“Having an online business, being an introvert, and being a solopreneur, is just a recipe for hell,” Hoda J laughed as she honestly addressed a crowd full of Babes at our June Babes in Business meet-up. Despite the intensity, Hoda makes online selling look easy, even relaxing. Her home decor and lifestyle brand, Karama, provides pillows, tea towels and scarves with designs inspired by Morocco and created with mental tranquility in mind. With degrees in Interior Design and Psychology, Hoda has a deep understanding of how a well-designed home can change a person’s whole outlook. It may be why she was so good at changing our outlooks about business for the better.
“I’m not going to lie to you guys,” she said, “It’s not easy, but it’s so worth it.” See what makes running a business “worth it” in our interview, with Hoda J.
Give us a brief description of your business.
Karama is a home and living brand that was founded in 2012. We believe our homes are reflections of who we are and how we feel. To us, interiors are more than how your home looks, it's about the connection between your space and what we like to call your personal interiors (mind, body, and soul).
How did you get started?
When I first started in 2012, I wanted a creative outlet that would allow me to share my work with others and make a difference. Karama comes from the word "kareem" in Arabic which means generosity. I knew that this would be the company's mission: to serve others. Slowly, I started to create more designs that had a purpose behind them. Soon I realized that my customers loved the modern arabesque designs I created. It was a blend of traditional art and modern design. It was then I knew I found our signature design look.
What inspires you?
I am heavily inspired by nature, traveling, and the feeling it brings to humans. Every day I make sure I am connected to that feeling because it allows me to create pieces that will radiate positive energy. I want my customers to feel like they are on vacation everyday, relaxed and calm.
You’ve described yourself as a “Design Psychology Expert”. How does your degree in Psychology inform your work and the way you run your business?
I graduated with a degree in Psychology, but after college I was confused about the path I wanted to take. I loved learning about the human mind, but I also loved designing. I decided to get certified as an interior designer, but that still didn't feel like enough. I later discovered Design Psychology, it blended my passions perfectly, using designs to help aid the human psyche. I knew this is exactly what I wanted to do, to create pieces that served a purpose.
Karama works closely with artisans from Morocco and other countries. Why was that an important choice for your business?
Morocco was the country that inspired all of this and Karama stems from a moment I had there. It was a hot day, the alleyways were packed with people, mopeds, donkeys and just a lot of commotion. I was beginning to feel anxious when I found a small door that led to this serene garden. Everything suddenly disappeared and all I could hear were birds chirping and the gentle sounds of a water fountain. It was as if all that commotion never existed. I’ll never forget the feeling that country left me. The best way I could thank them was to start a business that honors their culture and traditional art. I truly believe if the items are made with love then that energy will be received to the customers.
How do you finalize a product for sale?
There are a lot of designs that don't make the cut. Before I create the product, I ask my small team, family, and friends if they like a certain design. It is really important for me to share the looks not just within the company, but also with people who I personally interact with on a daily basis. Having different opinions provides important insight into how the customers might react to the product.
What advice do you have for makers looking into wholesale?
Don't jump the gun by having a large inventory of your products in hopes that you will land a wholesale deal. Test the waters first. Find small boutiques that don't mind stocking a dozen or so of your products. It will provide great insight into your company.
It’s fantastic that a portion of your proceeds goes to support a variety of charities. Your customers can even nominate a charity for Karama to support! Why do you think philanthropy is important and why do you make an effort to get your audience involved in this way?
Nowadays consumers are more conscious about the purpose of their product. Great designs sell well but, a great design with a meaningful cause connects with the consumers on a much deeper level. I want Karama customers to feel like they too are making a difference in this world.
What are some of your favorite Instagram accounts to follow?
I like the blend of home interiors and lifestyle these accounts offer:
Your work focuses a lot on adding peace to people’s lives by changing their “interiors”. How can people bring peace into their homes this summer?
I mentioned earlier that I want my customers to feel like they are on vacation when they enter their spaces. Adding plants, scented candles, soft throw pillows and artwork of beautiful destinations is the perfect recipe for you to feel at ease this summer.