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How a former lawyer took her children's storybooks global

Culture & Entertainment
UK Hajera Memon Founder Shade 7 Islamic Popup StorybooksPhoto: Hajera Memon, Founder, Shade 7, UK

Former finance lawyer Hajera Memon had always dreamed of starting her own business. She says, “I asked myself, ‘if I could do anything in the world, what would I do?’”

Leaning heavily on her Muslim faith, she created Shade 7, a global Islamic storybook company, to meet her “heartfelt desire to establish a long-term source of knowledge, which would inspire children to learn more about Islam and their relationship with God.”

“There wasn’t much out there by way of comparison with the Christian publishing industry and the sheer variety of Biblical stories. With Islam as the fastest growing religion in the world, I saw an amazing opportunity.”

Her first pop-up animated, hardcover book, ‘The Story of The Elephant’, was financed by a crowd-funding campaign through customer pre-sales. Hajera raised £40,000 through global site Indiegogo and interest for the book came from all over the world, including Bahrain, Singapore, Australia, Denmark, Germany, Finland, Oman, Malaysia, and the US.

The London-based entrepreneur explains that the need for high quality children’s books is being recognised as more new Muslim publishers enter the mainstream space.

Hajera, 32, says: “The market is certainly changing and growing, with people now having the confidence to step forward in making a contribution towards children’s Islamic education.”

She explains, “With all the amazing rich, multi-layered stories and motivating reminders we have in our faith, be it about Prophets from the Quran, Allah’s 99 names and inspirational hadiths, I can only see the quality and themes getting better in the future. It’s a really exciting time and I think many of us wish we had these books when we were growing up.”

Since founding Shade 7 in 2012, Hajera has been awarded a scholarship by the School for Creative Start-ups and seen ‘The Story of The Elephant’ make its way to No. 10 Downing Street with the support of the Department of Business Innovation and Skills in the UK.

With support from the British government, Shade 7 has been able to work with designers, translators, business mentors and a specialist production house to create three more novelty Islamic children’s books, including colourful children’s bath books.

Hajera says she has 30 more titles in the pipeline and plans to expand into 3D digital app versions of each title. The books are mostly sold through bookshops, as well as an online store.

UK Shade 7 Islamic Popup StorybooksPhoto: One of Shade 7's pop-up storybooks

“Drawing on Islamic principles, Shade 7 seeks to bring religious stories and principles to life in a memorable, inspirational way. Although specifically targeted to a younger demographic, our Quranic stories for children can be enjoyed by the entire family.”

Hajera plans to release two new types of books this year. One is an interfaith children’s board book, which is currently being written by a Jewish author, which introduces various head coverings worn by people of faith.

She says: “The aim of the book is to show the similarities between people of faith, a shared love of god. It’s meant to increase peace and tolerance through educating both parents and children. We are very excited about it and feel its increasing importance in the current political climate.”

The second new release for 2017 is an adult colouring book of quotes by renowned scholar Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyya. “The unique, hand-drawn line illustrations embody the quotes in a powerful way. It’s a book I just couldn’t resist bringing to market.

She says, “I’ve always been quite entrepreneurial in my thinking. I hope the books will be well received and enjoyed by many adults and children alike. Having your own business allows you to have the freedom to make a difference in the way you think is best.”

© MySalaam.com 2017 All rights reserved

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