The Reem Company offers U.S. consumers a sharia-compliant insurance product based on cooperation and mutuality. The company aims to be the most trusted sharia-compliant insurance brokerage in the United States.
Tell us more about The Reem Company.
I am working to establish the most trusted Islamic insurance company in the United States. We want consumers to know they have the option to purchase takaful with confidence and in a relationship with a great partner in the Reem Company. This means that from claims to customer service The Reem Company will be boutique but competitive in operations with any of the major insurance carriers in the future. Similar to Geico’s gecko or Aflac’s duck, my hope is that you will think about the gazelle (reem in Arabic) as a symbol of the excellence in the insurance offerings of The Reem Company.
What inspired you to start The Reem Company?
My faith and personal motto – “seek truth, beauty and goodness in all things”– inspired me to start this venture. During my time at Goldman Sachs in the New York area, I had opportunities outside of work to study Islamic law to understand the basics of my faith, including transactions and dealings. This gave me the foundation for recognizing that conventional insurance did not meet the ethical standards of my faith, and if given the opportunity that I saw this gap in wider availability as something I wanted to work on.
Why is this problem important?
There is an important moral and ethical conflict in spending your money – a good portion of some people’s income- on insurance products that do not meet their values or necessarily offer them benefits beyond the transference of risk. I have felt this conflict when I see the monthly, semiannual, or annual deductions from my insurance carriers. I am founding The Reem Company to resolve this conflict as an option for the Muslim community and beyond who may be interested.
Who is your target market?
My target market is the Muslim American community, roughly 4 million Americans. They are most likely to be early adopters, but I hope takaful insurance, or an Islamic form of insurance, will be useful to others.
How is B-Lab helping your venture develop?
As a solo founder, B-Lab gives me the opportunity to grow as an entrepreneur with a peer group and support. Through the B-Lab cohort and mentoring sessions, I am in the process of taking an idea into implementation. I am getting the support to understand the value of customer discovery, profitability, and some of the more uncertain aspects of entrepreneurship (like timing).
My B-Lab experience is an extension of my interactions with the Nelson Center generally. Through so many events and interactions, I found the joy and persistence of entrepreneurship. B-Lab means being in an intentional community of founders and mentors to advance The Reem Company into a minimum viable product that will succeed. To be working on this venture in B-Lab is a dream come true in itself.
What is something surprising that has happened thus far?
Several things have been surprising thus far. More than anything, I think I have been surprised by the way that entrepreneurship is a reflection of the generosity and relationships of so many people – from mentors to customers- that support the learning and action of the entrepreneur. I have grown so much as an entrepreneur from the great advice from people in the Brown community and beyond.
What is a “takaful company”, and how do you ensure your venture follows this model?
A “takaful company” specializes in offering insurance products that are compliant with the Islamic faith or law (or shari’ah). For simplicity, we can simply think about takaful as Islamic insurance. Islamic insurance carriers are all over the world. They offer greater mutuality and cooperation than conventional insurance products, including the ways that a carrier might think about ethics in investments and benefit back to policyholders.
If shari’ah prompts a mental barrier for anyone, I wanted to offer a reframing through its linguistic meaning. Shari’ah means a path or path to water in Arabic. For the Muslim community, it is also known for principles that it seeks to enjoin good over harm to society. My hope is that this helps counter some of the really harmful ways a dynamic legal system has been represented in Islamophobic reporting or context and by extremists who do not reflect the majority of Muslims around the world.
Before this becomes pedantic, I wanted to reflect on a recent B-Lab session where we learned about the importance of timing in any venture’s viability. Timing reminded me so clearly of ways that destiny is imagined in my tradition and reference in small ways with insertions of a “Godwilling” (or inshaAllah) into conversations or plans. As an entrepreneur, I hope that so much of my faith tradition and other parts of my identity offer beneficial contributions to society.
Anything else you’d like to share?
Please follow our journey, or reach out to connect with me for more information about the difference between takaful and conventional insurance. I hope that you will follow The Reem Company journey on Instagram or Twitter @thereemcompany. Or, join our growing waitlist on www.reem.company.
Whitney Terrill (‘23) is the founder of The Reem Company. She is a graduate student at Brown University, where she is pursuing a master of science in healthcare leadership. She is passionate about ways that entrepreneurship can contribute to the greater good in society. You can learn more about her venture at www.reem.company.