Nafisa Bakkar, Co-Founder & CEO of Amaliah
Why don’t you tell us about yourself?
I’m Nafisa; I graduated from UCL two years ago. I studied natural sciences but realized I wanted to do something I loved and pushed me to reach my potential [whatever that was]. I got involved with a lot of social enterprise initiatives during and post my time at University, as I knew I didn’t want to jump into the corporate world straight away. I just wanted a better time to keep my mind open.
What gave you the idea for your venture? Is it something that you’ve been working on for a while?
It was just something that I realized was a genuine problem for Muslim women. We were unable to find clothes that cover you up but are also ‘fashion forward.’
At first, I thought it was a superficial idea, but I realized that we are sending out the message that “you can be who you are as Muslim women, and hold the beliefs that you have, and be a person in a society and achieve what everyone else is achieving.”
The core of our message is empowerment.
So, what’s the hardest part of being a tech founder and what’s the most fun part?
The most fun part is meeting and learning from so many people that you would just not cross paths with otherwise. You get to do so many different things; I had loads of interests, and it allowed me to bring them all under one umbrella, whether that be coding or designing or fashion.
The hardest part honestly I think is to being able to stay resilient, and you have these peaks where you’re like I can do anything and then you have these low times when you are like what I’m even doing.
That’s where your network people come into play because they can either give you practical advice or help you because they’ve been in the similar situation.
I think for me the hardest part is mental. If you said to me a year ago, you’re going to go through an accelerator, and you’ll go on to raise money and then build a team, I would’ve just said there’s no way I could do that.
What advice would you give to someone in your position a year ago?
One practical piece advice, talk to as many people as you can because where we are now is fundamentally down to the generosity of other people.
The power and value of a good network are insane; we wouldn’t be here without so many individuals who’ve helped us along the way, whether that be giving us office space, mentorship, or even money. We even got free laptops from people as we couldn’t afford to buy one. Just don’t be an ass. Talk to as many people as you can and maintain those relationships. So, that’s a sort of practical one.
And then, the second one is, always stay hopeful and always make your decisions based on hope rather than fear. When I quit my job, it was that moment in time when I said to myself, staying at my job would be staying out of fear. Fear that I couldn’t start a company, fear that I couldn’t make this work, fear that I might run out of money. But you just have to stay hopeful.
And then another one is that, don’t assume that you know everything. I think you have to have a fine line when you know enough to start, but you acknowledge that you don’t know it all to carry on. And again that’s where your network comes in, never stop asking for help. I’ve been told in the past that I ask too much advice, but I don’t think it’s weakness. You can get to a point where you hear so advice that’s it’s almost all noise, but I believe you need to balance seeking that help with trusting yourself.