Updated: Jun 2, 2019
Two Palestinian-American Memphian mothers, Suha Dweik and Saja Farrah created an online decor company, Kanzi, that features festive products to celebrate Muslim holidays including Eid, Ramadan, Hajj, and more. A company that prioritizes giving back and being environmentally friendly, Kanzi’s products are offered in shops across the U.S. and in the U.A.E.. Throughout this interview, Suha and Saja reveal their inspiration and motivation in creating Kanzi and how motherhood has been instrumental in helping them design their products.
Interviewed by Mariam Khayata
For members of our audience that haven’t had the opportunity to meet you both, can you each briefly introduce yourselves?
I am Suha Dweik, a Muslim, Palestinian-American who has been living in Memphis for over 17 years. I am currently a full time graduate student, getting my masters in Clinical Mental Health Counseling. I also serve on the board of the Memphis Islamic Center. I have two little ones who are six and five years old. After the birth of my first child, Kanzi organically emerged as a creative outlet for me to start long lasting holiday traditions with my family. At first, it was just a hobby but Alhamdulillah it became an official company around two years ago.
I am Saja Farrah, also Palestinian-American. I was born and raised in Tacoma, Washington and am currently studying Islamic Studies. I moved to Memphis around five years ago when I got married. Moving from the West to the South was a pretty big culture shock for me but Alhamdulillah, the community here is so great! The last couple of years, we officially launched Kanzi and I am honestly so surprised with where life has led us with this company. Kanzi has definitely pushed me out of my comfort zone, taught me so much, and given me many opportunities to meet and reach out to so many people.
What is Kanzi and what was your main source of inspiration/motivation to launch this online store?
Kanzi, which translates to “my treasure” in Arabic, is a brand featuring elevated Muslim holiday decor, including products designed for Ramadan, Eid, Hajj and more. Shipping worldwide and receiving orders from six continents, with the exception of Antarctica, Kanzi’s products are in demand globally.
While designing our pieces, we love to keep a minimalistic, simple, and elegant aesthetic. We want our products to complement our customer’s existing home decor. In addition, we make an effort to be environmentally friendly. Much of our shipping and packaging uses recyclable material or is made from recycled materials and many of our pieces are reusable. This aligns with our goal of producing products that allow customers to shop with a purpose.
We strongly believe that high style and trendy design should be available for all major holidays. By establishing Kanzi, we wanted to make Ramadan and Eid decor accessible to everyone. We are working hard to feature our products in different stores because we realize that a lot of people want these pieces available in their local markets. They want to be able to physically touch and see the products, and we are working to make that happen InshaAllah.
For us, Kanzi is all about embracing your Muslim identity. We want our kids to be confident in their religion, their holidays, their traditions and customs. The name Kanzi (My treasure) was chosen because a big goal of ours is to help families create new traditions or “treasures” around Ramadan & Eid that can be passed on from one generation to the next. By creating these holiday decor products, we hope to embed in the new generation the confidence and love for Islam and Islamic holidays. We want our kids to grow up and be proud of their Muslim identity. As simple as it might seem, having Muslim representation in the decor industry is so essential and makes a huge difference.
Growing up in Muslim-American families, both of our moms were always very creative and tried to establish festive traditions for the Muslim holidays. Even before Pinterest, we remember making craft lanterns, putting them up, having elaborate suhoors, and exciting joyful Eid mornings. All of our home decorations back in the day were always handmade or discounted Christmas decor.
Living in the U.S. in a predominantly Christian society, we always felt the presence of a holiday season during Christmas or Hanukkah or Easter. On the other hand, it was more difficult to feel that same spirit and joy for our Muslim holidays because mainstream stores never provided Muslim oriented festive products. There would always be products for Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Easter, Quinceañeras, etc. but never for Eid or Ramadan. As we grew up, we saw that there was a need for these products to be created.
Ever since we launched Kanzi, we’re continuously reminded of how much demand there is for Muslim holiday products. When people see our products, they get really excited and ask where have these been? We understand that not everyone has the time to hand make Ramadan and Eid crafts for their homes. And so by creating these elegant, reusable pieces that are very quick to install, we hope to make it easier for Muslim families to decorate their homes for the holiday season and make their homes look beautiful and festive.
Do you think that motherhood has given you an advantage in creating Kanzi?
Motherhood has definitely given us the upper hand with our designs and inspiration. Since our target consumers are Muslim moms, our products are consistently inspired by the needs that we notice within our personal lives and by talking with other moms. Having that inside knowledge allows us to design our products and ensure that they are easy to set up. At Kanzi, we are always open to finding better ways to improve our products and create new decor pieces that meet the needs of all Muslims.
With every purchase from Kanzi, a 5% donation goes to the nonprofit charity Rise Against Hunger. What prompted/motivated you to dedicate a portion of your revenue to a charity and why did you support Rise Against Hunger in particular?
Ramadan and Islam, in general, teaches us to constantly help others and not to be wasteful. We wanted to support Rise Against Hunger, as their mission to end world hunger is so connected with the spirit and concept of Ramadan and our religion. It saddens us that world hunger is still a global issue in this time and age, and we feel strongly about working to eradicate it. We feel that it is our responsibility as Muslims to always find ways to give back and we felt that donating a portion of each purchase is our small way of doing that.
In terms of future plans, can you share a little about the future of Kanzi - what your hopes and aspirations are for your company?
Going forward, we want our products to be in more stores and locations around the world iA. As of right now, our products are carried at 17 Berkshire, both locations of Muddy’s Bake Shop, the Butter Bear Shop in Michigan, Jarir bookstore in CA, and My Little RUHM in the U.A.E.. Our goal is to be in more locations so that we can make it easier for people who prefer not to online shop to access our products, inshaAllah.
We have been so grateful and happy to be received so warmly by stores across the world. We hope that more mainstream companies want to feature the work of small businesses in the future.
We also love working with schools, libraries, nonprofits, colleges, teachers, etc. We love being of assistance to anyone who requests our help or contribution. We really enjoyed being involved in several fundraisers and silent auctions this year and having our products used as a way to raise money for a good cause.
Do you have any advice that you’d like to share with readers who may also want to start up their own business?
Our biggest advice is to just go ahead and start but know that there will be a lot of work, many ups and downs and so much learning along the way. We both come from a creative mindset and were directly thrown into the business side of things with little preparations, but that has allowed us to learn and grow so much. If there is something that you are passionate about then go for it and create your business, you just need to start and then remain persistent.
If we told ourselves 5 years ago that this is where we would be now, we wouldn't have believed it. You just need to keep the end goal in your mind, keep working for it and it’ll eventually manifest itself, InshaAllah.
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