Jamii

Recently we caught up with Khalia the founder of Jamii – the UK’s first discount card for African and Caribbean owned businesses.
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Khalia Founder of Jamii
What was your starting inspiration?

My starting inspiration for Jamii was the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement here and across the Atlantic. Many people began talking about the importance of supporting black-owned businesses, but often this just translates to a couple of ad hoc purchases while emotions are running high – Jamii is about creating habits that ensure long-lasting change. People can fit social impact into their every-day lives with a Jamii card.

What has been the hardest part?

The hardest part of Jamii has probably been the emotional side of it – starting a business is mentally tough! You need a lot of internal strength to be able to take something from your head, make it real and keep working at it every day until other people start to believe in it too. There have been some days where I’ve wondered if I’m the right person to do this, or if what I’m doing even makes sense. But there have been some other days where everything’s come together, or I’ve received a great message from a customer or business that have pushed me forward and reminded me why I started.

What has been the most rewarding part?

The most rewarding part of Jamii has been the positive response that we’ve gotten from businesses, customers and people who have seen us grow. I have no previous business experience – I’m doing this part time with my sister and our friend (both of whom are also part time volunteers), and to have people that we don’t know come up to us and tell us how proud they are of what we’re doing is amazing.

Whats the future of Jamii?

Jamii has only been running for a few months, and so it’s still early days for us. We’re learning every day, but we’ve got big plans for the future. First, we want to improve the website and develop an app; then we want to expand the Jamii reach across the UK to ensure that people from across the nation can discover and use fantastic black-owned businesses.

How did you come up with the name?

I lived in Kenya for three months before setting up the platform, and when I needed a name I decided to look at words in Swahili – Jamii is the Swahili word for ‘community’. I chose that language because it meant something to me, and because I wanted a word that could mean something to the whole community rather than just a sub-section.

Most interesting moment so far?

I think one of the most interesting moments so far was when I was trying to explain Jamii to a British woman. We had just launched and so I was cautious about how someone from outside the community might receive the platform – I explained the basic premise of it, and she immediately began passionately telling me how important she thought it was to support underrepresented business owners and tackle inequality! She said she’d tell her friends about it and one of them bought a card. It was really heartening.

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FB / Twitter / Instagram: @UKJamii

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