Five Muslims put their creative minds into businesses

Displayed is a box of jewelry from Shireen Shaaban’s business, Iswartek. Courtesy of Shireen Shaaban.

Whether a student needs to accessorize an outfit, decorate the room for a special event, give a thoughtful present or have a flowery photo background for a special event, these local Columbus businesses owned by Muslim Americans can help.

Muslim Ohio State students and alumni honor their roots by representing their communities, exercising their creativity and inspiring others. With beauty, culture, tradition and childhood memories, five Muslims decided to put their creative minds into businesses — Iswartek, MQ Creations, Humraha Gifts and Columbus Flower Walls.

Iswartek by Shireen Shaaban

Shireen Shaaban, a 2022 Ohio State alumna in business administration, said she was inspired by childhood nostalgia to create a handmade semi-fine jewelry business, Iswartek. She said whenever she returns to Damascus, Syria, where her grandparents immigrated from, she always heads to her favorite jewelry store.

“It would make me feel like I was a little kid in a candy shop,” Shaaban said. “In my head, I would always think of specific designs of what I would love to have as jewelry, but it never clicked that I could actually make those jewelry pieces until COVID hit.”

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Shaaban said she got the idea to make bracelets and went straight to her local craft store for supplies. After a few Instagram posts of the bracelets she created, Shaaban said her friends were interested in buying some from her, and from that, she created Iswartek.

Iswartek strives to work ethically and sustainably, Shaaban said. “Iswartek ” means “your bracelet” in Arabic, as she said she began the business selling bracelets and eventually expanded to necklaces, earrings, rings and anklets. The jewelry is inspired by Shaaban’s Middle Eastern roots, according to the website.

MQ Creations by Maryam Qadeer

In 2016, Maryam Qadeer, a first-year in computer science at Columbus State, said she began posting arts and crafts on her Instagram but decided to put her creative energy into customizable South Asian-inspired event decor made for weddings, bridal showers, baby showers and more.

Beginning at Ohio State as a pre-medical student, Qadeer said she realized it was something she didn’t enjoy doing every day. After getting rejected from Ohio State’s design program, she said she was completely crushed but decided it wouldn’t stop her from pursuing her dream of creating art.

“I felt like that was kind of my spark, the motivation to prove to myself that I could actually do that,” Qadeer said. “After my sister’s wedding. I posted a bunch of stuff I made on TikTok, and it kind of blew up on there. I feel like that kind of pushed me into my business.”

Qadeer said she has nearly 20,000 followers on TikTok just from posting her art. She sells her art on Etsy, and the products include customizable vinyl signs, event invitations, resin trays, Mehndi plates and more.

Humraha Gifts by Amraha Nadeem-Qureshi and Humza Qureshi

Amraha Nadeem-Qureshi, a 2018 Ohio State alumna in neuroscience, and her husband, Humza Qureshi, were looking forward to celebrating their first Eid together — one of the two Islamic holidays celebrated by Muslims worldwide — as newlyweds. After struggling to find the perfect gifts for their families, they said they decided to make their own thoughtful gifts inspired by Muslim culture, which led them to Humraha Gifts — the business name being a fusion of the married couple’s names.

“We started with this business with a goal of giving people the perfect personalized gift that they can give to their loved ones,” Nadeem-Qureshi said.

Qureshi said his wife is responsible for all the creative ideas and designs of products, and his expertise is in eCommerce and marketing. They make everything under the roof of their home, he said. Their products include T-shirts, sweatshirts, hoodies, keychains, mugs, shadowboxes, tote bags and more.

The business’s TikTok has almost 250,000 followers, and on the platform, they share their products, behind the scenes looks into managing a small business and how they want to represent Muslim youth in a positive light. Their business can be found here.

Columbus Flower Walls by Saeema Syed

Saeema Syed, a first-year in law at Ohio State, created Columbus Flower Walls in December 2021 after struggling to find the perfect wedding decorations for her older sister, who was getting married at the time.

“Finding options for flower walls and decor companies was extremely expensive within the Columbus area, and I didn’t see many Muslims doing it,” Syed said. “I wanted to step out, and I got a couple of flower walls. I wanted to service the Columbus community for whatever special events they have with high-quality silk flower walls.”

Syed said she wanted to have readymade flower walls for the broader community at an affordable rate, and she wanted to make customers’ special events more memorable and add elegance to their milestones and celebrations.

The Columbus Flower Walls’ Instagram page displays all the decorative walls the business offers, which can be found with this link and can be ordered via email [email protected]

Five Muslims put their creative minds into businesses