Please introduce yourself
A warm salaam to all your readers! My name is Zanib Mian. I live in London, where I was born and raised. I have two boys mashaAllah; one of whom, much to everyone’s surprise has far exceeded me in height and started shaving!
Tell us a bit about your business
I have two companies, Alhamdulillah. They are both publishing companies. Sweet Apple publishes mainstream diverse children’s books and Muslim Children’s Books Ltd publishes books more specifically for a Muslim audience.
I published the first book (not so greatly) in 2009, which was then published as a 2nd edition in 2011. I got into publishing because I felt that there simply weren’t enough fun, non-issue books on the market that represented people of minority backgrounds. I felt that every child deserved to read books with people like them as the protagonists. I was still teaching Science at a secondary school at the time, so didn’t work on Sweet Apple full time until 2014.
I then founded Muslim Children’s Books in 2016 because there was a huge demand for some free resources I had created on Facebook, in book form. I realised that people were looking for fun, quirky, vibrantly illustrated Islamic books, that could effectively engage children of today. That’s what we do at Muslim Children’s Books.
What are the biggest challenges you have faced?
The biggest challenge with Sweet Apple was competing against huge publishers like Penguin Random House. As a very small independent publisher, it was hard to get noticed and to get the stores to stock the books.
But alhamdulillah, we had great positive moments, such as being listed in the Guardian’s best books of 2014 for My Dad’s Beard. Later Oddsockosaurus featured on Cbeebies Bedtime Stories, who have now signed contracts to feature more of our books. We were also applauded in an article in the Guardian for our effective contribution to diverse children’s books – where the author of the article felt that the bigger publishing houses weren’t getting it quite right!
When you are doing something like this, challenges are going to be part and parcel of it. You have to become thick-skinned and persevere through the tough moments.
How do you balance it all? Family and work?
Alhamdulillah, now that my children are older, it’s a lot easier to manage. Having said that, they still need me a lot – just in a different way. I therefore try not to work too much once the kids are home from school. I also get lots done during term time, so I can take it easy during the school holidays and take them out or go away with them. I think any working mum has to be a bit of a road runner and squeeze lots into one day – it’s the same for me.
Have you got any advice for aspiring mumpreneurs?
Never dive into anything in a hurry. Take a lot of time to research, learn, build skills and make contacts. Also, trust in Allah with all your heart – it is only He, at the end of the day, that has control over where your business will go.