Crain’s Detroit Business
Oct. 20, 2022
Sisters Aliyah, Laila, and Taqwa Mahdi started The Social Loft out of necessity.
The three Muslim sisters during the coronavirus pandemic were searching for a women’s-only co-working space but weren’t having any luck.
So they opened their own.
The Social Loft is a dedicated space aimed at helping Muslim women work, meet, and stay healthy. The 2,400 square-foot space, located at 3002 Carpenter Ave. in Hamtramck, offers 8×10, private office spaces for entrepreneurs to run their businesses at a rate of $350-$400 a month. Geared toward Muslim women in Hamtramck, the space is available for all women to use, according to Laila Mahdi.
Aliyah, Laila, and Taqwa pooled their own money together to lease the space. The Social Loft, a for-profit business that opened in April 2021, also features space for women to rent and utilize on a daily basis. Two studios are available for rent at $50 an hour for a minimum of two hours. Both studios can be had for $90 an hour.
The business, which even includes a dedicated kid’s room full of bright-colored toys, also features a space for events. A ladies’ lounge gives women a space to relax. Mom pods, 8×10 rooms available to rent on an hourly basis, give our most overworked a chance to catch up on reading or simply catch their breath.
The Social Loft also includes a health aspect — with a gym featuring treadmills, bikes, and resistance training equipment. The venue has hosted kids summer camps and offered a twice-monthly homeschool program.
The idea came from the sisters’ history of organizing events. Opening The Social Loft allows the Madhi sisters to operate in one central location.
“We grew up in Hamtramck, went to school here, so we wanted to do this here,” Laila Mahdi said. “A lot of the women in our community walk, or their husbands drop them off, so we wanted to be a short walk or drive away for them.”
Taqwa Mahdi said access was a driving factor behind the venture. Aside from the benefits of having a co-working space, The Social Loft’s health element gives Muslim women a chance to stay healthy, while giving them a sense of privacy other gyms can’t.
“Muslim women are modest, so we give each other the chance to work out and keep that modesty intact,” Taqwa Madhi said.
“We grew up in a Muslim environment,” said Aliyah Madhi, a mother of three. “Things in our culture are separate — men and women. Having this space allows us to keep that in place, but gives women an outlet to work and do things that make them feel good about themselves, and give them confidence.”
The space is inviting. Guests are greeted in a large, wide-open, well-lit lobby that features comfortable chairs and a high-top table. The event space includes a large-flat screen TV, with tables and seating for 20 people. Each members’ workspace is set up solely by the business owner.
Laila Madhi, also a mother of three, estimates The Social Loft has upwards of 15 members, who each pay a monthly membership fee. The fee — $35 for teens, $45 for seniors and $55 for other adults — gives members access to amenities such as the fitness area, the mom pods, support groups and discounts on the event space. The sisters hope to add more cycling equipment, which would allow them to offer cycling classes, according to Taqwa Madhi.
Detroit resident Habiba Allen is one of those members who rents a space to operate her hair braiding business, Wasi Braiding. Allen previously operated her business out of her home before becoming aware of The Social Loft. Allen has been a member since day one.
Allen believes using the space at The Social Loft has helped her business.
“Working out of my house, you would have my kids asking me for something, my husband asking me for something. Now, I’m able to just work and give my clients the feeling of being in a nice space, and it’s a better way for me to offer my services,” Allen said. “I think (The Social Loft), for a lot of women gives them a chance to do some things they otherwise wouldn’t because there aren’t a lot of outlets like this for Muslim women.”
That’s why the Madhi sisters put the business together.
“The goal for us has always been to make this a place for Muslim women to work, build and stay healthy,” Aliyah Madhi said. “This is something that we had been thinking about for a long time. To see it come to life and be useful for women in our community really means a lot.”