At SSWH we are keen to promote upcoming everyday women who are following through their passions and dreams by doing great things, in a particular area of their lives – work, life, campaigning, business or the creative sector. These women are making a difference, changing lives, and their actions are like ripples in a pond, causing a cascade of change.
We couldn’t wait to interview Siddika Jaffer, apart from running Halal Dinning Club she is also a mother and super nice. After a delay at our end we are very excited to finally showcase how awesome she is! (Our thanks to Siddika for her incredible patience).
I was born in Kenya and moved to London at the age of 10 and think I always had an entrepreneurial streak in me. I would always dream up inventions and think of how things could be better. I spent the first part of my career as a Strategy Consultant in the consumer goods and retail sector advising companies on new product and consumer trends and helping them launch new products or enter new markets. I have worked across multi-national companies as well as consulting companies managing global teams. All the while I had a young family. In 2012, we moved to Singapore and lived in there for almost 4 years before coming back to London. My three boys are growing up quick with two of them in their teens. Whilst I loved consulting, I yearned for the opportunity to create a venture of my own that would really make a different to people’s lives and my first venture was a fashion boutique where clothes could be customised to each individual client’s preferences. Every purchase had a link to a charitable cause. My second is Halal Dining Club.
Whilst I loved consulting, I yearned for the opportunity to create a venture of my own that would really make a different to people’s lives and my first venture was a fashion boutique where clothes could be customised to each individual client’s preferences. Every purchase had a link to a charitable cause. My second is Halal Dining Club.
Halal Dining Club was born out of a need for a reliable and digital solution to help find good halal restaurants, book them, review them and earn rewards all in one place. I love to travel and I love food but I found it would take hours of time to research where the good halal dining options were in each country and often times, the information on the apps that were available to facilitate this was outdated or incomplete. At the same time, I wanted to create a sustainable business and wanted to add value to the restaurant owners by giving them a platform where they could become visible to halal diners and also help them with their digital marketing and loyalty programs to help them keep their customers coming back. It was also really important to me to have social impact at the core of what we did so we designed a business model where for every review that a user leaves or an online booking they make through us, they get points which can be donated to charity. The notion of dining out but knowing you are feeding someone else in the world at the same time is a really important success metric for us.
I started my startup journey in 2015 and by the Grace of God we have achieved some notable milestones. We were the first halal food tech company to raise a round of funding on an equity crowdfunding platform – our round was one of the fastest rounds in 2016. Our Android app when it launched 2017 reached the top of the Playstore above food tech giants like Deliveroo and we were also recognised by Forbes as being one of the Top 5 Muslim Startups. In December, I was honoured to be recognised as one of the Top 500 Global Leaders in the Islamic Economy.
To anyone considering a startup, the first question to ask yourself is am I solving a real problem and why do I want to solve this problem. Most startups fail, in fact the failure rate is as high as 90% so when you start, be very aware that it is not because those startup founders weren’t good or capable but that there are a whole number of moving parts that can determine success or failure. A lot of people confuse running a small business with a startup – the two are very different beasts and have different paths for how you conduct business so be very clear about which path you want to choose. A startup necessitates growing the business rapidly and being able to secure funding to facilitate that fast growth and the team needing to consistently deliver against those growth metrics.
I would say the most important element of being an entrepreneur is to alway be learning and to act with speed. Be willing to take risks and make quick decisions based on imperfect information.
I found starting my own venture very exciting. I get a thrill out of thinking about all the different aspects of the business you have to put into place and creating a vision and then breaking that down into small actionable tasks to build towards that vision. It is extremely hard work and you know that the accountability stops with you. In a large corporate environment, you have the benefit of being amongst highly capable people (most of the time) with a good deal of resources and possibly also a footprint of what it takes to be successful and most of all you get paid! In a startup, you have to assemble a team and sell them a vision and a reason to join you because you probably won’t be able to afford paying anyone at the start. They are very different environments and whilst I miss the safety net of corporates sometimes, I also love being able to see how we have grown something from nothing in such a short space of time with hardly any resource.
I am highly motivated by making a difference to other people’s lives. I am inspired by entrepreneurs and people who have changed the way we live for the better through their inventions and persistence. Most of all I am inspired by people who help those most in need.
There are 3 books I consider compulsory reading for any entrepreneur:
1 – The Lean Startup by Eric Ries
2 – Zero to One by Peter Thiel
3 – The Hard Thing about Hard Things – Ben Horowitz
It’s funny, I get asked this all the time. I always say being a mother makes me a better entrepreneur. Yes parenting is a full time job but the skills of juggling multiple demands on your time, training which need gets dealt with first, keeping going despite the lack of sleep and the ability to keep smiling through the pain of it all are all things every mother has become skilled at. Having a startup is in some ways like having a newborn baby – exhausting but rewarding!
On the question of juggling family life and running a startup, I am pretty good with having us all organised and making sure things run to schedule and that everyone knows their part in making that work. I also am very fortunate to have the support of my extended family whom I can call on to step in for me when something goes out of whack! But there is no question that you do have to make sacrifices – whether that is time you might have spent relaxing or unwinding, being available to go out for social occasions and sleep!
It is really important to have your close family support you – even if they don’t understand exactly what you’re doing or think you are crazy for giving up a stable and good career, just knowing that they will support you if you need them is very important. The other thing that doesn’t get talked about much is that being a startup founder can be extremely lonely so it is important to find a mentor – ideally someone who has grown a startup from nothing and can relate to the difficulties and help you find solutions.
There are lots of startup networking sessions but I think the best thing is to find a co-working space shared by other startups – you will feel supported and surrounded by people fighting the same fight as you daily.
Our sincere thanks to Siddika for answering our questions!
Interview by Akeela Ahmed (follow her @AkeelaAhmed)
From our perspective all women are pretty awesome, so please do not be disheartened if you do not feature in this series – instead email us and we would be delighted to interview you! firstname.lastname@example.org