Melanie Elturk on How Her Side Hustle, Haute Hijab, Became Her Full-Time Job

Back in 2010, Melanie Elturk and her husband, Ahmed Zedan, were working day jobs as an attorney and a marketing specialist. The two started a side hustle based on Elturk’s interest in fashion and a gap they noticed in the market — modest clothing.

“We knew there was this huge gaping hole in the market,” Elturk says. “Muslim women in the U.S. were having a difficult time finding appropriate hijabs.”

According to Elturk, many of the women she knows would either buy hijabs overseas or purchase scarves from retailers available stateside. The latter are not expressly made to wear as hijabs, though, and are often the wrong size or made of fabric that was too thick. They also weren’t made to be frequently washed. 

So she and her husband started Haute Hijab. The company sells hijabs in prints, solids and sets at around $20. They also run a blog and offer community support for women struggling with hijab. 

“We have monthly feature on our blog called hijabi of the month,” Elturk says. “It wasn’t as common five years ago to see hijabis in the mainstream.”

The two worked long hours outside of their day jobs to grow the company for five years before quitting to focus on the company full time. 

“It’s crazy and it’s something that was a fantasy world for a long time,” Elturk says. 

And now, in January 2018, Haute Hijab has launched a completely new line of luxury hijabs for special occasions. The pieces in the collection are handmade from 100% pure silk and designed with custom-made appliqués and embellishments ranging from Swarovski crystals to hand-cut lace, according to the company’s Instagram page. 

“We hope that we create a new standard for what a luxury hijab could be,” Elturk says. 

Haute Hijab raised a seed fund worth $500,000 in 2017, which is no small feat given that roughly 3% of venture capital funding goes to companies led by women. Elturk says the investors included friends, family, venture capital firms and some angel investors. 

“It’s tougher to find that money,” Elturk says of finding investors to fund Haute Hijab. “It took us a hell of a long time to raise that money. I’m so pleased with the quality of our investors.”

She notes that Haute Hijab will likely work to raise more money from investors at the end of 2018. 

“It’s a double edged sword,” Elturk says. “On the one hand you weed out a ton of investors, and it’s good and it’s bad. You’re only working with a pool of people who are good for you and your business.”

- Alicia McElhaney / She Spends Issue #38

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