Interested in learning more about how Nominal came to be?
Introduction of Kufiartist
"Inspired by my incredible mom, pops, fiancé, calligraphy, and an array of vibrant color, I decided to take my hobby and turn it into a business! Custom art pieces that will make the perfect gift or addition to your home, office, or mosque.
Introducing to you | www.KUFIARTIST.COM |
I have over 500 Facebook friends and Instagram followers. I expect that same amount of likes and followers on all my accounts <3 Thanks for the love and support I appreciate you all"
- December 8, 2016
@akramjabdallah | Instagram
KufiArtist comes to a halt amidst Techshop's Bankruptcy | November 2017
Throughout 2017, Akram used a place called Techshop as an outlet for his creativity to fuel his newest business: KufiArtist, a company founded on the beauty of the Arabic language and home decor. Techshop offered access to massive engraving machines which would help allow him to laser-engrave massive wooden pieces and bring them to life with Arabic calligraphy. KufiArtist began to gain traction, but right as it felt like it was becoming a routine, Techshop announced to their hundreds of passionate members that they were declaring bankruptcy. With no warning, no plan for their customers, the shop was closed. With nowhere to go, no work to provide an income, and no plan in mind, Akram could do nothing but think of a way to bring Arabic to life in a different way.
Nominal was founded | January 22, 2018
In the middle of a time-consuming and mentally taxing master's program at Arizona State University, Akram and Lena founded Nominal with the intention to create a brand that allowed people to express their inner values through what they wore. Starting in a small spare bedroom in a townhouse in Phoenix, Arizona, Nominal truly started with just a few items, just a small room, and a couple that had dreams for a global reach.
The First Convention is Booked | April, 2018
After reaching just a couple hundred orders over a few months, Akram began feeling like the company was ready for trade show conventions. Knowing he would need a bit of help, Akram contacted his best friend, Ahmad, to join him on this endeavor. Akram shared his thoughts: "Doing something in-person might be our best chance to really grow this brand. So many online customers told us “this is even better than I expected”. And I think we have such quality products, such detailed engravings, that they're right: it might really need to be seen, held, to be believed.” Akram booked the booth, the flights, and the hotel, taking what was considered the biggest leap and investment of Nominal thus far.
First Convention - ISNA [Houston] | August, 2018
Houston was the home for Nominal's first convention ever. With just two tables and a handful of items, it was an exciting but humble beginning. The Nominal booth was nowhere nearly as big as all the other experienced companies, but they held their spot as one of the busiest booths in the entire convention center. The team was met with questions like "how many years have you been open?" that made them feel like they finally got the assurance they needed while taking the next step to take the company up a notch. Amidst the nonstop chaos of the weekend, Ahmad came to the realization that he may be joining the Nominal brand going forward.
First Black Friday Sale | November, 2018
Unsure if it required much planning, Akram spent just a couple of days preparing for Black Friday, knowing online traffic would be at an all-time high. He headed out of the country for an annual family Thanksgiving trip and was blown away by the sales, overwhelming him immediately. The entire vacation's leisure was replaced with stress, and the majority of the trip consisted of Akram in the hotel doing customer service emails. Unable to fulfill orders away from home, Akram trusted his friend, Hamza, to go to his house and ship orders for him. That plan was quickly foiled when Hamza realized he had the wrong key. Akram returned from vacation with a weekend's worth of orders, unsure of how to even ask friends for help, and had to fulfill orders for two weeks straight before getting caught up. Presently, this many orders would take Nominal just a few hours to successfully ship out. At this moment, he realized he may have a company in his hands that was too heavy to carry alone.
Two back-to-back Conventions | December, 2018
In December, RIS Toronto took place, marking the debut of Nominal's first convention out of country, to test the popularity of the Nominal brand outside of the United States. With help from his wife Lena and his sister Noor, Akram found Toronto to be one of the most loyal and excited demographics, exceeding all expectations and ringing the exhaustion to another level. The following weekend, Akram took another leap by booking two booths at the Chicago ICNA and an additional two people to come help, his sisters-in-law, Rana and Nada. With the overwhelming consistent traffic between the two conventions, Akram had successfully taken the brand to a North American level, and was ready to bring someone onto the team.
First Office + First Team Member
Against the advice of many people, Akram decided to leave the townhouse to move Nominal into a 1,200 square foot office space. During that leap of faith, Akram also hired his best friend, Ahmad, as Nominal's first ever part-time employee. With the office and a new employee, January marked the one-year anniversary of Nominal, and also the beginning of a new chapter that involved exponential growth for the brand. Shortly after, in February, Malek Bacha was hired part-time to help further the team's capabilities of fulfilling orders and growing the company simultaneously.
Three back-to-back Conventions & ICNA [Washington DC], iHeartHalal [Chicago], Palestinian Festival [Houston]
In preparation for April's monstrous work schedule of three consecutive conventions, Ahmad officially left his job to pursue Nominal full time. April 2019 marked the busiest month in Nominal's history with a the ICNA convention in Washington D.C., followed by the iHeartHalal Convention in Chicago, and the Palestinian Festival in Houston. People advised against Akram's decision to hire Ahmad full time, reminding him the risk that comes with being someone's only reliable source of income, but with three successful conventions, the team saw nothing but more work to take on, and more goals to accomplish for the second half of 2019.
The Founders Graduate, and the company gains a full time employee. | May 2019
Akram & Lena celebrated their graduation together with their new Master's Degrees, and now officially have enough time to push the brand beyond imagination. Malek gets offered a full time position amidst this vision, and the team is officially built for the Eid Sale in May, and the rest of 2019. The May 17 Eid Sale marked the single busiest day in Nominal history, bringing in several weeks' worth of orders. Handling the sale required help from many friends and family members to catch up on.
Three Conventions | July - August, 2019
With the second out-of-country convention and Nominal's first time at a non-Islamic trade show in New York City, July was the home of many firsts for Nominal. While in Toronto, Nominal hosted a second Eid Sale online, successfully operating even when out of town, proving its self-sustaining nature as a brand.
In August, Nominal celebrated the one-year anniversary of their first convention by returning to Houston, making it the biggest convention ever, arriving with seven total booths and ten employees, up from its one booth and two employees in 2019.
Black Friday Sale + 50K Followers | November 2019
September and October consisted of preparing for Black Friday, knowing it’d be the biggest sale of the year and could launch the company into a new level. Upon going live, orders poured in faster than ever expected. Within about sixty minutes, the 11/27 Black Friday Sale broke records, and threw the team for a reality check. With a lot of areas for improvement and logistical flaws, Akram realizes that the team needs to grow. After proving her hard work ethic amidst the chaotic Black Friday Sale, Iram Hussain gets offered a full time position and leaves her job to pursue Nominal.
The Nominal Instagram Page quickly hits 50,000 then 60,000 followers during the Black Friday weekend and establishes the legitimacy of the Nominal Family onwards.
Conventions & 2020 Aspirations | December 2019
In his first convention without Akram's assistance, Ahmad helmed the 2019 RIS Convention on his own with Nominal's debut of clothing and their return to the Greater Toronto Area. After a successful convention, the team began planning their goals for 2020, wondering if they should move offices for a more creative and spacious work environment.
Two-Year Anniversary & Signing a New Lease | January 2020
After hitting the two year anniversary, Akram and the team decided that the year would start on a better foot if they had a more spacious work environment that could allow for more creativity and flow. They signed the lease for a nearby office that was 3,200 square foot, close to three times the size of the first office.
Moving into New Office | February 2020
The team officially moves into the 3,200 square foot office, and begins to set more strict roles in the company. With Iram on board to help with customer service and Malek handling all order fulfillment, Akram and Ahmad managed the logistical progress of the company going forward into 2020.
COVID & Nominal | March 2020
COVID-19, amidst this massive company shift, becomes a global pandemic, just thirty days after moving in. All fourteen conventions are canceled, leaving Nominal with a lot of inventory purchased. With the budget tied up in new items and setup for conventions, really big fear set in. Going into lockdown, the company focused on working from home, working safely, and feeling the responsibility of keeping the company alive, keeping everyone’s pay coming, and making up for the lost money of conventions.With conventions being responsible for thirty, and sometimes up to sixty, percent of revenue, the team had to brainstorm on how to handle the e-commerce world to make up for this.
Online shopping continues to gain popularity and the support is amazing from the Nominal Family. We get busier than even before the pandemic, and Nefisa Iman gets hired full time to join the customer service team. In a business sense, there were many pros and cons amidst the pandemic, but the team was grateful to be able to support many people during these fearful times.
Losing Control during the Eid Sale | May 2020
Unsure of what to expect at this level of the company amidst the global pandemic, the Eid Sale took the Nominal Team for a ride that no one was buckled in for. Within 44 minutes of going live with the sale and over forty new items, all records from the Black Friday / Cyber Monday weekend were broken. Hiring Hammad Hussain had to happen immediately, and having him on board helped with fulfillment, but the team was stuck in a never-ending cycle in customer service. For every five emails they finished, ten more would come in. For the first time, they felt like they had lost control. They navigated the struggles of the brand growth. Hitting 100K followers was a milestone amidst this sale that didn't feel celebratory, but scary for a moment. All of Ramadan was spent catching up on emails and orders. Everything was re-structured from the ground up, in regards to how we were going to handle our next sale. Before they could even sweep up the dust of the Eid Sale, Ahmad walked into Akram’s office and said “we need to prepare for the Eid al-Adha sale." In that moment, they both felt their hearts skip, not sure if they can pull that off. A sale isn’t just applying a discount on the site and then hoping for the best. Between product design, shipping, staffing, and office layout, it is an absolute behemoth of a task.
Moving Offices Again | October 2020
Across the Summer of 2020, Abraham Nurhssien was hired to take over our customer service and wholesale departments, Noonii Bilal was hired to join the customer service team and oversees our fundraising and outreach at Nominal, and Hawa Osman was hired to helm influencer outreach. Lina Albayati was hired to assist with influencer marketing and content creation for social media. Reem Saad, Sarah Aboulnasr, and Ayesha Zahoor were all hired to helm order fulfillment and suddenly the team of four from 2019 became a team of eleven. With a quickly filling office that required more space, in preparation for Black Friday, Akram signed a lease for a 9,200 square foot warehouse as of October 16th, 2020. None of this would be possible without the unwavering support and love from the Nominal Family.