Mona Ismaeil is the think-tank behind a brand new podcast to hit the airwaves called The Modern Hijabi. Recently, she joined The Drawing Board’s owner and editor-in-chief, Nakita Valerio, to discuss this exciting new adventure and her plans for Muslimah activism and community-building in the future.

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Fast Facts:

Favourite Qur’anic Verse at the moment: A verse that governs my life and how I view life’s challenges and obstacles is: “Allah does not burden a soul beyond that it can bear” (Al Baqarah, 286). I’ve been through a number of obstacles from health related issues and doctors telling me I was infertile to having a spouse who’s work takes him away from our family for long periods of time.  I try to remind myself that this is all Allah’s plan for me and that I can handle it because he will never give me more than I can handle.

Woman from Islamic history you are “feeling” right now: I absolutely adore Khadija bint Khuwaylid (May Allah be pleased with her). She was the “Mother of the believers”. I admire that she was strong, confident, successful and devoted to her work, her community and most importantly her husband. She was the ideal Muslimah and an amazing example for all Muslimahs.

Women who professionally inspire you: I love to draw inspiration from my friends and sisters who I know very well. I feel that it is important to choose people to look up to and make our role models that are “real people”! I am not inspired by celebrities or generally high profile people because I feel that sometimes we end up chasing a dream or a life that is out of reach. When we look up to or draw inspiration from sisters around us we can help ourselves to have more realistic goals and judgments on our successes and accomplishments. So with that said, I have two friends and sisters in Islam whom inspire me professionally and they would be Nakita Valerio; Owner of The Drawing Board and Wedad Amiri; Owner of Afflatus Hijab.  They both are doing what they love, and not holding back. They are both taking their lives and careers by the horns and I respect that. Also, both sisters are taking what they love and finding a way to give back to the community and to be active in a humanitarian way. Furthermore, both sisters are striving to make the world better for women which excites me.  Each sister has her own direction, method and niche but in the end, the goal is the same.

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Can you tell us about yourself and your role with the podcast? What are you trying to accomplish by creating space for the modern hijabi’s voice?

I suppose it is important to tell you about Modern Hejab first as that is where The Modern Hijabi stemmed from. My husband and I opened Modern Hejab in 2010. My goal was not to sell millions of hijabs but it was more to make a connection with young Muslim girls. I just used Modern Hejab as a platform, a way in. I started to wear hijab at 23years old. I struggled with the decision for a long time and it really came from the fact that I could not find enough good role models to get me excited about wearing hijab.  The women I saw around me were too meek, reserved, frumpy, and just not who I wanted to be. At 23 I was somewhat vein and the idea of covering my big curly hair was just out of the question. And for what? Was it even worth it? I craved that connection with God and after some soul searching I realized, hijab would fill this hole in my spiritual heart. From the day I wore the hijab, I fell in love with it and everything about it. The way it looked and felt and everything, just made me sure I had made the right decision. I often wish I had worn it sooner but only Allah knows when the right time is.

From there I decided that I needed to help other young women struggling with that decision. I wanted to show to Muslims and Non- Muslims that hijab is beautiful and that there is a way to make if fun, fashionable and still true to the Deen.

Now, The Modern Hijabi. I am a teacher by profession and once a teacher, always a teacher. I wanted to use the Modern Hijabi to start conversations with Muslim sisters and even Non-Muslims about women and hijab. I wanted to use it as a platform for showing the beauty of Islam. I want to break down barriers and diminish stereotypes about Women and Islam. Even Muslim women have misconceptions about Islam believe it or not!  I want to create a space where sisters can come to learn about Hijab, Islam, Tips and Tricks for being a hijabi and general girl talk.

What do you mean by “modern” and “Hijabi”?

Hijabi is a term used to describe a women who dons the hijab (Islamic head covering). Now the “Modern” aspect of it is about taking a traditional practice and bringing it into the modern world. This can be difficult sometimes but it is about balance. It’s about following the latest trends while still remaining modest. It’s about being outgoing and enjoying life while still remembering the values and guidelines that we live by.

What are some of the subjects covered in your podcast series thus far?

My first podcast was about the Burkini Ban. Although it had already been overturned, I wanted to share my thoughts on the idea as that whole issue just blew my mind.

Next, I started a series called the “Journey to Hijab”. This series will cover 8 steps to starting to wear hijab. I had little guidance when I started wearing hijab as I think many sisters go through the same thing. I mean what is there to guide? Just put it on, and presto an instant hijabi! No! There is a process as it is a life changing choice and if rushed into, can have negative consequences. I know I am making it seem like a big thing but really when you take that step on your “journey”, you are changing your life forever. Through this series I want to help make the journey more meaningful, seamless and more enjoyable.

Can you give us a sneak peek into some future topics you will be exploring?

I will be sharing all things hijab. For example, styling tips, storage tips, my story of when I started wearing hijab and so much more hijab related topics. Also, I want to extend my podcasts to speak about different issues with women in Islam. I want to address stereotypes and misconceptions. Finally, I am a mom and the world of mothers is never boring! I will also be talking about parenting Muslim children and teaching our children about different Islamic topics including how to be proud of who they are as Muslims.

What are some of the most rewarding aspects of podcasting?

Well, I am new to the podcasting world but so far it is being able to put out information to help others. I love that we can reach so many people so easily.

What are some of the most challenging aspects of podcasting?

Getting people to listen. I’m still learning how to convince people I have something important to say.

What led you to adopting this technological medium to get your voice out there?

As much as I love blogging, I felt that podcasting and speaking to people unedited felt more raw and authentic. I want to have a conversation. When I blog, I can edit and re-edit what I want to say, while with podcasting it is more natural. It’s like we’re sitting down to have a cup of coffee or for me a latte together.

How do you plan what you are going to do shows about?

I really look at what moves me and I try to go from there. Honestly, I do not plan that much. I think about the different points I wish to cover but I don’t write anything down. I don’t read from cue cards or notes. Like I said, I want it to be raw and authentic and natural.

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What do you like to do in your personal time?

As a stay-at-home mom, I spend the majority of my time with my two children; Manessa (3.5 years) and Malik (8 months). I love to take them out to parks, playgrounds, anywhere I can help them learn about the world. I also enjoy surrounding myself with strong and like-minded women who can fuel the different parts of my life. My husband and I love being fit and active so I go to the gym often and really work towards a healthy lifestyle. My family always has the travel bug and we’ve been blessed to see many places in the world. I love writing, blogging and speaking to people about Islam. I also love to learn about other cultures and religions. Finally I love spending time with my family and friends. They bring me so much joy and just make life worth living.

What is something not a lot of people know about you?

I trained as an amateur boxer for 5 years. I trained at Panther Gym (the greatest gym in Edmonton). I turned to boxing to help me through some tough times. The sport itself as well as the family I gained from being at Panther gym really made the obstacles I was facing much easier. Boxing gave me and outlet for my anger and frustration and the people there gave me so much love.  Although I no longer box, Panther Gym will always have a special place in my heart.

If your podcast had one take-home message for listeners, what would it be?

I think the specific messages will change with each segment depending on the topic but the general idea is that Women in Islam are more than what people think we are. We are more than we think we are. I want to show that Islam is a faith of love, respect, acceptance, peace and so much more.

To sign up for The Modern Hijabi, click here.

Businesses have gotten a bad rap because of a generalized understanding of how the business community works and stereotypes about evil corporations being applied to all modern business practices. In this article, we will explore the top nine misconceptions about business and how companies today are doing everything they can to break down these poorly conceived notions of how they work and do their work.


  1. You have to be heartless. The mythological ruthless CEO who will stop at nothing to expand her business, including alienating her family, her employees, her clients and her competitions is a thing of the past. These days, people are interested in the morals on which a business is built. Is your business involved in community work? Do they contribute to a vibrant, non-profit culture in their neighbourhood? Do the goods and services they provide benefit society for the better in some way? These are all things the modern, tech-savvy consumer takes into account when making purchasing and service decisions about where to put their support and dollars. The heartless corporations that remain are the ones that have gotten too big to take down, but for start-ups, attention to community and moral integrity are the way of the future. As they should
  2. Money and profits are always the bottom line. The best businesses are those that are interested in providing people with goods and services that better society as a whole –whether it be terms of information, health, fitness, quality food, environmentally-friendly and ethic products, artisan products or other noble efforts. Business owners that are passionate about what they do for the sake of doing it are much more likely to experience the success that allows them to continue and flourish in their business practices.
  3. Output is more important than your staff’s needs. The companies that cut corners on the health benefits, livable wages and ideal working environments of their staff are increasingly falling out of favour with consumer audiences. More and more people are dissatisfied with their work and unhappy in their lifestyles. Career changes are a commonplace occurrence these days, even after years of investment in employees in the form of training. A healthy, happy, exercised, celebrated staff member is much more likely to take ownership of their work and their position in your company, benefitting the company and its clients in the end anyway. Better to invest in the health and happiness of your staff and reap the benefits of being satisfied that you are not only doing what is right for them, but also what is right for your business and society at large as well.photodune-1313567-businessman-pressing-modern-social-buttons-on-a-virtual-background-xs-507x300
  4. Bigger is better. Companies that are obsessed with their growth into large-scale corporations aren’t always aware of the sacrifices that come from giving up small and medium-sized business practices. More of a corporate feel makes their company less friendly and approachable, but more importantly, it makes your company less flexible to adapt to the changing markets on a whim. Filtering everything through large-scale boards or committees and/or having to do the legwork required to alter simple company procedures can be a pain. In the mix, the personal nature of a company is lost. Bigger companies are less likely to support local artists, entrepreneurs and innovators in their communities and they tend to overlook the small stuff of value to smaller businesses: getting to know their clients intimately, being cornerstones of their community and serving the neighbourhoods they come from.
  5. Business and environmentalism are opposing ideas. This is definitely becoming a thing of the past. Any business worth their weight is going green these days, whether that means in-house recycling programs, going paperless, using Green-certified materials, investing in tree-planting program or any of the innumerable ways that companies can reduce their carbon footprint and environmental impact. One of the first things that prospective clients ask, regardless of the industry, is what measures businesses are taking to help with the environment to protect their legacy for generations to come.
  6. Business-owners are workaholics. While it is true that business owners sometimes don’t know when to slow down or might be particularly passionate, it is not always true that they don’t have downtime or sacrifice time with their family to run their business. These days, business owners recognize that the best leaders are those who help their team and delegate according to the strengths and weaknesses of their team members. A boss who does it all might seem ideal but in reality, it means that the business sinks or swims depending on them alone, which is never a good business model.
  7. Marketing is a waste of money and time. How many times have I heard that marketing managers sit around doing nothing, wasting company money and time? While that may be true for marketing managers you know, that technically shouldn’t be the case and it usually isn’t. While marketing departments might seem like a lot of investment for an immeasurable or undetectable return, don’t underestimate the power of social media, traditional advertising and other techniques for brand recognition. Even though you might not respond to or access those marketing mechanisms, it doesn’t mean that others don’t. Many studies (internal or otherwise) show that clients do respond to techniques that were purposefully applied by marketing departments, resulting in business for that particular company.
  8. Working longer and harder is more efficient. Those who work the hardest and the longest might be wasting a lot of time. In fact, recent scientific studies are throwing the entire 8 hour work day into question because it seems to undermine productivity, thus wasting company time. People with specific tasks to complete will often stretch out the time it takes to complete those tasks in order to “fill their day”, rather than taking the appropriate amount of time to finish their work. As well, longer work days require more breaks – usually one hour total for an eight hour day, divided or not – and the time surrounding these breaks tends to be highly unproductive as people wait for the break, take the break and then take a long time to get back to actual work when they return. Recently light has been shed on how crucial stay-at-home moms are for the job market because they are often engaging in a creative, entrepreneurial spirit in order to work from home and their time is highly limited, meaning that they have to work more efficiently than the average office worker to get their jobs completed while still taking care of their homes and families.monkeytype1_2
  9. Outsourcing is an ideal business practice. Gone are the days of prioritizing cheap work in foreign countries as a way to save a buck. Real business owners are realizing that employing people in their communities injects money back into the local economy which keeps them in business longer. Additionally, supporting local artisans and innovators is the latest fashionable business practice and with good reason, some of the best talent is found close to home.

cousins  Inspired by a recent post we wrote for Behrends Group of Companies, we figured it would be a good idea to talk about why we named The Drawing Board as such! First of all, this business has not always been known by this name. Though Nakita has been doing online content management for various businesses and organizations since 2009, she didn’t officially name and launch it until August of 2014. This was done with the intention to expand our services and clientele base. Nakita had worked for the incredible Edmonton-based business, Optimum Health Vitamins and Kolya Naturals Spa and Apothecary for 8 years and it felt like it was time for a change. With the goal of setting out on her own within 6 to 8 months, The Drawing Board was born.

375078_10150782137025568_1715195333_nIn coming up with the name, Nakita and Michele brainstormed together regularly. We wanted it to be something catchy, meaningful and something you always come back to. We wanted it to represent modernity and freshness – exactly what our content would breathe into the life of your business. So what do you always come back to when you need new ideas? You come back to the drawing board!

cousins2We also wanted to emphasize the creative relationships we want to build with clients. The Drawing Board is a dynamic team and we strive to empower your writing ideas by working together to fish them out, solidify your vision and then translate this into impeccable writing. Most of our clients offer us snippets of information, bullet-point notes that they cobble together from various conversations among their staff. Our job is to take these schematic ideas and create writing masterpieces. The Drawing Board is a place where the sketched beginnings of your ideas become a business reality.