5 Lessons I Learned From the American Muslim Consumer Conference

I attended this year’s fifth annual American Muslim Consumer Conference, which aims to bring various business owners together to discuss the global outlook and rising influence of Islamic capital. This year, AMCC published a study on the American Muslim Market, which provided rich fact-based statistics needed to govern and firmly establish a Muslim business. The speaker lineup was very diverse this year and every session brought me closer and closer to understanding the true art and potential held within the American Muslim market.

Despite the fact that I’m a pre-med exercise science major, I still extracted golden, flexible lessons that are applicable to my life regardless of what path I decide to take.

1. Money Talks

From the very first session of this conference, it slowly dawned on me: I lack sufficient knowledge about finance and business. My university requires a certain amount of electives throughout a student’s undergraduate career, which include classes like writing, science, and history. However, finance and classes regarding monetary organization are not required, let alone part of the core curriculum. As we grow older, knowing how to balance checkbooks, spend wisely, and financially depend upon ourselves will truly be a challenge if we are not granted the proper education. Coming out of this conference, I realized that even as a pre-med student who will spend a good portion of the next ten years studying the human body, I still need to know how to deal with finances efficiently.

2. Faith Goes Hand-in-Hand With Business

The beautiful thing about Islam is that it presents to us everything we need to know to run a clean, trustworthy Islamic business. What better guideline is there to building a business than the Qur’an, along with the teachings of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH)? This conference enlightened and assured me that no matter what the case, Islamic standards will always guarantee a healthy business. This is simply because Islam is built on a foundation of purity and honesty, meaning all business transactions should be clean, unearned interest should be prohibited, and customers should be satisfied and dealt with loyally.

3. Strive and You’ll Survive

A highlight of this year’s conference was a “Shark Tank”-type competition, where several Muslim entrepreneurs showcased their businesses to a panel of judges and competed for a $10,000 monetary prize. The winning business, LaunchGood, really struck a cord with me. A couple of years back, this same business — at that time younger and still learning — had presented itself to judges at AMCC and didn’t receive the recognition it was striving for. Fast forward to 2014: LaunchGood’s owner reapplied to present his business yet again, and this time received enormous positive feedback from both the judges and the crowd.

Watching this all before my eyes, I realized one important thing: the struggles that you face as an individual should only refine you and push you forward — and never set you back. If this business owner simply absorbed the criticism two years ago, he would have never excelled. But, because he embraced it constructively and strived once again turn an idea into reality, he not only survived but thrived both personally and financially.

4. Community Building is Necessary

I was pleasantly surprised when I learned that the Executive Global Grocery Coordinator of Whole Foods market was speaking at this Muslim conference. I was initially shocked because I expected all speakers to strictly be Muslim. However, I was also pleased, because I never believed a conference strictly for Muslims would be a productive conference. A huge part of growing an Islamic business is being able to communicate with other religions and parties in order to flourish while meeting the needs of different groups. I personally admire Whole Foods for being an all-organic store, and, as a frequent Whole Foods shopper, I was happy to hear that someone was representing the company at AMCC. I was even happier to find out that Whole Foods sponsors a line of halal meat products as well.

I strongly believe that the American Muslim market can and will flourish, but only if Muslims are willing to build consumer communities that address both Muslims and non-Muslims.

5. Criticize With Creativity

Magatte Wade’s keynote speech was very inspiring. This young woman is the founder and CEO of Tiossan, a a high-end skin care products line based on indigenous Senegalese recipes and ingredients. She is also a writer for The Huffington Post, Guardian, and Barron’s, and has given numerous TED talks in her young career. Her astounding message to the audience was short, yet powerful: criticize with creativity.

Wade exclaimed that numerous Muslim businesses strictly focus on addressing the Muslim audience and creating only “Muslim” products, without establishing a bridge for other people to partake in the American Muslim market. She explained that instead of producing a thousand abayas, for example, Muslim clothing businesses should produce innovative, stylish long coats that work as both an abaya and a coat for others to enjoy.

In this way, the Muslim community gracefully ties itself into society, while gradually bringing other communities to appreciate — not fear — us.