Interview by Adama Juldeh Jaleelah Munu
The Black Muslim Times UK sat down to talk with a Tanzanian sister who has founded a natural haircare line and authored her own book. Read on to learn more about Dalilah Baruti’s journey to loving her natural hair and entrepreneurship!
Asalamu Alaikum sister, thanks so much for speaking with us! Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
My name is Dalilah Baruti and I was born in Tanzania. I moved to London with my family when I was five. I’ve since lived in North, East and South London. I think I need to live in West London just to even things out, lol. I’m the Founder of Hug My Hair, a handmade product line for natural hair, and Author of How to Look After Your Natural Hair in Hijab.
What inspired you to wear your hair in its natural state?
Personally, it was a means of self-love. I’d had my hair relaxed at a young age, and in my teenage years I wore extensions and weaves so often that I no longer felt “presentable” unless I had my hair in one of these styles. My relaxed hair became paper thin and I was starting to lose my edges. I just wanted a fresh start.
When I went natural I also stopped wearing make-up every day and looked into using natural products on my skin. 100% Pure was a brand I fell in love with and their Tea Tree face wash really cleared up my skin problems. I then began to do research into how best to take care of natural hair and found all the best products were in America so I carried out research into how to make my own at home, and that’s how Hug My Hair came about.
(Founder, Dalilah Baruti)
What inspired you to write a book on natural hair care for the Muslim woman and your own hair care line?
The haircare line came first and as I’ve already touched on the answer to that question, I’ll talk more about the book here. Because I covered my hair, I felt that I didn’t really have anyone I could fully relate to in the natural hair world on-line or on YouTube, which is where a lot of naturals look to get their information. I also hadn’t been wearing the Hijab when I first went natural, so when I started covering my hair for religious reasons, my passion for natural hair care didn’t stop. I recognised that the Muslim woman has different priorities, for example prioritising maintaining healthy hair over hair styling.
I also recognised that we may wash our hair more often than some natural hair advocates would recommend (due to religious commands) and thought about the impacts this could have. So, I decided that I would step into that space and represent Hijab wearing women and girls with natural hair like myself, and look into what Hadiths I may find on the subject and what advice I could offer from my own experience. I was sure I wasn’t the only one in the world with natural hair and Hijab, so even if my book only helped one other person, then all the time I put into it would have been worth it.
Why is going natural specifically important for African and Caribbean Muslim women?
It’s specifically important for us because we were created solely to worship Allah, and through that worship we learn to get to know and love Allah and are promised success in this life and the hereafter. But worship comes in many forms; it’s not just making sure we pray on time or fast during Ramadhan. It’s taking care of what Allah has entrusted us with and, other than our families and our wealth, this also includes our health and indeed our bodies – including our hair. Going natural is taking an action that says ‘we are content with what Allah has given us, that it is sufficient for us and that we’ll make the most of it’.
Given the ‘natural hair revolution’, did you have support for your vision?
My family and friends have been really supportive; I’m grateful that I haven’t been discouraged from pursuing my business. One struggle I had was when someone who worked in marketing advised me to change my religion if I wanted to be successful. I was so taken aback by his confidence in his own “advice” that I had to read his email several times. He really went into depth so he had obviously really thought about it. His main gripe was that if I’m marketing hair products and covering my hair then there is no future for me because I can’t demonstrate their value. In a way I’m grateful to him because he made me realise that I can be successful. I just have to believe in myself, have trust in Allah and not rely on others to do it for me.
What obstacles did you face setting it up, and have you overcome them?
Being a solopreneur can be lonely, it can eat into bedtime and it can eat into social time. My flatmate once asked me (with genuine concern) if I ever left the house and looked so relieved when I mentioned I have friends and yes I do see them…sometimes. When I was setting it up, I was still working my day job because Hug My Hair wasn’t something I’d planned; which is ironic because growing up I’d set time aside to ‘create a business idea’ but I was 12 years old and they mostly involved impossible things like, how to have a baby without having to give birth to it. I know, crazy. But Hug My Hair kind of just – happened.
It evolved out of a passion for knowledge and from what I learned I was able to help others by sharing my products with them. In order to do it legally, I had to set up my business. I didn’t have start-up capital and wasn’t prepared to get a loan from a bank to fund it because unfortunately they have no such thing as an interest free loan. Applying for grants was difficult because I didn’t fit certain criteria and I couldn’t get my head around crowd funding websites well enough.
Keeping myself motivated and self-funding, whilst still working a 9-5, are obstacles I’m still facing on a daily basis. The difference now is that I’m in a much better place in terms of my business knowledge, I’m focusing on wholesale marketing to raise capital and I ensure that I keep in close contact with people who are on the same mission as I am so we keep each other accountable.
Where do you see your business in the next five years? What do you hope to achieve?
In the next five years I hope to be giving 50% percent of all profits to charity in sha Allah and be selling in more countries. I’d also like to be able to offer products for brothers such as beard oils. I really want it to be something that gives back to the community and I’m happy to explore the possibilities that it will bring. But my main goal is giving back.
Do you have advice for people looking to set up their own business?
Have patience, do not compare yourself with others and visualise your goal regularly. If you’re ready to start your own business, I know an amazing woman who is on her fifth business, and technically became a millionaire last year, that I can put you in touch with. She is running a really fantastic programme designed to help people get started in a way that means they don’t have to make all the mistakes that she did. What you should also do before you get started is pray about it and really think about your intention and how you intend to remain accountable to Allah for that intention and seek His support regularly throughout your growth or lack thereof.
Do you have advice for sisters who wish to do the ‘big chop’but are hesitant?
(Big chop – cutting off relaxed hair and growing out the natural hair)
Do you really want to go your whole life having no idea what you look like with no hair or what shape your head is? If you’re as curious as I am then I say go for it because guess what? It grows back! Thicker and healthier! I big chopped again recently and I’m so glad I did. I have been wanting to cut my hair off for a couple of years but I was afraid to because I thought I’d scare off prospective husbands. But then I thought, if I’m going to get married, my OH will just have to accept me for who I am in the first place and for all I know, he may love the short hair look! So why am hesitating for someone who doesn’t actually exist yet? Additionally if I’m ever going to go bald, now would be the best time because I’ve no one to scare off but myself and I can’t run that far away from me.
Big chop hair is low maintenance, showers are a whole new experience and it may even suit you better than long hair did. My family and friends loved my short hair and I’m really enjoying growing it back, it’s now long enough to canerow and I cut it in August.
What inspirational words would you wish to leave on hair care?
Crush your ego, love yourself, hug your hair.
Where can we follow you on social media?
You can check out my YouTube channel for Hug My Hair here : https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCKMBip-HOxQvUp5otswuKYA/videos
Also, follow me on Instagram: @texturedsisters and @hugmyhair.
Many thanks to sister Dalilah Baruti for speaking with us!