Meet the Muslim Arab-Latina entrepreneur who is winning at life
- 06 April 2017
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Lubna (Lulu) Abura is a mother of two. No, I’m not just talking about her adorable boy/girl twins. She also started two businesses.
I don’t know which made me more excited: a hair care line made for curly hair, or a halal cracker business inspired by Palestinian and Brazilian food (what more could you ask for?)
As a hijabi with curly hair, my new friend, Lubna, quelled all my complaints about dealing with unruly curls, as she described the organic ingredients behind her products. She conjured them up herself, based on what worked for her personally.
ACCORDING TO LUBNA, HER FATHER IS HER NUMBER ONE FAN, BUT AS HER BUSINESSES CONTINUE TO GROW, OTHERS MAY VERY WELL GIVE HIM A RUN FOR HIS MONEY.
Her crackers are also completely halal, using ingredients that are natural and clean, because she wants complete control over what goes into them.
Lubna told me she would never sell something, food or hair product, that she didn’t herself love and use. In such different businesses, she brings to them a passion and dedication that makes you wonder when she even has time to sleep (I mean, the woman is a single mother with two-year-old twins!).
According to Lubna, her father is her number one fan, but as her businesses continue to grow, others may very well give him a run for his money. Muslim Girl had the pleasure of talking to this entrepreneur about the stories behind her businesses and how she continues to find inspiration.
Muslim Girl: You’re Brazilian. You’re Palestinian. You’re American. You’re Muslim. You’re a lot of things. How does culture influence your work?
Lubna Abura: I was born and raised in Brazil. I lived one year in Amman. I came to the states when I turned 16. Primarily, I grew up with the two cultures: Brazilian and Palestinian. Mom would cook feijao (black beans) on a Monday (that’s the menu you’ll find in every single Brazilian house on a Monday until today!) But mom would also add her spices to the feijao, so our feijao was Arabesque, Palestinian from the Lidd, to be precise.
Personally, it took me a long time to convince both sides, Arab and Brazilian, that I was the two cultures in one. When among Arabs, they thought I was too Brazilian – and when among Brazilians, they thought I was too Arab. They both tried to label me as confused. No. They were confused.
I’m fine. I’m both. I love both. And I see the good and bad of both cultures. I made my own reality and gave no option. If you ask me who I think I am today I’ll tell you this: I’m Muslim, Palestinian, Brazilian, American, a single mother who speaks seven languages and owns two businesses, and I would rather spread love and be a light traveler.
What inspired you to start a hair care line and how have your own experiences motivated you?
Ahhh… my hair, my crown. As far as I can recall, those hot summer days under the Brazilian sun, my hair has always been a topic of discussion and pokery. Childhood memories wouldn’t be remarkable without torturous comments or “suggestions” from my beloved late tata (grandmother) on my mane: “Ajatt um kanfush” (here comes the hairy monster) or “ruhhi mashtee kanfushek” (go comb your unruly hair).
And then there was a song that exploded on the Brazilian airwaves that summer of 1986 “Olha a Naga do Cabelo duro, que nao gosta de pentear” (Look at that black lady with the hard hair that doesn’t like to comb it.) I know, Brazilians are weird.
Later in life, people would spot me a mile away from my big head of curly hair. So, basically my hair was me, I was my hair. Period.
If Cosmo or Glamour had a hair mask recipe on their issue, you’d bet I had tried it. I didn’t leave anything behind: Eggs? Check. Avocado? Check. Avocado and eggs? Check. Hair creams in the market? I’ve tried them all from the cheapest to the most expensive lines. I used to schedule my trims, every 3 months because that’s what Cosmo suggested to combat those annoying split ends.
I DON’T KNOW IF YOU’VE MET CANCER SURVIVORS BEFORE, BUT SOMETHING HAPPENS INSIDE OF US THAT WAKES US UP TO LIFE AND HOW SHORT IT IS.
I remember in college I used to carry a small scissor with my school supplies so I could clip my own split ends. Oh and who can forget those straightening treatments. All I ever wanted was straight hair, maybe that would make me less me and more everybody else.
Long story short, in 2011, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I don’t know if you’ve met cancer survivors before, but something happens inside of us that wakes us up to life and how short it is. In my case, I started to lose fear. I let go of fears of what people would say or think, fear of risking, fear of losing, and above of all, I let go of the fear of loving myself. Up to that point, I hadn’t realized how much it had to do with my hair.
Wow, what an inspiring story. And your line is called Farashe. Tell us the meaning behind that name.
Farashe means butterfly in Arabic. I couldn’t think of a more appropriate name for a product that would honor a woman’s most precious asset: Her hair, her crown. I chose Farashe because I wanted every woman to metamorphosize from a larva into a beautiful butterfly. Our focus is to combine ingredients that are present in our lives. For example, one of the ingredients we use is organic olive oil. It’s from my family’s land in Palestine. Another oil we use a lot is Argan oil, which we get from a small distributor that brings it straight from Morocco, from his farm. As a company, our vision is to help other small companies and to become a moral and environmentally conscious company.
It was never about the money. Money comes and goes. From the first day, Farashe has always been about love. Spreading love. There’s no amount of money that brings more joy to me than when a client, a Farashette, messages me about how happy they are with their hair results. I mean, who wouldn’t have a big smile on their faces when you’re having a great hair day!
What does beauty mean to you?
Beauty means empathy, kindness – with one’s hands, actions and especially tongue. Knowledge, sense of humor. Beauty is skin-deep for it is one’s soul that projects different levels of beauty. Nothing is more beautiful to me than a healthy heart, and one can only accomplish that with Allah (SWT) in it, and His Noor (Light).
AND EACH OF MY CLIENTS ARE BEAUTIFUL FROM THE INSIDE OUT.
However, being in the beauty industry, I finally comprehended the importance of imaging. You only have less than three seconds to convince someone of purchasing your product. This is why big companies would put a model to sell shampoos or a car. I, on the contrary, think it should be you, the person who invested and trusted me, to be the one represented and representing. And each of my clients are beautiful from the inside out.
Why is it important for hijabi women to love their hair?
I think all hijabis or non-hijabis should love their crown. I think especially among women whose ethnicity have more coarse hair, there should be more love towards our hair. Stop using all those chemicals like the Japanese straightening treatment or the Brazilian Keratin (I was a victim twice). Just embrace your curls, your waves or whatever hair style you have. It’s not about changing your hair type. It is about knowing how to care for it.
As for hijabis, it’s always harder because you’ll have a perfect hair day and or perfect blow out and nobody can see it (besides your halalized people). Nonetheless, there should still be some TLC going on, no matter what.
Do you think there are misconceptions about curly hair?
Haha! I want to say yes! Yes, I believe there are misconceptions about curly hair. That we are loud, not tamed. At times inadequate. I used to work in an office and every time I used blow dry my hair straight, I’d notice how treatment would change around me, even the barista at the coffee shop would treat me a bit more seriously.
What are some challenges you have faced in trying to start a business?
The minute you decide to start a business and you let people in your circle know, friends or family, the first question is, did you make money? Why are you doing this? Is there money in it? It’s funny, but even though I’d like one day to be able to afford luxury things for my parents and children, I don’t do things because of money. You have to find something you love to do and then there’s nothing wrong if you make money out of it. It’s halal and Allah (SWT) prefers a much busier soul that tries than a soul that only begs and complains.
EVEN BETTER, INVESTORS THAT ARE MUSLIM AND BELIEVE IN OUR POTENTIALS…HEY, I JUST HAD AN IDEA: HALAL SHARK TANK!
As a Muslim Arab Latina American entrepreneur, the biggest challenge is to enter a market solo. Sometimes, there’s a desire for business guidance, besides my dad’s old way of making it into the world. I wish there would be more Islamic institutions and or financial advisers that could reach out to us. Even better, investors that are Muslim and believe in our potentials…hey, I just had an idea: Halal Shark Tank!
Haha, if only. And you manage two businesses. You’re not just selling hair care, you also make delicious flavored crackers. Tell us about Lulu’s Halal crackers.
Oh, I love what I do. I love baking the crackers. It is when I feel most connected with Allah (SWT.) I find it intriguing how from simple ingredients, such as, flour, water and yeast, you have this canvas in front of you, ready for your imagination to come into action.
I feel connected with Allah (SWT) at all times, but to have come up with this recipe and this array of flavors that, although already existent in the market, it is still very unique because it’s my own personal touch based on the two rich cultures that surrounded me growing up. It must be Allah (SWT)… it is not me at all. He instructs me where to stir and I follow with my heart. The most beautiful blessing about the crackers, besides its taste, is when someone compliments me on them. It always feels like it is the first time.
You mentioned it was a hobby at first. What motivated you to turn that hobby into a business?
As a single parent and stay-at-home mom, the options aren’t many. I started baking because it made me feel good. Baking practically took me out of depression. No matter how you want to put it or describe it, divorce is never easy. I started baking and posting pictures of the crackers into my snap feed. Little by little, friends would start requesting. Since then I haven’t looked back.
I’D RATHER NOT BE IN ANY TYPE OF BUSINESS IF IT REQUIRES CHEATING ON THE CONSUMER, ESPECIALLY WITH INGREDIENTS.
All I know is that I’m on a mission. My mission is to represent the two cultures I feel connected with, especially the Palestinian, and bring forth a healthy snack for our children, for all of us. I’d rather not be in any type of business if it requires cheating on the consumer, especially with ingredients. I make things that I and my own family consume.
One of the flavors of the crackers is za’atar (an herb blend.) I love working with it and it’s amazing how much I’m learning about all the types of za’atars and quality and which ones bake better. I started with four flavors:
1) Za’atar & Thyme
2) Green Olives & Rosemary
3) Black Olives & Thyme
4) Sun Dried Tomatoes & Oreganos.
I’ve since added two new flavors, dukkah (an Arabic blend) and thyme/parmesan/rosemary.
Wow, it seems like you spend a lot of time coming up with different flavors. But you also have two-year-old twins. How do you manage your businesses with two little kids?
That may be the hardest question to answer here. It’s tough. There’s so much one must do as a mother, especially single mothers, and it’s never enough. You’ll always feel short at the end of the day. I always say to myself Alhamdulilah (thank God) because He witnesses everything and Alhamdulilah our intentions do count.
Now the twins are two years old and I don’t recognize their pattern anymore. They trick me every day with something new. I have to wait until they sleep so I can work. This means one thing: my sleep is shortened. But this is what you do when you’re the single provider – and listen, and I understand and comprehend that this is only momentary. I started from zero. There’s only one way out, and it is up. It might take days, months, or years…I don’t know. What I do know is that what I’m doing is halal sustenance and my hands are up, rather than down begging. Alhamdulilah.
What advice would you give to other women who wants to start a business?
My advice to anyone is to listen to your feelings. We are only here in this world for such a short time. As we grow older, we tend to look back into our past, we all do that, and regret some actions or lack thereof. I’d rather take the risk and fail and take the risk and fail again and again, than look back and resent myself for not being courageous enough to honor my own feelings and dreams. One thing I plan to raise my children free of is the concept of other people’s opinions. I want them to do what makes them happy.
ONE THING I PLAN TO RAISE MY CHILDREN FREE OF IS THE CONCEPT OF OTHER PEOPLE’S OPINIONS.
So the bottom line is, just do it – who cares?!
Do you think it’s important to be a strong role model for your kids?
Absolutely. I wish I had this many role models that were Muslim and women and beautiful growing up. I feel we are so privileged to be in the existence of terrific, real-life role models like Linda Sarsour, Amani Al-Khatahtbeh, Ibtihaj Mohammad, Noor Tagouri, just to name a few.
And we can’t forget our sisters who aren’t necessarily in the spotlight in any shape or form, yet make the biggest contribution on a daily grind. And we must show our children that success isn’t only if one is a doctor, lawyer or engineer. True success is finding inner peace and happiness.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
There couldn’t be any more honorable achievement today than to be interviewed by Muslim Girl. The magazine is what my generation would dream and talk about. If we want our Ummah to excel, there must be more of this: Love, respect, appreciation and knowledge. We must stand together and encourage each other to bring the best out of ourselves.
Thank you from the depths of my heart for giving me the mic!
You can find Abura’s haircare products at her website, Farashe Life. For a taste of her halal gourmet crackers, follow her on Instagram, at@lulusgourmetcrackers, or reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.