It’s sometimes said that the best ideas are born from our own needs. You want to buy, learn or experience something and it doesn’t exist and hey presto! A gap in the market is found.
You may recognise Zohra Khaku from the recent controversial BBC documentary ‘Muslims Like Us’. Much talked about in the press and on social media, the show gave Khaku the added exposure she needed to maximise on her business ideas.
But Khaku started much earlier than that. In her mid-twenties, just a few years after graduating, she launched HalalGems.com. The idea came from a desire to find great halal restaurants around the country – and pass on that knowledge. Khaku was a big food fan and used vouchers on sites like Groupon to save some money when eating out. But there was one stumbling block each time she wanted to book – a lack of information about whether the restaurant served halal food.
And that’s where the proverbial light-bulb-above-the-head moment happened. Halal Gems is helping thousands of people find tasty halal eateries but it’s also becoming much more than that – Khaku wants the site to challenge people’s perceptions of that halal means, and what it actually is.
Khaku was in the news again in July as she hosted the first ever Street Eats, described as ‘the biggest halal street food festival in Britain’. It happened at the end of July in East London and brought together people from communities across the capital to enjoy some of the world’s best street food. It also raised money for people living in poverty in the UK and overseas.
What’s great about Khaku’s initiative is that she saw a gap in the market, had the confidence to go for it and, well, went for it. She’s bringing a part of Muslim culture further into the mainstream and challenging perceptions of what it means to eat halal food. It’s not just a business, it’s a force for positive social change. And we’re all benefitting from it.
As the article about Street Eats above says, Khaku’s initiative ‘is part of a boom in the alcohol-free halal dining scene, driven by image-conscious, young people with disposable incomes who want an Instagrammable menu that matches their tastes and values.’
We’re all in for that!
Khaku is fast becoming a leading figure in a new wave of entrepreneurship by Muslims in Britain. Her work is having a real impact and helping to familiarise aspects of Muslim life to non-Muslims around the country as well as make it easier for us all to find the best halal food available.
Stay up to date with Zohra Khaku and Street Eats via the website.