Tea Talk with Accént Co-Founder, Zoya Khan

Zoya Khan is the Co-Founder & CEO of Accént, a one stop cultural shop for diverse sellers and products. She started the online marketplace with her co-founders Afra Nehal and Omama Qureshi. The three originally came together to increase representation and diversity in the gift-giving industry. This year, they elevated their mission and launched Accént to address the lack of representation across the entire retail industry. Their platform serves to be a centralized space to discover creatives, entrepreneurs, and vendors from marginalized communities.

Left to right: Co-Founders Omama, Afra, and Zoya
Zoya, tell us about your cultural background

I grew up as a third-culture kid. I was born in Houston, Texas to Pakistani immigrant parents, moved to Chicago as a child, and then moved overseas to Bahrain, Dubai, and Doha. I grew up having to constantly switch between three languages: Urdu, English, and Arabic. 

Growing up, my parents would take me to a place in Dubai called 'Global Village' that had all the countries of the world represented. Vendors from all over the world would bring their culture in the form of products. Items ranged from intricate Egyptian dresses to Spanish mosaic art, and German street food stalls. It was like the whole globe existed in this one space.

My life has always been full of discovering and learning about new cultures and people, and that is what we hope to showcase at Accént.

What does 'accent' mean to you?

An accent connects a community and a collection of languages. It represents our mother tongue and ties us back to our roots as we move away from the homeland where only traces of that accent now remain. An accent mark is more than a mark of your tongue or a mark on a letter. It’s a symbol that binds us all, that reconnects us with the heart and soul of our people, our language, our culture. Our home away from home.

When our team began the rebranding process, we spent a lot of time thinking about how we could possibly boil down the intricacies of our complex backgrounds and upbringings into one brand name and symbol. So it clicked - Accént with an accent mark. Our name reminds us that through accent pieces of culture, our overall goal is to continue our families’ legacies for generations to come. And with that, we’re here to leave our {accent} mark on the world with our new marketplace. Wish us luck!

Accént strives to help people feel seen. When have you felt unseen?

As children of immigrants, we grew up celebrating other holidays and traditions while ours went unnoticed. We were caught between (at least) two cultures and never saw ourselves represented in the consumer markets outside of our community enclaves. 

The 'Holiday Season' was synonymous with Christmas to all our counterparts, but none of our culture’s holidays were actually celebrated during Christmas. While our friends were able to select from hundreds of thousands of products to decorate their homes, we were relegated to repurposing those goods for our holidays because they seemed “good enough”. 

But our team wasn’t satisfied with good enough anymore. We needed to be seen, we needed to be heard, we needed to build each other up. We said enough is enough, rolled up our sleeves and began developing a platform where POC brands could develop and grow products for their communities.

What does it mean to "share the load of our collective cultural baggage"?

It means relating to similar experiences we all had growing up. From our spiced lunches to the way we dress, we want to share the load of trying to explain our cultural differences to a world that doesn't understand the nuances. As we share and relate, the load becomes easier to carry. The load also isn’t meant to be seen as a negative. It’s a complexity, a flavor if you will, given to us to share with others.

Follow Accént on instagram @accentshop.co

1 comment

Thank you so much for the feature! It was such a delight to be interviewed by the Us Two Team! Thanks!

Co-founder of Accént

Zoya March 02, 2022

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