Photo: Diana Kolesarova.

Thawrih provides work for Syrian newcomers, looks to expand in next year

This October, a group of students and recent graduates from the University of Ottawa launched Thawrih, an activewear company tailored towards Muslim women and Sikhs.

The co-founders of the company, Sarah Abood and Sami Dabliz, are both personal trainers, and according to Abood, they “received requests separately from clients who (wanted) home workouts as they’re uncomfortable going to the gym.”

Abood, who graduates in April with a bachelor of social sciences with a minor in economics, said that following these requests, they “decided to help on a bigger scale,” and address “the actual problem.” This led to Abood and Dabliz developing workout hijabs and turbans, as well as modest activewear.

The company is unique in that it provides employment to Syrian newcomers. Abood had launched Capital Welcomes two years ago, a not-for-profit that assisted in settlement for refugees. One issue that Abood noticed was difficulty in accessing employment due to language or transportation barriers, and with their benefits running low, they had no means of income.

“So we took the two problems and we made one solution, and all our headgears are made in Ottawa by Syrian newcomers, providing income and employment,” said Abood.

Thawrih receives their materials from Montreal and brings them back to Ottawa, where the employees largely work from home to design the headgear. Abood also notes that their products are made to order, to avoid any front costs with extra inventory on hand.

“Our market is pretty big,” said Abood. “Ninety per cent of our sales are outside of Canada.” Thawrih mostly sells to the United Kingdom, as well as to the United States, Sweden, Singapore, Malaysia, and Middle Eastern countries.

Due to cultural differences within their diverse market, Abood said that they had to test their products multiple times to “go the extra mile” and remain culturally sensitive in what they are selling.

Despite only having been around for a month and a half, Abood says Thawrih’s reception has been positive because they’ve “only seen an increase in demand,” with over 70 sales in the first month, which Abood believes is “incredible for a start-up.”

“We find that if we make one sale from one postal code, the next week we’ll get one or two sales from that same postal code, meaning that the word of mouth is getting around of our product.”

Based on the feedback that the company receives—so far just on the hijabs—they work to develop new styles that better meet the demand of their consumers. This growing demand means that Thawrih does have bulk orders coming in, but they are unable to meet these yet due to their small size and production line.

“We know that we can grow and we know that we will grow. So we’re looking at expanding a lot in the near future, we’re just looking to get investments or loans or credit to invest in machinery.” But as for the next year, Abood is certain that the company will expand and meet the growing demand of their global market.

For more information, please visit Thawrih’s website.