remains aligned with our brand positioning. In the early days of the business, it was not uncommon to get a shipment of goods that were completely unsellable due to defects. This rarely happens now and is due in large part to me taking good care to cultivate strong relationships with our manufacturing partners. My husband also steps in and helps in these situations. I never get angry when mistakes happen and I realize it’s just a part of doing business. I simply have a discussion with my manufacturers and talk about how working through these mistakes and making improvements will enhance our communication and will ultimately be mutually beneficial. We’ve also done collaborations on Skype and have developed production checklists to ensure everyone is on the same page. This approach has been so helpful in building and strengthening these core relationships that are so vital to the business.

What’s been the greatest reward? 

I am incredibly humbled by and extremely grateful for the feedback and comments I get from my clients. I am delighted to hear how they wore their abaya to such and such event and how they got so many compliments and how they felt so beautiful. It is an absolute honor and privilege for us to serve our clients and I appreciate every single sale we get, no matter how big or small. It really makes all the hard work worthwhile.

What is the biggest thing you’d like to see changed in your industry, and how are you working toward making that change happen?
I want to see an expansion of Islamic apparel here in the U.S. To that end, we’ve established our e-commerce store to offer Muslimahs the beautiful and modest clothing they desire. We’ve also recently launched our free Try Before You Buy membership where our clients can try our abayas in the comfort and privacy of their homes for up to three days with free shipping both ways. Like everyone else, our clients are busy moms and working women and they demand convenience. Through our TBYB membership we offer our clients the convenience they’re seeking and deliver a value proposition that does not currently exist in this space.

Who or what motivates you to keep going, even when things get tough?
I must honestly say I am truly self-motivated. I constantly remind myself that running a business is extremely hard but I have made some inroads so I just keep going. Having been in the Army and being a former undercover NYPD police officer, there aren’t too many tough situations I can’t handle. That being said, my hubby is my rock and he helps me through all the rough patches. One day I was expressing to him some frustration I was having due to some delays with a shipment. He said to me, “If you’re going to get rattled by this you will never survive, you’re not the only one with mishaps going on, this happens all the time in business and that’s just how things are.” That statement was so simple but it resonated so much because it reminded me that these challenges are not unique to me and my business.

What’s one piece of advice you’d give to another entrepreneur just starting out?
Be prepared to pivot when you see something is not working. Listen to your customers and tailor your business to their needs, not what you think the business should be. Pivoting does not mean you should abandon the idea altogether, you just need to be prepared to refocus your efforts and be willing to make adjustments if need be. Having that kind of flexibility is a great characteristic to have as an entrepreneur.

What do you do every Monday morning to prepare and motivate yourself for the coming week?
Each morning I wake up before sunrise to pray the Muslim morning prayer Fajr. I also try to get a good workout in every day to energize myself and ignite my mental focus. Both keep me balanced and ready to handle my day.

For more #MondayMotivation, check out our interview with Alex Charnas and Laura Mishkin, Co-Founders at Zibbli, a platform that helps businesses retain their best talent by continuously monitoring and analyzing the needs of their people. They discuss the gap between employees and their leadership, learning about different groups and needs in workplaces, and the finding the “right time” to quit your day job once you’ve started your own business.