By Rumina Rizvi
Raana Smith began creating Islamic stationery products at the tender age of eight when she wrote Eid Mubarak with a permanent black marker on a plain ribbon purchased at K-Mart. As a child of the 80’s, Raana longed for fun, classy ways to celebrate Muslim holidays and special occasions. Her love lasted into adulthood as she started designing greeting cards and printed ribbons for the two Eids.
People loved the gifts and cards they received so much that Raana started producing cards and ribbons in higher quantities to offer to her friends and family. Slowly, she added a product or two every year to much customer appreciation. In 2001, Raana started Silver Envelope.
Today, with a product line that includes greeting cards, invitations, wrapping paper and gift bags, scrapbook art, buttons, balloons, and much more, her hobby has turned into what something of a service to the Muslim community. Silver Envelope today employs people who work at their offices in Richmond, St. Louis, and Doha, Qatar.
Muslim Moms of Canada to talked to this enterprising lady as part of our Mompreneur series.
Can you please tell our readers a little bit about yourself?
I’m an American Muslim with a passion for design, Islamic Art and paper. I love any type of paper product–everything from paper cups to games and, of course, stationery. I was born in the early 70’s to a Pakistani mother and an American father. I grew up in a very small town in Virginia – we had cows in our back yard!
I found that I didn’t quite fit in to either culture and decided to just do my own thing, march to the beat of my own drum and make myself happy. I have a degree in Political Science and worked as a technical writer during the internet boom of the early 2000’s. I love traveling especially to Islamic historical sites. My favorite places so far have been Andalusia and Morocco.
How did you come up with this idea? What inspired you?
My father became Muslim before meeting my mother but we still visited our Christian relatives on traditional American/Christian holidays. Talk about a blending of cultures! I was exposed to both sets of holidays and enjoyed the fun and festiveness surrounding the Christian holidays. Ramadan and Eid didn’t have the same feeling for me but that could have been for several reasons. So, at the age of eight, I started making my own Eid ribbon–each Ramadan, I’d buy red satin ribbon at K-Mart, unroll it, write Eid Mubarak across the whole roll, and then use it to wrap gifts. I knew that we only had two holidays to celebrate and I wanted to make it a fun time for family.
After finishing college and moving to California with my husband, this idea struck me again. Wanting to make Ramadan and Eid special, and not wanting to use Christmas cards and decor, I set out to make a few cards and ribbons for our holidays. They were well received and so I added a product or two each year to see how they would do. What started out as a hobby and has now turned into a business with over 150 skus and operations in two countries. However, our goal has always been the same: Inspire and revive the Islamic spirit in people, especially our kids, through celebrations. It provides a sense of importance and being part of a bigger community.
Is entrepreneurship for everyone? Were there any obstacles that you faced when you decided to pursue becoming a Mompreneur?
I don’t know if entrepreneurship is for everyone. You have to be willing to take risks and realize that you may not get it right every time. I started the company in 2001 and didn’t welcome my son until 2010. I had a good 9 years of running the business without being a mom, but I run the company today the same way I did back then.
The biggest obstacles I faced were in the beginning, with the actual products. Tasteful cards and ribbons were not seen in the Muslim market. Nothing was! It took a little time for people to catch up with the idea and when they did, Alhamdulillah, the idea caught on!
What are the biggest challenges you face as a mompreneur?
I think every mom has a work/life balance struggle. My challenge these days is being self-aware and mindful of my time with my son. I don’t have as much time with him as I used to (because it’s the busy season) so when I am with him, I hide my phone and am present in the moment. I’m not tweeting photos or talking to other people, I’m just there with him playing, painting, or sword fighting like knights.
As a mompreneur, how do you approach risk taking? And how does being a mom factor into your decisions?
I approach risk taking full speed ahead. We have new ventures overseas and things are opening up for us, Alhamdulllah. How does being a mom factor in to things? My time is meticulously scheduled. From the time I drop him off at his pre-school to the time I leave to pick him up, I am focused 100% on work and making the best use of my time.
Is the profession personal? How do you keep a balance between home life and work life?
Again, I’m very focused and I do not socialize in the day while my son’s at school. I may go out with friends once or twice a month in the evenings. But once I’m on my own time, I try to make the most of it. While I’m with friends or family, I’m focused on them. It may be only a 30 minute visit with someone, but I try to make it a focused and fun time!
What are you offering this festive season of Ramadan & Eid ?
We are very excited to offer our Party Kits for Ramadan and Eid. You can find them here. They include decorations, food kits (you add the goodies, we make them pretty), and even party activities like fanoos craft kits and a ‘pin the tail on the donkey’ inspired games.
And last but not the least, what advice can you give to other Mompreneurs?
If there’s something your passionate about, stick with it. Keep doing what you’re doing and never compromise on quality. Always make your intention to please Allah and you will be successful, Insha Allah.
We at Muslimmoms.ca wish her the very best for all her future ventures Insha Allah.
About the author:
Mother to two wonderful kids, Rumina Rizvi works for an Islamic Education Academy, catering to a large community of Muslims, conducting Quranic and Islamic studies. She also works with New Muslim Care Halton Chapter for our New Muslim Revert brothers and sisters and feel sprivileged to be living in this part of world, learning and exploring knowledge of Deen and contributing to her community.