Amanda Redmond's attempt to fill an under-served market has blossomed into a successful online business that's catering to Muslim women throughout the Maritimes and beyond.
Redmond sells hijabs (the head covering some Muslim women wear in public), clothing, Islamic items and more via her online store Al Qamar. The name translates to "the moon," something of personal significance and the name of a chapter in the Muslim holy book the Quran.
The majority of Redmond's customers are from Atlantic Canada, but she also sends many packages to the U.S. (mainly Florida and Ohio) and western Canada. The Halifax resident has also filled a few custom orders for customers in Sri Lanka, Indonesia and Africa.
Redmond herself only converted to Islam last February. She discovered Islam in university, and said the practices and beliefs really resonated with her.
She didn't immediately wear the hijab, but when she became more comfortable wearing the headscarf in public, Redmond quickly discovered it was difficult to source them locally.
"Al Qamar was born from a need in the market. Atlantic Canada is home to thousands of women who wear Hijab, but offers very little in the way of catering to them," she explained. "Further out West, from Quebec onwards there are many boutiques of this nature, but in the growing Muslim population of the Maritimes, outlets for hijab are few and far between."
Redmond, who has degrees in tourism management and business, decided to focus on items she describes as more modern versions of classic pieces. She bases her business on her own hijab experiences, so her stock includes items she was curious about before her conversion, beginner pieces, "fun stuff" and functional items.
"I focus a lot on accessories and "modest extras," speciality pieces that are harder to find in the market," she said.
"Things such as Al Amira Hijabs (presewn so anyone can slip it on and have it look perfect every time), half sleeves (to wear under tops for extra coverage on the arms), and of course fun things like jewellery and bands to dress up any scarf."
While there are a few small specialty retailers in the Maritimes selling a variety of Islamic items, she only knows of two outlets focussing on the Muslim market.
"I know Al Qamar carries stock in the Maritimes that is not offered anywhere else locally," she said.
Despite only having started up this past fall, she has an active and interactive following thanks to her social media presence. She credits the human interaction with her clients as one of the driving forces behind her success.
"Aside from the marketing aspect, I believe that Muslim women in the Maritimes have just been waiting for this option to come available," she explained.
"While Al Qamar isn't able to reach the market offline (as of yet) I'm hoping that the online reputation will create trust in what this type of venture can do for the Muslim community."
Redmond hopes to some day expand to an actual storefront, but for now she runs Al Qamar around her day job and her coursework.