Q+A with Nora Aalit
Tell me a bit about yourself, your background and where you are from.
I’m Moroccan in origin but came to the UK at the age of 2 and lived in Hackney all my life. I have a BA Hons in Primary Education and am an accredited Special Educational Needs Coordinator, currently working part-time as an Inclusion Manager in a Primary School.
Tell me more about Hackney Henna House and how the idea for it came about.
Last year was the first time in a long time I didn’t come back to permanent work in September and I decided to enrol on a Nail Technician course as I found nail art appealing. I was asked on the course if I knew anyone who taught henna and that’s really when I started to think about henna. I then enrolled in an accredited Henna Art Course and soon after created Hackney Henna House. The name obviously reflects my hometown and the teacher in me had to have alliteration!
How did you get to where you are today and what was your career path?
I was attracted to teaching years ago as I love working with children and could always be really creative across the curriculum. Possibly in the past five years or so, my enthusiasm began to dwindle as it became more about paperwork and ticking boxes that stifled creativity somewhat. I just wasn’t sure what else a teacher could do!
You also have a background in design. How has this contributed to your business?
I specialised in Design Technology at university so I found this helpful with the practical and design aspect of henna. The precision and intricacy I try to create in my artwork is something that I’d also practised having done geometric and 3-D drawings before. Having an eye for detail and colour also helps.
What has been your biggest challenge thus far and how did you overcome it?
The biggest challenge I face thus far is that there seems to be, from speaking to others unfamiliar with henna art, that it is something for brides and often has the association and confinement to an Indian practice solely. I’ve often been asked to provide henna art for guests at Indian weddings but little call for it across the board. I see the contrary happening in Canada and the US where henna art seems to be one step ahead and used for all sorts of occasions and for no occasion at all sometimes!
Is there anything about the Henna industry you would like to see change?
I’m trying to promote a more global image of henna that can be applied to all kinds of events that bring communities together, as well as use it as an art form in itself. I can’t see it changing overnight but I am trying!
What has having your own business taught you?
There are many skills I’ve transferred from the teaching aspect of things i.e teaching others and being organised. I think I certainly have learnt a lot about how to turn ideas into business opportunities, advertising and using my people skills to draw others in.
Any career aspirations?
My only career aspiration is that I can successfully turn this into a full-time business. I can certainly teach Henna as part of what I do, but the whole purpose was to steer away from teaching and try something different! I would also like to create what I have seen abroad but with a ‘Hackney’ or London touch would be my goal!
Do you have any tips for those wanting to start a business in the creative field?
Make sure you do something you are passionate about, do not stop creating and exposing it. It’s very time-consuming but worth it! For me, it was the thought of ok, so do I see myself in a primary classroom for the next twenty to thirty years and the answer gave me the drive I needed to continue!
You can find Nora at https://www.hackneyhennahouse.com/.