One year ago the idea of a business to create culturally-appropriate activewear to enable an support female Muslim athletes was an interesting idea swirling around the minds of its early supporters. It made for exciting coffee shop conversations, but the idea had yet to be put to paper. A path forward was fuzzy at best.

Fast forward one year later and that idea became a reality in ASIYA. We launched our first line of product, have outfitted hundreds of athletes in sports hijabs, and are ramping up to scale our business to the next level. The world has even taken notice, with featured articles in outlets like the New York Times and an appearance in a national Inc. magazine contest just this month.

None of this would have been possible, particularly at this speed, without MN Cup, the country’s largest statewide business competition that brings together an entire community to rally behind great ideas. The MN Cup experience and broader community of support we’ve encountered positioned us to succeed. Last spring we entered the Cup’s Social Enterprise division, requiring us to synthesize our thoughts into a focused business plan, prioritize our product roll-out, and most of all get real about this business. As a semifinalist we were matched with incredible, accomplished mentors from some of the world’s top businesses who continue to provide support to us long after the competition ended. On top of all that, the exposure we received from the MN Cup led to an introduction to an expansive network of smart and successful entrepreneurs throughout MSP.

As first-time founders, we’ve been astounded by the community that exists here.  We’ve received incredible support and have found people to be very generous in opening up their contact books to introduce us to people and organizations who are likely to turn into meaningful partnerships.  Along with entrepreneurs, many of the large companies in the area have also reached out to offer their support — everything from mid-size businesses who are eager to ‘pay it forward’ to Fortune 500’s who see opportunity in staying connected to the startup community.

Prior to founding this business with my partner Fatimah, I had the great fortune of working at two world-renowned MSP businesses – 3M and Fallon – and was able to launch while completing my MBA at the Carlson School of Management. The career experience you can have here made so much possible, with learnings I’m applying to my new venture. Meanwhile, Fatimah was spending the past ten years volunteering in a local community center where she saw the need for a real need to solve an important problem, proving support for young Muslim females by enabling them to participate in sports and engage in physical activity. As a social worker in Ramsey County and founder of a non-profit providing intimidation-free spaces for young girls, she knew the issues and opportunity first-hand. The incredibly diverse and vibrant culture in this area is critical to our success.

Even with those combined experiences, we’ve found that entrepreneurship is a whole new animal. To go from idea to viable business model we had to lean on the startup ecosystem quite a bit to navigate the ropes. MN Cup, through its various informational sessions and network, helped us accelerate. From business planning to media exposure to much-needed seed funding, we benefited greatly and feel incredibly blessed to have the opportunity to participate.

This is a place where people with great ideas, diverse experiences, and a drive to succeed are embraced by the community. That’s evident in MN Cup. If you have a business – or even an idea – of your own I would encourage you to apply. The 2017 MN Cup season kicks off today. Visit this link to learn more and get involved.

Jamie Glover
is a marketing professional and recent MBA graduate, and has a passion for helping to give more girls access to sport.

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