District Boss: Amina Ahmad of Handmade Habitat
Amina Ahmad's passion for the environment and anything DIY propelled her college apartment clothing company to the thriving home and beauty business, Handmade Habitat. Her candles and beauty products are carefully crafted with all natural and eco-friendly ingredients. And they're vegan!
1// What is your business? Tell us a bit about yourself.
I'm the owner of Handmade Habitat, an all natural soy candle and beauty goods company proudly based in Washington, D.C. I’m a Taurus/Lunar Aquarius, passionate about croissants and tweeting in all caps. HELLO!
2// What lead you to where you are today?
I have always been a very self-motivated person. I'm definitely not a rule-follower and I come from a very DIY family. My parents are both engineers who built and made everything from decks, gardens, doll clothes, and even Maryland flag murals at home. The skill of making things runs in my family's bloodline.
I majored in Environmental Science and Policy from the University of Maryland. As a student, I was addicted to candles and soon connected the dots that many candles on the market are toxic for your health and the environment. I started experimenting with candle making in my college apartment and sold soy wax candles alongside some other products (mostly bags & clothes) at local markets. I quickly got addicted to the market / entrepreneurial world. After graduating college, I decided to forgo the normal desk job route and instead work part-time doing marketing and community building for a crafts market in my neighborhood, and work the other part and full-time on my business! I quickly learned that there is no part-time when it comes to running a business.
Eventually, the brand transformed from a clothing company to a home & beauty company inspired by my love for nature, yoga and simplicity. I have now officially survived a full year (and then some) of running my business as my full-time job and I’m so excited for what this next year will bring.
3// What’s the most difficult part of being an entrepreneur? The best part?
My favorite part about being an entrepreneur is the ability to work on exactly what I want whenever I want to work on it. There are few events during the week where I have to be somewhere at a given time. That flexibility and ownership over my schedule is so important to me at this point and I don’t think I’ll ever be able to give it up. The other best thing about being an entrepreneur is knowing that when good things happen, it’s because you work and grind hard for it. No one is obligated to pay my salary, so when someone pays $20 for a candle it’s because they wanted to, and that feeling is ultra rewarding.
On the flip side though, when things are slow, or when things aren’t going so well, it can really feel personal. This business feels like an extension of my soul, so when things don’t happen, or when you see someone else get an opportunity that you wanted, it is incredibly hard to separate it from yourself, and for it to not feel personal. Logically, it’s 99% of the time not personal! But at this scale, because my business is so tied to myself, it’s often hard to see that.
4// How do you stay motivated and continue to grow, personally and professionally?
I think you really have to have a vision to make it in this world. It’s easy to get really bogged down and depressed by the mundanity of filing taxes, responding to emails, and the reality of always being worried that something is going to go wrong. I try to keep my eyes on the big picture, my larger goals, and keeping perspective on how far I’ve come. Where I currently am was my dream five years ago. In five more years, I’ll have gone further and learned so much more.
I also like to have other projects to kick around. I have a blog, Sunday Blossoms, about the little moments in life, and I collaborate with other makers on projects like DIY workshops, pop-ups, new products, and more.
5// What’s your nighttime routine?
I love the idea of hibernating in January. This means not responding to any emails, not getting in any orders and just dropping off the map for a whole month. That used to be possible, but it isn’t anymore. Instead, I have been trying to institute some kind of rest and relaxation into my evenings. I usually watch some politics and some absurd adult cartoons with my husband, play with my dog Rosie, make a cup of either chamomile honey or rooibos vanilla tea, and read in bed. I’m a night owl, and often I’ll get some kind of crazy idea in the middle of the night and spend 30 minutes journaling about it, or typing out some long crazy email to a potential collaborator on a new project.
6// What’s one piece of advice you would give to other business owners?
Be you. Don’t be anyone else. It’s so hard to take your eyes off of other people and what seems to be working for them, but I think that this world is truly driven by creativity and innovation. There’s no right way to do anything, there’s no wrong way to do something, and what works amazingly for one person is not the same thing that will work amazingly for the next person. Play to your strengths, and especially for women business owners - go confidently.