The founders of Asiya are breaking down barriers that prevent Muslim girls from getting active.
Jamie Glover, ’17 MBA, is empowering Muslim women and girls to play sports and get active. Along with business partner Fatimah Hussein, she founded Asiya: a line of culturally appropriate active wear and sports uniforms that enable physical activity without compromising cultural and religious beliefs. Their initial line of sports hijabs will be available in 2017.
“Our dream is to find all of the girls out there who see their brothers playing sports, and remove the barriers that stop them from giving it a try,” says Glover.
Abolishing barriers for girls
The idea for the business grew from University of Minnesota research that showed diverse populations of girls are the least active of all youth—and lack of culturally appropriate attire is a major barrier. In 2015, Hussein joined students from the University’s College of Design to create a line of basketball uniforms for Muslim girls. Inspired by the impact the uniforms made on the players, Hussein sought a mentor to help her turn the idea into a business.
“I know firsthand how playing and competing in sports can transform young lives,” says Monica Nassif, founder and former CEO of Caldrea and Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day, who mentored Hussein. “I saw the Asiya company as a way to ensure girls of all backgrounds are able to run, jump, compete, and stay fit.”
Nassif recognized the potential for the business early on, and reached out to the Carlson School to match Hussein with a student who could bring business expertise to the start-up. The Carlson School Graduate Business Career Center extended the opportunity to Glover.
“The mission behind this start-up grabbed me. They needed someone to really drive the business forward, and I jumped on the chance,” she says.
Learning how to launch a business
Despite lacking start-up experience, the Carlson School has guided Glover through the challenges and triumphs of launching a business. In the STARTUP class—an intensive 2-credit course in which students test business model assumptions and receive recurring feedback from instructors and mentors—she developed the value proposition and examined the market. And in the Ventures Enterprise, she learned entrepreneurship models that formed the foundation for Asiya.
Since the founders joined forces last year, Glover was awarded the $5,000 Sands Fellowship, and Asiya has earned three MN Cup awards: top minority entrepreneur, top woman-led business, and division winner.
“The MN Cup provided so many resources—from presentation training, to connections to mentors in the industry that we're in. It was hugely helpful,” Glover says of her experience participating in the MN Cup: the nation’s largest statewide start-up competition.
"I believe experienced entrepreneurs need to mentor start-ups because we have survived the school of hard knocks. We may be able to help them more quickly see opportunities and challenges as they build the Asiya brand,” says Nassif. “I love to see how a small germ of an idea evolves into a successful company.”
Mapping what’s next
While Glover has not yet decided whether she’ll pursue entrepreneurship full time after she completes her MBA, she’s learned more than she could have imagined from her experience leading Asiya.
“After spending a year on this venture, I definitely have a broader understanding of business and a different approach to tackling challenges,” she says.