Social Impact Heroes: Why & How Aminah & Hussein Musa of PaliRoots Is Helping To Change Our World

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A leader to us is someone who has the ability to guide and motivate people towards a better vision. They are patient, emotionally strong and competent, can navigate through pressure, and knows how to get things done. A leader is a creative and powerful visionary who inspires others towards a unified goal and helps others use their imagination to further develop ideas, creativity and enhance communal strength.

As part of my series about “individuals and organizations making an important social impact”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Aminah & Hussein Musa of PaliRoots.

PaliRoots was founded by the millennial sibling-duo Aminah and Hussein Musa. Aminah graduated from the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising (FIDM) as a Fashion Product Development Major. Hussein worked as a brand developer who built up an agency for $1M+ brands specializing in web development, marketing and design.

Growing up in a humble Palestinian immigrant family, Aminah and Hussein always dreamed of building a socially conscious brand for the benefit of educating others and financially aiding Palestine. Together, they used their talents and education to curate a brand geared towards diaspora Palestinians and their supporters that practices social and environmental consciousness and benefits Palestinian children in Gaza with every purchase.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

Aminah Musa: Our family comes from humble beginnings, hailing from the Southside of Chicago. We grew up understanding the importance of preserving the beauty of our rich culture as Palestinians and felt a push from our ancestors to ensure that it was carried on through future generations. Despite our family needing food stamps and government assistance to get by, our grandfather “Sido Hussein” always reminded us of our privilege and we were raised with the understanding that our presence in America and the opportunities we would leverage here were to always somehow lead to positive impact and aid for those “back home” in Palestine. We knew we needed to create a movement with a tangible side for our youth, by our youth, to help them remember and celebrate our collective heritage and traditions.

I used my degree in Fashion Product Development from the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising (FIDM), and my brother, Hussein, used his knowledge and skills as a brand developer with a passion for building websites and the world of software development, to honor our family roots and the teachings of our parents and grandparents through the development of our own brand.

PaliRoots was born on September 1st, 2016 with the foundational mission of becoming an emotionally impactful brand focused on social justice and change, inclusion, and giving back to those in need. Our family’s traditional Palestinian hospitality is weaved into PaliRoots’ core, everything down to the packaging you receive in the mail is branded with that world-famous Palestinian hospitality, love, and care.

You can learn more about our PaliRoots mission by visiting Our Mission page on our site!

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company or organization?

Hussein Musa: Our entire journey to building PaliRoots is quite interesting! What sets PaliRoots apart from many other brands is the attention to detail and the personal time we take to listen to the voices within our community. In hearing those voices, we realized the responsibility that was in our hands, to take our humanitarian missions a step further by creating a “sustainable” project that would live beyond our lifetime. This had us brainstorming for months and consisted of many conversations with our incredible team about what we can do to take that next step.

Through our reflections, we traveled back in time as children of immigrants growing up in Southside Chicago and what we needed to do to live through our struggles and survive as a family. This is how the idea for the PaliRoots Meal Program came to life. As second-generation immigrants, we had little to no money to put food on the table, especially since our father was still in medical school pursuing his doctorate degree. Our parents were budgeted to only purchase food through governmental aid, “Food Stamps”. Luckily, our public school would provide breakfast and lunch for us during the week.

Our reality of food insecurity inspired us to build a similar program by providing meals to children in school throughout the Gaza strip. This project took us 6 months to build as we had to integrate a custom programmed app into our website so that our customers can see how many meals they are building and donating as they spend on Pali Gear. Our customers really enjoy knowing their spending is also going to a good cause, and we’ve received really exciting and genuine support via DMs, reviews, emails, etc. about how much everyone loves the program.

I always find it interesting and humbling how much our personal experience has led us to build something that at its very core is centered around giving back to the community we love.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

Aminah: We attended a convention in Chicago Illinois called MAS-ICNA. This convention had foot traffic of roughly 25,000 people. With our limited budget, we wanted to create a booth that stood out from others without costing us an arm and leg. Our idea was to build the pergola and hang warm Edison light bulbs around to attract customers from afar, the goal being THE booth with the best selfie lighting (best selfie lighting = attracting foot traffic to your booth!).

A day before the event we stormed into Home Depot to purchase lumber, screws, and drill to build a 10-foot x 20-foot pergola. We were watching “How To” YouTube videos the night before to understand what steps were needed to create this magical ambiance we were all envisioning. Without any experience or knowledge of how to build — anything really, let alone a pergola, we began to worry about how we were going to pull it off. While building the structure, we ran into countless roadblocks like the screws easily breaking and not being the correct size in order to keep the structure together. These challenges resulted in even more trips to Home Depot which led to our team having an absolute meltdown, which was impressive considering the limited time we had to make this possible.

Hours passed and we were finally able to fully assemble it until we realized that we assembled the ENTIRE structure upside down! We were then faced with our biggest challenge yet — we had to figure out how we were going to flip the pergola to stand upright. The entire piece must have weighed at least 200 pounds and we only had 5 people on site. We had to kindly ask (beg) other people who were also preparing their booths to help us flip it. When they saw what we were trying to do, they laughed and said it was impossible to flip without the legs breaking. We were stubborn and did not want the time and money spent on building it to go to waste. Thankfully, we rounded up an additional 7 people to help us flip it, and when the legs landed on the floor, everyone erupted into cheering, which slowly led to a small celebration with a Dabka circle (a traditional Palestinian dance danced at celebrations).

Lesson learned, never let anyone tell you that your concept is impossible, never give up on your idea. And most importantly, save yourself the tears and hire a professional to build you a pergola.

Can you describe how you or your organization is making a significant social impact?

Hussein: PaliRoots gives back in two different ways; (1) Through the PaliRoots Meal Program which donates one nutritious meal to a child in need for every order placed on PaliRoots. After that, for every $25 you spend, we will donate another meal and (2) Through the PaliRoots Funding Project which organizes high-impact campaigns with non-profits to families in Palestine who need it most.

From the very beginnings of our brand up until today, we collectively as a community have; (1) Donated 355,181 meals through our PaliRoots Meal Program and (2) Donated $2,852,946.76 towards charitable causes through our PaliRoots Funding Project.

Our PaliRoots Meal Program is our personal pride and joy, and it is the soul of our brand. We partnered with the Middle East Children’s Alliance (MECA) team to do a 3-month pilot program to research food and nutrient deficiency in four kindergartens in some of the poorest areas of the Gaza Strip. We found that among the 372 children at these kindergartens, 37% were anemic, 4.1% were stunted, 23% were at risk of stunting, 3% were underweight, 20.5% were overweight, and 14.2% were obese. At the end of the pilot program through our meal donations, the results showed a significant improvement in the health of the children. This also increased their desire to attend school more regularly. Their attention and behavior improved as well. We are thrilled to continue this project and seeing the happy faces from the parents, teachers, and children makes us even more excited to continue this beautiful work.

Every child deserves food security. And we hope to make that a reality for children in Palestine.

Can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted or helped by your cause?

Aminah: We know that our foundational mission is positively impacting children in Gaza and throughout historic Palestine every day. We do recall one story, however, where we took a step back to listen to what these children really wanted during one of our visits around the Muslim holiday, Eid. Every child of course needs food and shelter, but like every other kid on this planet, kids in Gaza want toys.

That Eid we donated toys to children in Gaza and it made them happier than we’ve ever seen before. It was by far our most exciting and meaningful campaign because it focused on the mental health and happiness of kids in Gaza, and gave them the opportunity to take a break from survival mode, and enjoy a moment as children.

Wafa, the project assistant at MECA shares,

“It was my greatest pleasure to purchase these toys for Gazan kids. It is one of my happiest moments and will remain in my memory forever. We purchased all my favorite toys that I dreamed about as a kid and all the toys the children asked for.

At first, we thought that we preferred to purchase essential needs for children, such as clothes and schools bags, but we later realized that toys are also essential, as many of these kids and their parents cannot afford toys and are lucky to simply have food on the table.”

Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do to help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?

  1. Understanding your power. All community members need to acknowledge that there is incredible power in the voices of us ordinary (non-politician) people. We need to utilize our platforms and our actions to amplify the voices in need so we can collectively put pressure on those in power to prioritize the importance of the human rights violations happening to Palestinians.
  2. Organize and divest. Our youth need to remain involved in creating groups and events to gather the unified masses to take action and demand a push towards meaningful change.
  3. Instill more empathy in your conscious mind. The more we can separate our reality to live in the reality of others, the more we can understand the importance of understanding their struggles. Education is key and undermining your efforts to learn is a privilege that many do not have. This is something that every political leader and individual needs to integrate into their mind to bring world peace and seek change.

How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?

Aminah & Hussein: “A boss has the title, a leader has the people.” Here at PaliRoots, we pride ourselves in how we built a strong and supportive company culture. We believe everyone is their own boss, we don’t want our brand, as it continues to grow, to turn into a bureautic style company. We believe that causes a lot of conflict within people both individually and as a company and our goal is always to unify the people.

A leader to us is someone who has the ability to guide and motivate people towards a better vision. They are patient, emotionally strong and competent, can navigate through pressure, and knows how to get things done. A leader is a creative and powerful visionary who inspires others towards a unified goal and helps others use their imagination to further develop ideas, creativity and enhance communal strength.

Most importantly, a true leader is always constantly improving. They turn their team into stars and are always able to measure their performance over time to ensure their skills are improving through their influence.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

Aminah & Hussein:

  1. Running a business is always the biggest priority in your life.
  • Not many people understand how much time and effort it takes to run a business. Especially in the world of eCommerce. You have to cover so many different areas in the company with super limited budgets and manpower.

2. You will have haters as you grow.

  • We always thought that because PaliRoots is a social cause brand that helps bring awareness to Palestinian culture and heritage that focuses on high-impact funding charity projects, that we’d be immune to animosity. You quickly learn that no one is immune to that. You have to stay focused through all the noise on the mission and accomplish the great things you planned to accomplish.

3. It can be lonely sometimes

  • Sometimes you just cannot attend parties, family gatherings, movie nights, etc. because the work just needs to be done.
  • Leaving your 9–5 job to build a business means you’re going to be working 12hr days. It can interfere with your romantic relationships. You work from morning to night and then some. Of course, you should balance but that’s the ultimate battle for entrepreneurs.

4. You will not be a millionaire overnight

  • Cash flow is everything in business, you make $10,000, you need to invest that $10,000 to scale to $20,000 and it goes on and on. If you make 500,000 and want to get to a million, you will have to risk and invest sometimes all you have to get to $1,000,000. You’re always taking smart calculated risks, little by little and you will start to see the fruits of your labor. Sometimes it feels like it will never come, but be patient.

5. You will experience heartbreak

  • Whether it’s from a former employee or dealing with rejections, sometimes business can hurt. For example, many eCommerce businesses encounter the issue of over-ordering merchandise that just won’t sell and are now faced with empty stock (luckily this hasn’t been a huge issue) but it’s a blessing in disguise too, since through that experience you learn more about what your customers truly want.

You are persons of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

Aminah & Hussein: We think a movement that can really inspire the most amount of good is one that focuses on teaching children empathy. When children are taught at a young age to feel another individual’s pain and happiness, it teaches children to be reflective and put themselves in another’s shoes. They in turn will also develop other amazing characteristics like generosity — inspiring them to help those in need. They will become less individual-focused and more community-focused and that’s how we make our world better. Unfortunately, it is becoming more common these days for younger generations to lack empathy because social media has taught our youth to place more attention on materialistic values over all else.

Our father was always so adamant about reminding us while growing up in the era of social media and technology that we must reflect before we share our lives with the world. Not because of protecting us from the evil eye (like what most Arab parents believe social media is a breeding ground for), but instead it was more of an empathic ideology to avoid making others feel like our lives are superior and causing others to compare their lives to ours. This lesson is still to this day at the forefront of our minds, to take moments to reflect and ask ourselves if the action we are about to take will affect another mentally or physically. Would it be better to instead share messages of inspiration rather than our vacation videos all the time? These little moments of reflection taught us the greatest lesson of all, how we can be more considerate of others. Ironically, this is a lesson our ancestors have taught us for generations and it’s important for us to pass it on to younger generations. This is why we share stories like these with our community through IG live discussions.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

Hussein: “Somebody is working harder than you, what are you going to do about it?”

This was a huge quote that is always on my mind when I’m feeling tired and burnt out. I’d remind myself of this quote, and the amount of energy it gives me is incredible. I know that it takes a lot of hard work and effort to get to where we want to be.

Aminah: “Do good and throw it in the sea” افعل الخير وارميه في البح — Arabic Proverb

In a world that needs more kindness, always do good for others without expecting anything in return. The world will give back to you tenfold when you are least expecting it.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

Aminah & Hussein: Mohammad Hadid for sure! His background in business and just general personal story of his family’s connection and history in Palestine are an inspiration to us. He is proud of his roots and is always sharing Palestinian culture with his social media following. We believe he is a man of many talents and believes in the value of family and he portrays that through his art and connection to his ancestors and his children and grandchildren. A fun fact about him, his great grandfather Daher Al Omer, was the Arab ruler of northern Palestine until 1774. We’d love to learn more about his story over some mint tea and knafeh one day!

How can our readers follow you on social media?





Aminah Musa:



Hussein Musa:



This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!

Thank you so much for having us! This was a great interview.

Social Impact Heroes: Why & How Aminah & Hussein Musa of PaliRoots Is Helping To Change Our World was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.