Ruqayyah Brown – Be bold enough to take up space in the spaces you go into

Tech sisters podcast art featuring ruqayyah brown

Today on Tech Sisters Stories we’re excited to have Ruqayyah Brown!

Ruqayyah is a brand strategist helping iconic Muslim brands elevate their voices. She has over 10 years of experience in brand building and is also the co-founder of Homeschool Queens

Listen To Ruqayyah’s Story

Key Lessons from this Episode

  • Why Ruqayyah loves working with Muslim brands (5:20)
  • How she navigates being a brand strategist and co-founder (11:15)
  • Ruqayyah’s tips for being comfortable in uncomfortable situations (13:20)

Transcript

[00:01:00] Grace: Today on Tech Sisters Stories stories, we are super excited to have Ruqayyah Brown. Ruqayyah is a brand strategist helping iconic Muslim brands elevate their voices. She has over 10 years of experience in brand-building and she is also the co-founder of homeschool Queens.

Thank you so much for talking to us today. Ruqayyah

[00:01:17] Ruqayyah: Thank you for having me on and I’m so excited to have this conversation.

[00:01:19] Grace: Oh alhamdulillah. I’m super excited to talk to you. Where does your story start? How did you first get into this?

[00:01:25] Ruqayyah: It’s really an interesting story. I think my mom is basically a PC wiz and she has had a computer since they were first out. So When I was younger. I saw my mom using the computer quite a lot, and I remember she decided to start teaching myself and my brother when I was about nine years old, she taught us HTML.

the basics of, yeah, yeah. I remember computer, family, computer, like upstairs on the landing. And she specifically started teaching us these HTML classes. Where she was having us just do like the basics of setting up a webpage. And then we would check out what the front end looked like. And that’s that really my first experience I remember of getting into tech and I felt like that was the foundation for, you know,

[00:02:08] Grace: alhamdulillah. That’s wonderful. It sounds like your mom has a really big influence in your life.

[00:02:13] Ruqayyah: Definitely. definitely alhamdulillah very inspirational for me.

So she actually raised us as a single mom. And we was a really close tight-knit family. So when I was younger. It was just me and my brother and my mom together quite a lot. And yeah, she just used to spend a lot of time with us, you know, we would go out and have adventures, do things, together like learning HTML.

So it was very, very close and we’ve just kind of maintained that relationship as I’ve gone older.

[00:02:40] Grace: amazing mashAllah. So once you find HTML what was the next step in this for you? I think you were doing some graphic designing later on,

[00:02:48] Ruqayyah: Yeah. Yeah. Graphic design was really the next step for me.

I had installation on Photoshop. On the computer. And the thing is that I was taken out of school when I was about 10 years old. So I was homeschooled from then onwards. So I had a lot of freedom on the computer to do things like graphic design.

So I would actually spend a lot of my days just learning practicing specifically with creating graphics and websites. So yeah, that was my earliest experience. And at the time I also offer my services for like logo design branding and things like that, you know, from when I was a teen

so yeah, I also got into business around about the same time as well. And I started to learn other coding languages. So I did a bit of php, a bit of CSS but I never, I didn’t really go too much into coding. I feel like it was, it was just too. What’s the word that I’ve comprehensive is the right word, but it was just too much for me at the time.

Like I’m very creative. I wanted to do things. I want to see results now rather than spending time on the backend too much. So yeah, really

[00:03:47] Grace: focused on the.

[00:03:51] Ruqayyah: Yeah.

[00:03:52] Grace: Yeah. alhamdulillah, but that’s one of the reasons why when people Come very fresh into coding or to transitioning from other things front end to really good place to start, you could see the

[00:04:02] Ruqayyah: effects

[00:04:02] Grace: of your work immediately. You know, exactly immediately when something’s not working, easier to troubleshoot than the backend most of the time.

So you’re going into business when you’re a teenager, you’re doing some logo designs and graphic design. At what point then did you start saying I’m going to focus on brand strategy.

[00:04:21] Ruqayyah: Yeah. So I have always really been interested in psychology and the psychology of brands. So even when I was working on branding, brand identity, I’ve always just had questions and, you know, researched how the strategic side. So I didn’t actually officially start offering branding strategy until the last couple of years.

But yeah, it’s just been something that I’ve been learning and surrounding myself by early on in the last 10 years, really. And watching a lot of brands. A lot of startups and how they do it and how they grow. Like, I dunno. That’s just something I’ve always been interested in looking into and researching like research is definitely one of my favorite do.

Alhamdulillah, yeah, that’s kind of how I got into it. And yeah, the reason why I’ve got into it of going full power in marketing I’m very passionate about Muslim grow. I just feel like there’s a big need for that.

that’s where I’ve put my speciality.

[00:05:20] Grace: Yeah that’s really wonderful. That’s you know how we got in touch with each other, with that focus from the Muslim brands I’m wondering in your expertise, what is unique need of a Muslim brand? What is something that really differentiates a Muslim brand strategy over a more generalized.

[00:05:36] Ruqayyah: Yeah, so. I love brands that specifically audiences. And I think that the biggest difference. . What big kind of problem that I’ve noticed that I trying to, dissertate is the idea that marketing to Muslims needs to be so much focused on the Muslim identity rather than the human problems and solutions that we seek.

So, you know, , a lot of brands really come out and really focused on the Halaal aspects of what they do or focus on the fact that this is for you, because you are Muslim or are you a Muslim, this is the perfect thing for you and not taking into account. The psychology behind that, like, you know, we’re just, we’re all just normal people.

You know, we have, we eat food, we buy clothes, we don’t necessarily do all that because.

shocking.

Out, you know, halal dresses or things like this, you know, we just, we’re just normal people. So I feel like the focus so much on that needs to be less and we need to be looking behind the real reasons why people are making purchases, why your specific audience means the thing that you have and making that the focus of your messaging.

[00:06:44] Grace: So it sounds like treating your audience as authentic humans and going into their interests. And Muslim is part of whole package of what makes an authentic human. Is that it.

[00:06:56] Ruqayyah: Exactly. Yep, exactly. Yup. Authentic human experiences. I love that.

Yeah, that’s kind of what I was coming to. Like, we are more than just a number and for a lot of businesses, you know, what drives, what drives them forward? What motivates them is the numbers. But I really love to work with brands that have strong purpose behind. And want to actually connect with their customers, connects with their clients on a deeper level.

So you can speak to the things beyond the token of their, just a Muslim buyer,

[00:07:26] Grace: Yeah. Yeah, that’s it. SubhanAllah me about homeschool Queens. So you have this business and you have another

[00:07:34] Ruqayyah: We founded homeschool Queens at the end of 2020. So just over a year old now. And we are both homeschooling moms. Yeah, we’ve been homeschooling for many, many years now and we just found that there was a lack of resources tailored to Muslim families, Muslim homes and families, and like support for Muslim homeschooling moms specifically.

So we creating curriculum. For use,, at home with the children, from the ages of toddlers all the way up until 13 years old. And Alhamdulillah that that really, really grew quite fast. We was getting a lot of, a lot of traction. A lot of families just really appreciative of , what we’re putting out there because it was quite unique.

And something that was needed.

[00:08:13] Grace: Yeah, definitely. I think, especially at that time as well while families were in lockdown. we had to teach our kids ourselves,

Did you see more people taking on homeschooling because of the pandemic and lockdown.

[00:08:26] Ruqayyah: Absolutely. Yep. Definitely. That had big impacts the homeschool at that And a lot of parents , struggling, trying to figure out how to do it all and how to manage. So I think, , us coming out with that support at that time was definitely.

Something that was needed. I was able to connect with them.

[00:08:46] Grace: With my own kids, I, I, I had a couple of friends who were doing homeschooling and they had homeschooled, lots of children, mashAllah, big families, and they had homeschooled like from the very beginning. And so saw them and was really inspired to do that with my family. quickly discovered I need, I need some space.

And so I think. In our own home, we’ve came to a happy little medium, where they go to school and it’s just a normal UK school, but they’re there with a lot of kids from very similar backgrounds as us. So they have a nice identity and they’re making friends.

But at home we do supplement a lot of what they learn. You know, we’re doing extra maths Where a really fun family, extra math. And then we teach the Islamic studies ourselves. So that as a family, we’re talking about that together. But do you think of like the families making a hybrid approach to homeschooling or what challenges do parents feel when they’re trying to on and supplement their kids’ education?

[00:09:46] Ruqayyah: Yeah. Yeah. I just want to say, I think that’s really amazing and really encouraging inspirational that you do that, that you take that initiative and do the hybrid stuff because of. Allowing you to build those connections with your children when they’re off school. And so, you know, it’s so important that we make to be that director and guide for our children, know us alhamdulillah I do admire families that take know, with the hybrid homeschooling ,

But yeah, some of struggles that I have noticed from speaking to many moms in the same kind of situation is kind of a lack of knowing what to do. So we often get that question, like, where do I start watching? Like, you’re doing, you know, my children at this age, I don’t know what’s the next step.

And I haven’t even had that struggle myself in the past. It’s kind of like, you know, you’re seeking just steps to follow really that you can do with the children, especially with the Islamic studies. So yeah, that’s definitely one struggle just knowing where to start. And secondly, families not understanding where you’re coming from.

Hmm.

Definitely have been a big struggle that we’ve had a lot as well. Yeah, just feeling like lonely and your decisions or the way that you educate your children. A lot of revert families just want, especially. So yeah, I would say those are pretty much the top two, one at the top.

Yeah.

[00:11:05] Grace: I think the kind of underlying revert experiences, a lot of loneliness sometimes and people not understanding what you’re doing alhamdulillah.

So going back pivoting a little bit into. You having these two businesses, you’re a mum you’re educating your kids. So what challenges what hurdles are you facing when you’re putting yourself out there as a business strategist, as a co-founder and how are you dealing with that?

[00:11:31] Ruqayyah: Yeah. I think this has been an interesting question. And in most of my journey, my biggest challenge has been my own personal lack of confidence and just feeling, you know, inferior in my experiences and being a visibly Muslim woman. So it has taken me to really make a decision to continue to put myself out there and be bold enough to take up space in the spaces that I’m going into.

So working on my own self confidence

[00:12:00] Grace: yeah,

[00:12:01] Ruqayyah: thing that has helped me. Overcome that challenge. So I really do believe that most time, what holds us back ourselves and what we think and what we believe about ourselves. And yeah, that’s definitely been biggest challenge for me, but alhamdulillah, especially in the last two years I have really just made a strong decision work on that and I’ve seen so much progress.

whereas before constantly feel that. For example with skills, I’ve always felt like everyone could know why, but whenever I’ve had friends asking me questions, I was like, oh, I thought that like everyone knew this kind of stuff. and that was obviously me discounting the experiences and the knowledge that I have, but alhamdulillah in the last years, like I said, I’ve been stepping into that competence and really understanding that I have value, know, I have give.

I can people that I want. and just being confident in that. So, yeah, that’s definitely been the biggest challenge that I had previously.

[00:12:52] Grace: Yeah. And that really resonates with a lot of other stories that we’ve from Tech Sisters. Confidence does seem to be just a major underlying thing, that limiting factor. Once you break through that and you start feeling comfortable in uncomfortable situations, then really everything starts falling into it.

It just gets a lot easier. things happen, more opportunities come I’m really hear that you’re working on that last year’s and you made that concerted effort.

And I’m wondering, tips or advice who are at that cusp where they realize that this is something that’s holding them back and they want to work on it, but again, they probably don’t know where to start.

[00:13:29] Ruqayyah: Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. So I really love that you said being comfortable in uncomfortable situations. That would be the top tip that I could give to take those risks, like where you do feel that uncomfortability, where you feel like, you know, you’re out of place. That’s where you need to be.

That is where the growth is. So opening yourself up to . Those spaces, those opportunities. And instead of asking yourself and thinking about what could go wrong, ask yourself, and think about what could go, right? What could happen for you? You know, in a positive way, because it’s the negativity that, over clouds, our thoughts of what could be possible.

So being bold enough to just take those risks and embracing those situations where you feel a little bit out of place is going to help you Take on even bigger challenges as you go along. And then when you look backwards, you’re going to realize, , and you’re going to thank yourself for those times that you did that.

Yeah, that would definitely be my top top tip for anyone in that situation.

[00:14:25] Grace: Yeah, that top, top. Yeah. And I think those are that’s perfect the growth comes from uncomfortable moments. I would add on to that It really helps to have that reliance on Allah subhanAllah waTalala to have that like really deep sense of tawakul that even when I’m in a difficult situation or even when I feel really uncomfortable this is , this is my qadr.

This is something that Allah sent to me, to guide me, to person to grow and to be closer to Him inshAllah. so there’s always lessons in every situation, backward in all these opportunities are coming from Allah subhanAllah watala, and it’s all leading us towards like a good place

[00:15:04] Ruqayyah: Yes. Yes. I completely agree with that a hundred. I definitely think, you know, that’s the foundation that we should be going forward with.

[00:15:11] Grace:

So, do you think is next for you? You’ve been working on your confidence. You’ve been really putting yourself out there and you’re going full steam ahead, focusing on Muslim brands. What do you hope is the next step for you inshAllah

[00:15:23] Ruqayyah: Yeah. So I inshAllah, moving into being full digital agency. We’re going to be taken on some other experts and expanding, the services that I offer so that we can really be a bigger package that come to.

I have current campaign that I’m running for 2022, which is that I’m going to be inshAllah, working towards helping a hundred Muslim tech brands.

So to increase, their users. Or grow their brand awareness get their name out there using strategy and campaigns. So yeah, that’s, that’s what I’m doing for this year inshAllah.

[00:15:57] Grace: Oh, that’s amazing and Tech Sisters is one of those brands alhamdulillah,

And, Ruqayyah. What is something in your life or in your work? Whatever that is the most proudest moment for you? Something that’s really meaningful.

[00:16:11] Ruqayyah: Okay. One of the proudest things that I’ve accomplished

okay. Yeah, I think I have two answers for this question. So I’m going to say, yeah, the first one, which is like a reflection on myself is that I have been very, very shy and introverted person for most of my life. You know, if you would have met me at school, I would have not spoken to you. I’m the girl that would have been sat in the corner by herself.

Especially in gatherings, even when I was a teen, to be honest, I’ve just always been, you know, not very good in social situations and not really spoken outside of my family. So yeah. alhamdulillah. I’ve just kind of grown out of that and really found confidence in myself and my ideas in my own voice. And I’m able to sit down here with you and have conversations like this.

And I have big hopes for, , getting on stage and expanding, , where my message gets to. So I would definitely say I’m proud of myself for taking those steps to step out of myself and, just become confident. In myself, alhamdulillah and, you know, I’ve actually that all firstly to Allah and secondly that he gave me, you know, the experiences that I needed to be able to come to this stage.

So yeah, that would be the first thing.

[00:17:28] Grace: That’s a wonderful thing. resonate with that a lot. I have to say, because I

[00:17:31] Ruqayyah: was so

[00:17:32] Grace: shy too. go days without talking. I used to just sit in

[00:17:37] Ruqayyah: the corner

[00:17:38] Grace: and read my book and not talk to anybody. It wasn’t until like university, but I started to grow out of that.

[00:17:45] Ruqayyah: Yeah. Yeah. I think it’s amazing. I think it’s I’ve actually asked question to my one was recently, the last week they’re an introvert extrovert I had an inclination them are introverts and I find that’s very, especially in world. It’s got, it’s kind of ideal because dealing with code within.

There’s stuff. We don’t actually, we need to people basically. So, yeah, but it was an interesting

[00:18:12] Grace: This could be a text, but alhamdulillah, I I think the whole introvert extrovert thing is very interesting too, because I did think it shifts at different stages of your life. So I like, I guess it’s a spectrum because for me, I feel. Like at this stage in my life, I’m very comfortable as in the middle.

So I would describe myself as an ambivert. I do like my alone time sometimes, but I also really liked talking to people and meeting new people and just chatting, and like small talk and things like that.

[00:18:43] Ruqayyah: Yeah. Yeah. I agree with that. Yeah. Ambivert was an option as well, and there was quite a lot there, so

[00:18:50] Grace: So you said you had two answers to the proud question. What’s your second one?

[00:18:54] Ruqayyah: yeah. So my second one would be when I was 13 years old, I bought myself my first laptop.

Um, I managed to sign just a sign on a website client. And with that I was able to purchase my first laptop. And so, yeah, that’s just the. I think it’s quite cool that I was able to do that

13.

[00:19:11] Grace: Yeah, that’s really cool. mashAllah,

do you

[00:19:15] Ruqayyah: think that’s

[00:19:16] Grace: another testimony to homeschooling because if you’re in regular school that probably wouldn’t have happened.

[00:19:21] Ruqayyah: yeah, exactly. I wouldn’t have had the time to look at the job listings and sign that client. So

Yeah.

[00:19:27] Grace: Alhamdulillah.

[00:19:29] Ruqayyah: Super cool.

[00:19:30] Grace: And what’s something that you regret or you wish you did differently. Again, you can answer this however you like.

[00:19:38] Ruqayyah: Yeah. So I really honestly, don’t don’t regret. I really don’t have that kind of feeling like I should have done something or, you know, I don’t genuinely regret the past because I felt like, you know, our past is what builds us up to where we are now and everything that’s happened up until now is from.

Yeah.

You know, for us to be able to become better and grow in bigger ways, open up new doors for ourselves. So, yeah, I don’t really regret if I was to say something that I might’ve done differently, then maybe more earlier on

[00:20:15] Grace: . Like when you, you, you haven’t done that for a while. So like if you took a career break for your kids and then you’re going back into it, it can feel really daunting to start a network from scratch, or if you’ve moved countries and you, you have, you have to start all over again.

That can feel like a huge task. But it’s also interesting that once you get started and you just keep going and, and meet people and try to be of service and connect other people together. Grows very naturally. But do you think,

[00:20:44] Ruqayyah: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. I completely agree with that. Yeah. And I think the best thing that we could do when is to just be ourselves and not try to fit into any kind of role or box, you know, people will love just as you are.

So yeah.

Yeah.

[00:21:00] Grace: And the final question, what is something or someone you’re most grateful for?

[00:21:09] Ruqayyah: Wow. It’s another profound questioned. You know, I think, I think my, my answer would be definitely, you know, the blessing of Allah, guiding me to Islam that would be the thing that I’m most grateful for. Yeah.

[00:21:27] Grace: Honestly, this the same for me. I feel like we can go into very deep talk about that. I do feel the thing that everything kind of stems stems from is just the guidance. See I’m getting choked up, just

[00:21:46] Ruqayyah: even thinking

[00:21:47] Grace: about it. That’s how grateful I feel for it.

alhamdulillah.

It’s been so lovely talking to you. there anything else that you would like to add, or maybe we didn’t touch on yet?

[00:21:59] Ruqayyah: I don’t think so. Yeah, I think we had a great conversation.

[00:22:03] Grace: Yeah. Wonderful then thank you so much for doing this and I really appreciate it.

[00:22:09] Ruqayyah: Yeah, I thank you for having me on

Thank you for sharing your story with us, Ruqayyah. Jazakallahu Khair! You can follow Ruqayyah on her website, LinkedIn, Instagram, and Twitter.

If you liked this story, be sure to check our other Tech Sisters Stories and get to know the amazing talent we have in our community.

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