We are certainly in strange and unchartered waters with regard to the new and current immigrant in the United States, and where administration policies will be going. One area that has come under question is professional and amateur athletes, and how changes will affect the thousands of athletes, not just Americans competing abroad but the wide mosaic of foreign athletes who play, train and live in the United States. Everyone from the United States Olympic Committee to the NBA has raised questions and concerns recently, in what could become one of the biggest sports business stories in the United States in 2017.
However in that mix of angst comes some light. As is the case so many times, necessity becomes the mother of invention, and with that invention, an entrepreneur rises to serve a niche that is smart, simple and growing, despite the anticipated or discussed changes in US foreign policy. The company is called ASIYA, and its mission is to create Modest Active Wear, especially the hajib, for women who want to play in athletics.
The opportunity has arisen as women in conservative countries, especially in the Middle East, become more attuned to their opportunities, and as conservative women in other counties rise in athletics. We have seen great debate over issues in beach volleyball for example, and last summer in Rio, American Ibtihaj Muhammad competed and was very successful in fencing while becoming the first US Olympian to wear the hajib.
With all the questions over immigration now front and center, and World Hajib Day being February 1, we wanted to find out more about the business of ASIYA, so we caught up with Jamie Glover, President, COO and Co-Founder of the company to find out what the opportunity actually is.
What is the market for ASIYA in the US? Is it big enough for a niche company to be profitable?
There are an estimated 1.5 million Muslim females in the U.S. today — a number expected to double by 2030. We see this as a community that is largely under-served in the apparel industry, which we hope to addressed.
We saw the great impact an athlete like Ibtihaj Muhammad had in Rio this summer, how do you think Asiya can help get more young women active in the United States, even in casual athletes?
Athletes like Ibtihaj Muhammad are amazing and important role models, showing that you can follow your passions while upholding your religious or cultural beliefs. The mission of ASIYA is just that, to enable physical activity and sports participating without compromising belief systems. We believe that all girls deserve to play, and experience the profound benefits of sports.
Is there a market beyond the Muslim community; what is that audience and how big is it?
We have received feedback from women of all faiths who are looking for modest active wear, so we certainly see a need beyond just the Muslim community. We have also started hearing from the business community that there is a need for products like sports hijabs in manufacturing and assembly environments, for both safety and comfort benefits for Muslim workers.
Do you worry about pushback from a conservative audience that does not want young girls participating in athletics?
While we don’t expect our solution to be right for everyone, we know that there are many families who are excited about their daughters participating in athletics and see a great opportunity for them to do so with the appropriate activewear that aligns with their cultural beliefs.
What has been the response from school officials and others? Any concerns or worries there?
We have received very positive feedback from the Minnesota State High School League, who has confirmed that our sports hijabs are in-line with the uniform and safety guidelines set-out by the high school sports rule books.
There are probably dozens of positive stories that have already surfaced, where have you seen the biggest impact. Fatimah has seen amazing transformations in the girls who participate in her gym program. They have developed self-confidence as they have learned new sports, and they are excited to be able to play to their full potential on school and community teams with their new sports hijabs.
Beyond the traditional hajib, are there other areas of clothing this could expand into? Anything for men as well?
We are looking to expand in to modest activewear, custom sports uniforms, and swimwear in the future. Our focus right now is on women’s clothing, but are continuing to learn where the biggest gaps are in the market and how we can best enable physical activity.
Have you heard from any apparel companies about the brands? Do you expect to?
We have not yet.
What is the lasting message, as both an entrepreneur and someone looking for social good, that you hope people take away when hearing about Asiya?
We hope that the mission of ASIYA sparks a dialogue around inclusion and the opportunity to embrace diversity in our communities. We believe that there is great opportunity for bringing people together through sports participation that will build a culture of understanding and a focus on what unites us, rather than fearing each others differences.