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Calling all Aspiring Entrepreneurs!

By: Usman Majid

Tell us a bit about Deenspiration and how this process came about?

“Deenspiration basically came of the back of a project called Ramadan Legacy, which was an app that a team and I made together to help people perform worship in Ramadan. So the idea of creating a platform which is very practical, and gives Muslims a space to go to and learn about their Deen in a fun, engaging way. It’s something that I wanted to do and having the background and the skillset to put it together online, I thought I would turn it into a podcast at first but also a platform where you share blogs, share products like books, and share our resources. Basically, it would be a platform where we give someone a one-stop-shop for learning and engaging, and having something to read, watch, and listen to all whilst self-developing and becoming a better Muslim.

Being exposed to a lot of other upcoming Muslim start – up companies at that time that were doing something similar, something more tech – oriented, it was quite inspiring. Having that in mind as a Muslim, but also being in the Marketing field and knowing the power of taking something online and building it as a platform and a potential Business, both of those together I think are the reasons why I thought ok this was a hobby at first, but I want to take it forward and make it into something quite significant.”

What can people expect from your podcast in terms of people you’ve had on, such as Sheikh Amer Jamil and you’ve also recorded a podcast with Zara Mohammed, will it be more guest-focused or a balance?

“So the vast majority of podcasts will be with a guest insha’Allah. I see myself as more of a presenter, so I like to host the show and give other people the opportunity to come on and teach their knowledge and wisdom. People can expect a range of guests from different parts of the world both men and women, experts, speakers, scholars, regular people and those that have something to teach and stories to share. Ultimately the ethos that I run by is that it’s practicality over theory. Theory is great, motivation is great, getting pumped up for a couple of hours is great however, it’s like ok how do I actually go away and do that thing and that is what I like to balance out. There’s uplifting stuff, there’s the reminders, that’s why we launched our book which was a book that’s called ‘Thirty Top Tips for attaining Khushoo in Prayer’- how to focus on your prayer, and it’s really simple but jampacked with everything you can think of from before, during, and after the prayer to help you focus so it’s about being practical. It’s about giving someone something to look forward to going and implementing in a day and helping them improve as a Muslim and as a result of that ultimately become closer with Allah (SWT).”

What are the main struggles of balancing full-time employment alongside your passion project, both the practical and mental?

“So I think for me personally the biggest struggle is time management and organizing your day. It can be very easy to become consumed in what you do and often times for people their passion project is a lot more fun and enjoyable than their day jobs, and they’ll come home and work on it till the early days of the morning which is fine that is required, that passion is required to kick things off the ground. However, soon it can become a lifestyle and before you know it you are becoming kind of self-obsessed and just work all day which is something that I can relate to on a high level. As a result of that your family time, time for your spirituality, and worship can suffer, so juggling time and having time for yourself is probably one of the biggest struggles. Financially as well, if you don’t have the finance it can be very difficult if you don’t have a team behind you, because you are paying it out your pocket at first and you are investing in money and a huge amount of time.

In terms of mental health being overly consumed, being overly concerned about the small things that don’t really matter in the long run can have a toll on your mental health. For example, being obsessed with success, being obsessed with numbers, being obsessed with what other people are doing, and falling into something called comparison syndrome. These things take time to build and on the road of building it you will develop so many skillsets, but you have to understand that you have to make realistic milestones. So not taking the time to sit back and create a vision, a long-term strategy and a business model, can end up having you run in circles.”

Keeping in mind people who are working, but would like to grow their passion as a side-business – what steps should be taken by an aspiring entrepreneur considering a similar path?

“I think for any entrepreneur launching any passion project or business, one of the first things you need to do is to verify that the idea is actually going to work. So first of all, just taking a step back to be realistic and verify your idea test it out a little bit, speak to friends and family, put some effort into it and see the response. Secondly, not to be caught in the trap of becoming overwhelmed with information, overwhelmed with promises and this whole phenomenon and culture we see of working and working, getting a job and just chasing the dream. Side businesses are side projects which take time to build up, and some people make the very unfortunate mistake of quitting their jobs before it’s reached any significant milestone, without any money in the bank and that means that they’ve now taken a huge risk. So I would say build your business in the evenings and the weekends, and only when it comes to the point where you think its sustainable and you have plenty of money left over to pay at least six months to a years’ worth of bills then I would say at that point you want to get rid of your job and work full time on your business. Otherwise don’t fall for this whole you need to make money real fast, promising yourself these unrealistic dreams that can have a detrimental effect on you, just your whole psyche and mindset so having that mindset of building a foundation and getting results, because results motivate you to keep going.”

What are some self-care tips or things you do to avoid burnout?

“First and foremost, the number one thing we always do as a Muslims is we make sure that our prayer is on point, and not just prayer but try to pray on time and praying with presence is incredibly important. It’s very easy to be mind-less in prayer because your mind is so occupied about what your next task is but training your brain to be able to switch off is incredibly important. Something else which I do, is I regularly exercise a few times per week and I make it a habit to take care of my body. So if that means working out, if that means following strict diets, and waking up at six o’clock in the morning and working out before work, that’s what I’ll do to make sure my body is healthy and its functioning properly. If it’s not, then my brain doesn’t function properly and if that doesn’t function then my projects and my work isn’t functioning either.

Something else which I have been working on is making sure that my sleep routine is on point, sleep is heavily underestimated in terms of your success. Lack of sleep, lack of rest, significantly impacts your brain’s ability to function, it impacts your body. Our body literally starts secreting certain hormones that help us to grow, they help us to relax and recover. So switching off phones half an before bed, picking up a book instead is super important and then in the morning forcing myself not to check anything for at least half an hour or an hour until something is done. There’s a quote that I picked up once which was ‘‘create before you consume’’ so essentially go out and do something before you get lost in consuming social media or whatever, so when you wake up in the morning be pro – active. Unlike, what many people are selling you online, working twenty-four seven, it’s unhealthy and if as a result you suffer mentally and physically it’s not worth it. We have balance in our life and of course the advice of the Prophet (PBUH): ‘‘is to give a third of our time to ourselves, and a third to Allah (S.W.T) a third to our family,’’ which we should insha’Allah try to live by.”

What are some things or people that help you get through difficult times?

“It’s a mix of both things, alone time and time to reflect is important but also to have a very small select set of friends who I can confide in very easily. I think having a support system and having friends just to be honest and real with, being able to vent out your feelings, being able to go out, over cup of coffee or dinner somewhere. Being part of a network of people who care for each other, look out for each other and love each other for Allah’s sake is important and then my family too, so I think both of those for me are important priorities.”

What steps did you take to begin working on this project? You started networking with people, researching the craft, were you attending workshops and training also?

“It was a mixture of having pre – existing skills but I’m a very much a self-starter and if I’m going to learn something I’ll go online and find something, learn it and practice it until I’m good at it. I’ve done that with web design, I’ve done it with videography, with editing. I’ve learnt it’s just a matter of going online or going to the bookstores, finding the best place to learn, and testing it until it’s second nature. I don’t want to sell an idea that things just occur and things just happen, yes people do have natural talent but when you start a business or project will have to learn disciplines that you didn’t already know. That could be management skills, that could be financial skills, that could be very well marketing skills, especially when you are self-employed. You’re the captain of your own ship basically, and you have to know each component, how it works and why it works. I just went online and learnt until eventually, I was bouncing off those ideas with many people. I joined a Facebook group that had entrepreneurs already there as well, that was a great help because I saw other people, other Muslims that were doing amazing work all putting into practice just the same type of techniques, and so it meant that I could physically see examples of other projects doing the same thing if not better and then actually working with them to do the same.”

Give us a quick snippet of a day in the life of Usman so people can get in an insight into the practicality of your craft and passion project

“Nine to Five I’m working, and then I’ll come back home take a bit of a break and then start working again until I fall asleep. It’s very boring, very repetitive and extremely long hours but I enjoy it. Of course in between there’s prayer, it honestly changes almost every single day. So, one evening I might be running a skype call with someone and training them on how to do a particular job, and the next day I might be off to the studio and recording a video for an upcoming podcast. A lot of time is spent networking, contacting speakers, contacting scholars, experts, conversing with them and I’ll spend hours sending emails to them. I spend a lot of my evenings engaging on social media speaking with people, answering questions, answering their emails and putting out posts. A lot of that time is split up between editing work, design work, maintaining a website, I’ll have to edit blogs, write blogs, yea there’s many hats hat come on depends on what is required for that day.”

How could people learn to monetise their craft?  Are there any places that helped you?

“I’m still going through this myself to be honest to get myself to a position where I can be freely operating and self-sustaining, and I would say that if you have got a network in person, and you can connect with other people that are like-minded that are also doing the same thing and have a close group of people who you can bounce ideas off that would be incredible. Again, self-learning is incredibly important so if you haven’t got a skill go and learn it take an online class, take a weekend class or if you generally don’t want to learn something but it has to be done outsource it. Get an assistant, go and pay for whatever you have to pay for, get the work done because at the end of the day you can’t do everything, some people love finance some people hate finance.

Some people are creatives and they’re content people like me, and numbers and data drive them a bit crazy, so hiring someone to do that for you or working with someone like that who can advise you is always advisable. When it comes to information, books, podcasts whatever you need your hands on to learn about something is always advisable because the more you know the better. The online world, the business world, the entrepreneurship world is huge and there’s so much opportunity but there’s not really a one size fits all.”

How do you keep yourself going, how do you keep yourself motivated?

“I think for anyone to do this obsessively and keep going, is that you just have to have a very strong WHY. Why do you get up in the morning, why do you do what you do, without that like it pretty much is a waste of time so you know what is your goal for this job, for this project, where do you want to be in five, ten years time and is what you’re doing now going to help you get there? So your WHY could be something spiritual, it could be a worldly thing, but having that purpose of waking up every morning no matter how bad I fail, I still want to reach this goal, couple that with extreme passion and just wanting to do something really well, that is a great mix of ingredients to make magic happen. Also, having feedback from others because my content is on a public platform, and because the content specifically is designed to help people, getting feedback from them and hearing how it has helped them or how it could help them as well, gives me motivation to go back and think ok that was great but it could be better. My why is to serve people, they are my source of motivation. Being able to see the impact that it has on people is really huge for me.

I mean, I think motivation is a word that people will use but motivation and willpower are things that run out quickly, whereas habits and discipline stay. You could be motivated after going to an event and by the time you get home the motivation has died out. You can be pumped up, you can have willpower but as we know when it comes to the gym or diets or anything, willpower runs out very fast and all it takes is for your favorite Netflix to come out with a new series and there goes your will power to do anything else. However, if you have established a habit a real routine and discipline which you endure each and every single day then it becomes easier to become motivated.”

Read more about Usman and Deenspiration on his website, or follow him on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter!