"The buds are blooming mom!", my son remarked on our way to school today. It's been a long winter and as we welcomed Ramadan (1440 Islamic Hijri Year) in the beginning of May, I was reflecting on the year so far and how this year we would help the kids create a unique Ramadan experience.
More than ever, as my kids are growing, I realize the importance of creating a unique experience that would allow them to cherish and look forward to this blessed month, especially since they see how other holidays are magnified during other times of the year!
We had just finished months of prepping for the second annual Ramadan Market that was to be held at one of Canada's largest malls, at Square One in Mississauga, Ontario. This year the Ramadan Market was held all day from April 26-28th, 2019. An experience that my kids loved, from the room filled with Ramadan decor, balloons, face-painting, henna experience, incredible vendors with kids books and toys and a thoughtfully dedicated kid-space for kids to enjoy themselves while moms 'shopped'.
With a crazy year for Sitti from traveling to attend a Social Enterprise Summit in Nashville, Tenessee, meetings with vendors and partners in Los Angeles, California to traveling to Jerash, Jordan to meet with our Hopes-Sitti Women's Center team to implement some work on the ground, we had lots of things piling up and a Ramadan Market on the horizon for us may have been too much for us to conceptualize. For those that know, we almost QUIT participating in the Ramadan Market this year. There was just too much. And as a small business, it's sometimes hard to navigate the multiple roles we have to play to push forward. I thought this is too tough. Too hard. Too much for us to handle (with both personal and business complications in the way!).
But after much deliberation, we made a decision, that we may not be able to do this on our own but what better way than to reach out locally and professionally that can help us bring our vendor experience to reality without having to walk away from it. We hired help, outsourced that which we couldn't physically take on ourselves. And we're thankful we did just that!
Fast forward to the last hours of the Market when we were packing away our booth, I realized that everything will pass, and it's how we face adversities or challenges that we are able to truly grow. Many vendors worked tirelessly before and during the event to bring an enriching experience to those attending. Whether it's handmaking every single product, or prepping decor and design plans, or even coordinating with family members and friends to help care for their children while attending to the market!
The Ramadan Market's founder, organizer, entrepreneur and boss mom (of the cute triplets), Salam Sudduf describes it as a labor of love.
"Ramadan Market is a carefully curated, inspirational, and beautiful Ramadan experience. We bring the community together to welcome the blessed month of Ramadan. Our market attracts top Islamic lifestyle brands from all over the world to showcase their products, services, and treats for you to enjoy. Ramadan Market is an event like no other. It’s an experience: workshops, a spiritual room, special care for mothers and children, and a high attention to detail. This is not your neighborhood bazaar - this is a one of a kind experience that we have evolved into a yearly Ramadan tradition."
Sitti was amongst an array of other inspiring women-run businesses and entrepreneurs like Leena's Hijab, Amal's Apothecary, Laila's Cheesecake and Ruqaya's Bookshelf were selected to be part of this unique market experience.
At Sitti, we really wanted to elevate the shopping experience and worked closely with custom designer and event planner Pamela from Shopi Rentals to create a minimalistic, with a natural feel inspired by the Olive Trees for Sitti's vendor booth experience. She handmade our Sitti board out of wood, which we were in love with.
In the days leading to the event, Sitti was grateful to have the incredible support of mom-preneur Amal from Amal's Apothecary who helped ground us and keep us sane and calm (with her amazing stress-free oil blends).
"We had a great time at Ramadan Market. We felt like we were apart of history in the making being Muslim vendors inside one of the biggest malls in Canada. We also loved the collaboration over completion atmosphere among the vendors, and how supportive everyone was of each other." (Amal Sarhan, Founder and CEO of Amal's Apothecary)
For those that couldn't make it to the 3-day sold-out event, Toronto-based photographer, Shahzia Afghan captured some eye-catching photos of our booth and the market. Thank you Shahzia for sharing these with Sitti Soap.
As we look back at a great welcome to Ramadan, we're hoping many of you spend the rest of this month to share it with your loved ones, opening your hearts embracing the bounties and blessings of Ramadan.