My parents came to Newark from Nigeria. We immigrated when I was a baby and we’ve been here since. I went to school in Newark. I grew up by the Colonnades [Apartments by Branch Brook Park]. Now I’m here in the Ironbound.
When you see Hawwa Muhammad walking on Ferry or down Washington Street, you will probably catch a zippy glimpse because she is walking somewhere with an almost fleet-footed gait.
Head straight and eyes set on a destination, Muhammad is hyper-focused to make it to her New York gig, a community class in Newark, her side-business at home or to a volunteer opportunity in the area. Her stare shows she is thinking of a million things in a nanosecond and has a week to finish each project.
The Rutgers-New Brunswick (undergraduate) and Rutgers-Newark (master’s) alumna works in the non-profit sector, is a consultant to other non-profits and just launched a business bringing together textiles and social activism.
According to Muhammad, if it were not for her upbringing in Newark, she is not sure that she would have acquired the ability to learn how to fight and speak up like the hundreds of youth and community members she advocates for, for the last seven years.
Soft spoken and reserved, Muhammad says quite emphatically, “I had to learn how to be vigilante so that I could be resilient.”
For Muhammad, Newark made her more personable and resourceful in ways that assist in completing projects or navigating solutions that are critical for clients that work towards improving their structures and tracking success.
No means a different way to say yes in Muhammad’s world. She is an expert in strengthening the structures of business and organizations then pairing them with partners in which the work and services of each compliment overall goals to invoke positive social change.
Muhammad, a member of the Hausa ethnic group in Kano State, Nigeria had the type of parents that pushed her to be a prominent doctor or lawyer. She decided that her gray hairs would come through social activism.
“My parents made sure to shelter me about the usual stories that we grew up on, but because of the network of friends that I had, I decided to work in the non-profit sector of Newark.”
With the precision of a surgeon, Muhammad calculated how she would enter a saturated non-profit landscape in Newark.
Says Muhammad, “I wanted to gain experience to know where I wanted to go, and my next steps. I also had a friend that told me that change has to start locally. She said, ‘You want to make that happen locally before going out to the broader world and make change.'”
After finishing undergraduate studies at Rutgers-New Brunswick, Muhammad interned for several organizations; and decided to stay close to her roots. She interned at The Center for Collaborative Change.
“I thought that this was perfect, this was everything I’d wanted to do to help create change. It was an non-profit that created collaborations to make change in the city. They’d been working on a proposal for Living Cities [during the Cory Booker Administration].”
In her internships then as a full-fledged advocate, she was able to study the processes and systems of community development and government – from red tape to ground breaking events. So excited from her experience, she decided to gain more understanding.
Applying, getting accepted and finishing her master’s at Rutgers-Newark in Administration allowed her to think about the business models that non-profits often lack. It was there she found her niche as a consultant.
Though she works in the city, she launched Pink Trumpet, a consulting firm that helps to retool how nonprofits, businesses, and people achieve better results for underserved communities.
Although, a portion of her proceeds goes to organizations for women and girls, Hawwa wanted to focus on the underserved population of women and girls in Africa. This year, she began Hausa Hawwa, an online boutique that takes textiles inspired by African and ethnic cultures then mixes them with modern designs.
Hausa Hawwa also highlights her Hausa heritage. She explains that Kano has a vibrant textile industry she wants to promote rather than the Chinese-made fabrics that saturate the textile industry as African prints.
“I’m Nigerian-American, and so taking those identities and saying how can I create something that can speak to both of my histories and make people feel beautiful, is empowering and cultivates a sense of belonging.”
In its infancy stages, Muhammad is currently working with a tailor to make more dresses. A graduate of Rising Tide Capital, she focused on the business plan. She wants to implement the second stage for next year — launching house ware that is a play on the word Hausa (pronounced Hawse-uh).
As a triple entrepreneur and multi-tasker, she is constantly figuring out how to balance her work life with the yearn to get an MBA.
She laughs as she talks about her dreams. “I don’t know what I want to do necessarily, but now I know the person I want to become.”