Both Amin and I visited the Islamic Society of North America conference last week during the fourth of July weekend. It was extremely exciting and busy. We left Minneapolis Thursday morning so we could make it in time for booth setup on Friday morning. The drive is about 7 to 8 hours from Minneapolis to Chicago. On our way, we picked up freshly printed books from our printers - EBA printing - in Milwaukee. The EBA team has been great so far, they gave us a good price and we love that they are close to our home. Not only that, but the team did an exceptional job on the print and had a very fast turn around time!
We arrived into Chicago near 8pm, and went for dinner with our friend Maryam Eskandari. Maryam is an architect and recent graduate from Harvard/MIT and was presenting at ISNA about her research on Islamic Centers across the country and how they are designed for Men and Women. I was astonished to find that many Islamic Centers across the country do not provide as much space to Women as they do to men. To learn more about her work please check out her website.
Friday morning we setup shop at our booth at ISNA. We put up a very bright and colorful display (Check Out the Pictures Below). In addition, both Amin and I took turns wearing our bear mascot costume. The kids just loved it. The day was very long and exhausting, but we were very excited to see the support for Noor Kids. We established relationships with hundreds of collaborators and customers in just one day. In addition, we were lucky to establish relationships with book-sellers across the country like Khatoons, IQRA, Islamic-Book-Store.com, Al-Kitab, and Sound Vision!
We had some great neighbors - Noor Vitamins, Labayk (unscented soaps and shampoo for Hajj/Umrah and halaal cosmetics), and Nutrition Enhancement. Throughought the day we were looking after each other's booths while also learning more about each others Businesses. Amina Chaudary from Labbayk really helped us figure out how to setup for ISNA - Thank you so much!
On Saturday and Sunday, we started early in the morning (8am) setting up our booth and meeting our supporters. Around mid day we were joined by a good friend - Khaled El-Sawaf. Khaled is also from Minneapolis and had joined to help us spread awareness on Noor Kids. We were extremely lucky to have him there, because he is very outgoing and energizing, and was able to draw crowds to our booth. He's a marketing aficionado and helped launch a few other Muslim based companies like Muslim Tees! He also brought along Aman Ali, who is a very popular story teller and comedian. Aman took charge and dressed up as the bear and put on a dance for the kids (we will be posting the video soon!). Also he led story time sessions later on Sunday and the kids loved it.
On Saturday we also had an opportunity to present at the Council of American Muslim Professionals (CAMP) panel on entrepreneurship, where we had a chance to talk about Noor Kids. We were joined by Lubna Ahmad and Ashraf Motiwala, who have years of experience in launching businesses. It was truly an honor to be on a panel with both of them!
We also had a chance to meet Mansur Ahmad, who is the founder of Weekend Learning, which is a book series for Islamic Schools. It was inspiring talking to him about his journey building Weekend Learning with his brother as a part time activity a few years ago, and having it blossom into some of the most popular books across the country. He talked about how they started extremely simple and they just persevered. He also provided us guidance on how we could increase awarneess of Noor Kids by partnering with distributors!
Later we had a chance to go out to dinner with Khaled, Maryam, Lubna, and Aman. We discussed Aman's project 30 days and 30 mosques, and realized we were in the presence of a celebrity! We also had a chance to overhear a couple who were in talks of getting married. We think it was there first time meeting, and it was interesting seeing them interact. I guess that is part of the ISNA experience?
By Monday we were extremely exhausted. We had done 14 hour days Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. We closed the weekend by thanking all of our supporters and packing up. But before we left, we stopped by Khan's BBQ on Devon Street. Actually we were planning on doing Sabri Nehari, but the street was closed due to some suspicious activity, so we decided instead to go the Khans. It was mighty delicious!
We made our way home and now we are trying to get connected with all of our loyal supporters across the country! Thank you for making the trip such a success!
Checkout videos and photos on our facebook fan page -