A British-born entrepreneur of Kashmiri origin started the Coco Hijab London e-commerce platform in January 2016 when she found it difficult to find hijabs – a veil worn by Muslim women in the UK.
Having had prior experience in the fashion industry Mehreen Amjad says that being a hijab lover and having worked in the field for many years, she understands what women want and are looking for.
“As I wear the hijab I felt that I should take the initiative to source these products and launch a brand which was accessible and relatable to women,” she says.
Kashmiri in origin, Mehreen was born and raised in the UK. She grew up in a business environment and was taught that every goal could be achieved through hard work and dedication. Her father had multiple businesses that her parents managed.
While wearing the hijab itself was the inspiration to start Coco Hijab, Mehreen also experienced that wearing a hijab outside an Islamic country had become increasingly difficult due to the growing fear of Islamophobia.
It prompted her to launch a mainstream brand that would encourage women to wear the hijab and take pride in it without being judged.
The website features all types of hijab, including a limited edition collection, accessories and a special section dedicated to Cashmere.
“Coco Hijab is an extension of what I believe in, and my aim is to make the hijab accessible to all. I want women to take pride in what they believe in and not hide away from the hijab.”
Mehreen believes that the hijab is a part of her identity and is a statement for those who meet her.
She has a ‘no model’ policy and all the women featured on her website are Muslim women who love wearing hijab. Mehreen believes that Coco Hijab provides a platform to Muslim women to step forward and not only tell their stories but also share their journey with the hijab and the styles that best represent them.
“I find people don’t appreciate and value the hijab for what it truly has to offer.”
Faith in the concept
After completing her course in law, Mehreen went on to purchase a franchise of Mail Boxes and currently owns one in St Johns Wood and Kilburn where they specialize in business setups, but Coco Hijab was a concept she always wanted to pursue.
Women always face obstacles just because of the gender inequality in the corporate and business world; however, Mehreen feels blessed as people around have been supportive.
It took her two years to launch the website cocohijablondon.com
She has various people to assist her with operations, including a photographer, graphic designer and other freelancers.
Mehreen says that it was important to have people from different backgrounds and faiths in order to ensure that Coco Hijab didn’t lose sight of the goal which is diversity.
“Diversity is important when you’re trying to spread a brand and message,” she says.
“When you start up any business you have to be prepared to work long hours. Socializing becomes a thing of the past and so do your hobbies. A business needs to be nurtured, only then will it grow,” she adds.
Mehreen was initially nervous about the startup as she was not sure about people’s reactions. Also, the e-commerce business is a complex one but her perseverance paid off and she witnessed a steady growth in her business, and now wants to expand.
“I tried not to lose focus on my goal as that can cause chaos in establishing a brand. I believe in keeping it simple and do something that’s within my area of interest.”
Mehreen understands that doing any business is a risky proposition but the key to success comes from a focus on a goal and being realistic about achievements. She believes that business takes time and one has to learn to be patient.
She wants to expand her business to other parts of central London and to other parts of the world as well. For her future ventures, she is planning to collaborate with designers from Kashmir.
Q&A: Mehreen Amjad
What is your family background?
My father was from Pakistan and my mother was from Srinagar, Kashmir. My father had multiple businesses that both my parents managed. I grew up in a business environment and was taught that every goal could be achieved through hard work and dedication. After completing law I went on to purchase a franchise of mail boxes and currently own one in St Johns Wood and Kilburn where we specialize in shipping, printing and business setups.
How does your startup stand out against its competitors?
I have worked in the fashion industry for a number of years so I have a greater understanding of what women are looking for. I focus on quality, variety and good customer service. Our products are also affordable which allows the customer to explore different looks and build their own range. What makes Coco Hijab London unique is that it has been created by someone who wears a Hijab and understands the needs of a fellow Muslims.
The brand is also unique as we have a website which has been created to target the international market. Coco Hijab has been created by a woman for women all over the world. There is nothing more empowering than that.
Where did the idea for the startup come from?
I find that wearing a Hijab outside of an Islamic country has become increasingly difficult due to the current wave of Islamophobia. I wanted to create a mainstream brand that encouraged women to wear it and most of all put themselves forward to front the brand.
We have a no model policy and all the women that are featured on our website and marketing are genuine Muslim women. Our brand will give a platform to Muslim women to step forward and not only tell their story but share their journey towards Hijab and the styles that best represent them.
How long has your startup been in the making, and who is the team behind the business?
It took a full two years for our website to be launched and we have the most amazing team. It was important for us to have people from different backgrounds and faiths to ensure that we didn’t lose sight of our goal. Diversity is important when you’re trying to spread a brand and message.
I created the concept and the operational side was managed by Asif Ali Mir who has a vast amount of experience in management and business development. Our dispatch manager is Vitalijus Belikovas who is Catholic Lithuanian. My photographer is European and so is my graphic designer.
What is the best lesson you have learned from starting your business?
When you start up any business you have to be prepared to work long hours. Socializing becomes a thing of the past and so do your hobbies. A business needs to be nurtured and only then will it grow.
You must also never lose sight of your goal as that can cause chaos in establishing a brand. Keep it simple and do something that’s within your knowledge.
If you could give one piece of advice to someone thinking about starting a business, what would it be?
If you have a vision, follow it. Business is full of risks. It is never the right to time to take the leap. Don’t let people put you off as everyone has an opinion but what matters is what you believe in. The key to success is just to focus and be realistic about your achievements. Things generally take time to build so don’t give up at the first hurdle.
Coco Hijab London