We’re Jamii’n: An initiative in support of UK Black owned businesses

Jamii is Swahili for ‘community’, and 22-year-old founder Khalia Ismain started this entrepreneurial venture in the hopes of uniting and expanding support for UK Black owned businesses. The concept of Jamii is that customers get access to exclusive discounts on fashion, food, hair, skincare/beauty and art through their Jamii membership – this can be applied in-store and online. I was lucky enough to ask Khalia a few questions about her exciting journey and the future of the company.

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On your website you say that Jamii grew out of frustration for not being able to find the products and services you required. Can you explain this further and also what motivated you to turn this irritation into a reality?

Being a woman of colour, I’ve always found it difficult to find things that work properly for me, be it hair products that are suited to my hair texture, greetings cards that reflect what my family actually looks like, or even just restaurants that authentically represent my culture. I always had to compromise, and I got to a point where I was like ‘this is a joke’. I started looking into African- and Caribbean-owned businesses because I realised that they were much more likely to provide me with what I needed – and I was right. 

So I thought I’d try to make it easier for both people of colour and people who are interested in authenticity to find those businesses. If you want something that actually works for you, or if you want something that genuinely represents the African and Caribbean cultures, Jamii is the place for that. You’re simultaneously saving money and supporting the community – you can’t get better than that!

How do you see Jamii developing in the distant future, and what will be your next step toward that vision?

Jamii as it is now, as a hub for savings and authenticity – this is just the beginning. I want a Jamii store, so you can get all the wonderful products on the high street too; a Jamii fund to support budding entrepreneurs; Jamii in Europe and America… There’s so much I want to do – but I have to build the foundation first! My next step is all about getting the word out, making sure as many people know about us as possible, and partnering with more cool companies. 

As a start-up company what challenges do you think you’re likely to face and how do you plan to overcome them?

Most start ups struggle with a lack of resources – in terms of money, time and people. It means we’ve got to be more laser focused, but it also gives us more space to be creative with what we’ve got. I’m not afraid to make mistakes and learn from them.

You’ve done so well in gaining social media attention, especially with your official launch at the Dark Sugars Cocoa House in Brick Lane. What are your main tips for women of colour who wish to become entrepreneurs?

Thanks! My main tip, is to be yourself. With entrepreneurship, you have to be true to yourself – if you’re not, you will lose your way very quickly. There’s no set formula to follow, and so do things how you want them done. You will certainly have to adapt yourself to some situations, but that’s a fact of life and that doesn’t mean compromising who you are. 

You strike me as a strong, independent and motivated individual. Who are you inspirations?

Haha thank you! My top two inspirations are quite cliché if I’m honest! My mum, for being the most selfless and caring individual I’ve ever known; and Zendaya because (although she’s younger than me) she embodies what it is to be a highly successful woman of colour who doesn’t compromise on her values – and doesn’t let them compromise her!

Head over to the Jamii website where you can learn more and sign up for exclusive discounts. Also follow them on Twitter and like them on Facebook.

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Quick questions

Which music artist/group right now? I’m so bad at keeping up to date with new music, but I’m really feeling NAO at the moment. I discovered her last year and fell in love with ‘Adore You’ instantly – it will be my wedding song!

What series? Narcos!

Bevel x Nas

“My signature fade with the Bevel blade

That’s a major key” – Nas

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Photo: http://www.bevelcode.com/a-new-legacy-nas-bevel/

This line has been stuck in my head since I first heard it. It comes from the rapper Nas on the track ‘Nas Album Done’ from DJ Khaled’s Major Key album (released on 29th July 2016). It may be so unforgettable because of the highly recognisable sample of The Fugees track ‘Fu-Gee-La’ or the fact that I initially misheard ‘bevel’ for ‘devil’, which added very sinister touch to the lyric. Anyways, it turns out that Nas is a brand ambassador for Bevel. Bevel is a shaving range from Walker & Company– a company created by Queens-born Tristan Walker to make beauty products for people of colour. It’s worth watching the introduction video on the Walker and Company website to see what the business is all about.

I was privileged enough to see the man himself performing his legendary hip-hop album Illmatic at the Manchester-based Parklife festival in 2015. He was incredible.

 

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University of Manchester, July 2015

Deciding my hair for graduation was anything but a simple task.

At this point (July 2015) I had been transitioning to natural hair for about 6 months. Considering my hair was just reaching shoulder length, the transition was in full swing 6 months in. I knew for a fact that constantly straightening my leave-out for weave was bound to cause damage, so that’s an option I steered clear of. Although I had a 20″ Peruvian hair, middle-part weave with leave out just a few months later…Don’t ask. Those straggly straightened bits left the middle section of my hair limp and lifeless for quite a while afterwards,

In the end practicality was my main concern. Graduation was only a few days before backpacking through parts of Southeast Asia so I had to weigh up my options and decided I would rather spend the days leading up to my trip packing and running last minute errands rather that getting my braids done then.

As displayed in the picture above – I don’t regret my decision.