Surmounting a Clothing Barrier for Female Muslim Athletes
Leah Kodner, Library Specialist from the James J. Hill Center, interviews entrepreneurs and 1 Million Cup presenter Fatimah Hussein. As seen in the Pioneer Press Startup Showcase on July 1, 2017.
The National Federation of State High School Associations’ report, “High School Athletics Participation Survey 2015-2016” finds that sports participation is growing among high school students.
While male students experienced a 33 percent increase in participation between 1992 and 2016, female students experienced an even greater increase of 66 percent during that same time period.
Sports participation is clearly an important part of student life, but for some students, participation is difficult. Participation can be especially difficult for Muslim girls. It can be hard for these girls to balance their religious and cultural desire to dress modestly and cover their hair while participating in vigorous physical activity.
Traditional hijabs are not designed for strenuous activity and can impede an athlete’s performance. Fatimah Hussein spent years working on ways to get Muslim girls more involved with sports, including setting up girls-only gym time. Eventually, she came up with the idea to create hijabs specifically designed to withstand the rigors of sports while still being modest and fashionable, and ASIYA Modest Activewear was born.
Name: Fatimah Hussein
City you live in: Minneapolis
City of birth: Mogadishu, Somalia
High school attended: Roosevelt High School, Minneapolis
College attended: St. Mary’s University, Minneapolis
Name of company: ASIYA Modest Activewear
Business Start Date: January 2016
Number of Employees: 3
Number of Customers: 1,000+
Q. What led to this point?
A. I was born in Somalia and moved with my family to Minnesota when I was 6-years old. As a teenager, I started volunteering at a local community center, which is where I saw that girls were not going into the gym or trying sports nearly as much as boys were. I formed a nonprofit, the G.I.R.L.S. Program (Girls Initiative in Recreation and Leisurely Sports) to provide girls-only gym time several nights a week. I have continued my volunteer work, focused on helping our community of East African girls gain access to gym time and sports.
Q. What is your business?
A. ASIYA is a modest activewear company created to help enable more Muslim girls and women to be physically active and participate in sports, while upholding their religious and cultural beliefs. We are the first U.S.-based company to create sports hijabs focused on helping more youth get involved in sports.
Our first line of products are the sports hijabs. These products were designed by Muslim girls for Muslim girls, created and tested for top sports performance and intense physical activity.
ASIYA will be coming out with a line of activewear tops and bottoms, and also with swim hijabs later this year.
Q. Where do you go for help when you need it?
A. We have a great group of mentor and volunteer advisers who have been great sounding boards, and they have helped us navigate a variety of business challenges.
Q. What is the origin of the business?
A. I founded ASIYA in 2016, after spending the prior decade supporting Muslim girls in athletics as a volunteer in Minneapolis. I had formed the G.I.R.L.S. Program. The girls in this program wanted to go on to play sports in their school and community sports teams, and they worked with myself, community members, and community partners to design sports hijabs and apparel that would allow them to play while staying true to their cultural desire to dress modestly….READ FULL ARTICLE
You can hear from startups like this one each Wednesday, 9-10 a.m. at the James J. Hill Center during 1 Million Cups St. Paul. The James J. Hill Center is a nonprofit in downtown St. Paul that provides access to business research, educational programming and a place to work. The Hill is open to the public 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Thursday. To keep updated on what startup is presenting next or to apply to present, visit 1millioncups.com/stpaul.