Khalia Ismain is the founder of Jamii, a discount card for African and Caribbean businesses in the UK.
A self-confessed ‘Island Girl’ “my mum is English and my Dad is half Jamaican and half St Lucian”, she graduated in 2015 and naturally veered toward working for start-ups, a sign of things to come. Since launching in August 2016, Jamii, which means ‘community’ in Swahili, already has a number of quality, black-owned business under their umbrella. We caught up with Khalia to find out more about Jamii.
What is Jamii?
Jamii is a discount card for black-owned businesses in the UK. Members get access to a year’s worth of discounts at the best and brightest businesses – the idea behind it is #ShopSaveSupport, in which every purchase simultaneously saves you some money while positively impacting the economic standing of the Black British community. We make a point of partnering with ambitious, innovative entrepreneurs that deliver high-quality products and services. You’ll return to a business that made you happy!
Why did you feel the need to set it up?
Prior to setting Jamii up, I’d heard a lot of people talking about the need to support black-owned businesses, but usually this only translated to one random purchase during a particularly political time. In order to create real change, support needs to be more strategic and it needs to be ongoing. Jamii is about making it easier to discover great businesses, and making it easier to support them more regularly. When you know a purchase can simultaneously save you money and create positive impact (and of course, the product itself is great), you are much more likely to remember and return.
What mainstream discount card can you liken it to?
There are two that come to mind: The South London Club – which encourages people to shop at independent businesses based in South London – and Tastecard, a discount card that gives you 50% offers at restaurants across the UK.
What businesses can we find on Jamii?
The businesses that can be found on Jamii fall into five main industries: Food, Hair, Fashion, Skincare & Beauty and Art. Businesses include Spill the Tea (Food), Boucleme (Hair), Alero Jasmine (Fashion), The Soap Connoisseur (Skincare & Beauty) and Dorcas Creates (Art).
What support have you had in setting it up?
I’ve had some amazing support from my sister: I outlined my idea to her near the beginning, and the first thing she said was “how can I help?” She now runs the Twitter and Facebook pages, ensures the newsletter gets out every week and keeps me sane! I’ve also had friends reach out to help – one is an amazing graphic designer and has joined the ‘Jamii Team’ to create our visuals and manage our Instagram. My boyfriend and other friends have been integral to keeping me focused and giving me perspective – which is essential!
What’s the response been to the business?
It’s been phenomenal. When we launched, we received a lot of positivity and the momentum has built in the successive months. I’ve been very pleasantly surprised as people have started to seek us out and congratulate us! It’s always surreal when you meet people and they tell you that they’ve heard of you.
What are your plans to scale it up?
Currently Jamii is quite London-centric, which is just a result of the fact that this is where I live. Ultimately though, I want it to become a nationwide card: wherever you are in the country, you should be able to find a Jamii business. Then, who knows. Maybe we could take Europe or America…
How much time do you devote to Jamii? Do you have a team?
I am currently working on Jamii part-time, as I have a full-time job. I work on it during the weekends and evenings. My sister and friend have now joined the team part time, and are largely responsible for everything that people see (i.e. the social media and the visuals).
What’s next for Jamii?
We’ll be celebrating one year at the end of August, and so we’re finalising our celebration plans! We’ve also got some things in the pipeline for Black History Month this October – I can’t quite reveal yet, but I can tell you that I’m very excited…