The Jamii Card
As the popular African Proverb says ‘it takes a village to raise a child’. The uprising of the village in the UK is displaying the importance of improving our economy and being catalysts for change. We met up with Khalia Ismain who is running with this message; introducing The Jamii card..
“I was looking for black owned businesses but the current directories weren’t up to date, and it made me think - I can do this better”. Jamii, which is Swahili for community, is an annual discount card that provides cardholders with discounts with Black owned business within the culinary, haircare and fashion industries to name a few. The idea is a simple one, “by purchasing a Jamii card, you’ll be investing in the community and saving money too. Supporting new businesses is a long-term thing, they need your repeat purchase, and for that you can’t just rely on people’s morality. You have to speak to their psychology and their ethics. Everyone that’s on Jamii is sick – it’s worth you buying from them”.
Part of the Jamii story was birthed out the frustration of Khalia not being able to access products and services, supplied by and for those of African, Caribbean and mixed heritage. A personal experience Khalia encountered when out to dinner one evening highlighted that “although the restaurant had a Caribbean theme and played Caribbean music, the staff and owners were not. I have no problem with restaurants doing that, but this gap in the market should be exploited by us as well”.
Opportunities to express our culture are ways to allow all to explore the diaspora but often, those experiences are shaped and gentrified by those outside of the core. Jamii exists to introduce individuals to the well rounded and growing black business market in the UK and also serve as a hub for business to business interaction.
“We’d like get people carrying their Jamii cards around and have it ingrained into day-to-day life; having people taking pictures of it as a symbol of pride”
We are always pleased to see individuals instigate the change they want to see, but the hard graft of entrepreneurship can often be overshadowed by the successes. When we asked Khalia about some of the challenges she’s faced as an entrepreneur thus far, she replies “the constant uncertainty. It’s not taking cute photos on your mac, next to your coffee. It’s so lonely because there’s no path, every step you take is you building that path, it’s a constant mental struggle”.
Like a house, the element of starting a business that takes the most work and sacrifice, is laying the foundation. The average conversion rate for most e-commerce businesses lies between 2-3%, and “it’s that sort of reality check you get from day one of launching” says Khalia. Nurturing and developing a successful business takes time and a lot of businesses we buy in to and admire now, are decades in the making, “people always refer back to Jeff Bezos (Founder of Amazon), Larry Page (Co-Founder of Google) and those guys but these platforms were built in the 90s. We are now in 2017 and it’s only after all those years that we’re now seeing the success”.
“Everyone on Jamii is sick – it’s worth you buying from them”
Currently, the Jamii discount card benefits businesses and services based in the capital, but the Black British experience doesn’t end in London. Jamii plans to grow it’s catalogue of vendors nationwide and grow the community offline as well, “we’d like get people carrying their Jamii cards around, using it in shops and have it ingrained into day-to-day life; having people taking pictures of it as a symbol of pride”.
A sense of belonging has been a recurring theme for a number of Black Britons, and for Khalia, it was important for her to create something that helped identify that, by showcasing positive role models and running with the baton generations before us have passed on; “if the younger generation start seeing people from their own communities build these huge companies, put money back into the community and taking them out of those ‘cycles’, all of sudden they won’t understand where those negative stereotypes came from because they won’t know anyone like that. Then we start to create more positive stereotypes and for me, that’s our generation’s responsibility. I don’t think we’ll get it done in one generation but I think we’ll see a new dawn.”
Some of the vendors available to Jamii cardholders include Treasure Tress, Laura Jane Fashion and Chale! Lets it. Jamii have some great offers that you should take advantage of too! For the month of April, they are offering a month trial membership for only £4.99, and also a 40% discount for an annual membership with the code LOVESPRING. Visit Jamii here
Socialise with Jamii and Khalia too -
Khalia - Instagram: @Khaliaroar | Twitter: @Khaliaroar
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