by Sahar Pazirandeh
My first business was started out of desperation. I had gone back to school as an older student with a very clear goal: to graduate by my 30th birthday, work-my-way-up in the fashion industry, then launch a nonprofit that empowers inner-city youth through fashion.
On May 25, 2008 I walked across the stage graduating among the top of my class from LIM College with a dream job awaiting me. Well, we all know what happened that year, and I was laid off the day before I was supposed to start at Iconix. I was crushed.
I managed to pick up my bruised ego and continued to search for work and ended up freelancing as a Marketing & PR Manager for a small business with several ventures. Surrounded by mediocre business owners I felt like I was getting dumber by the minute. That realization took me over two years, but I let go of the little security I had and launched much sooner than I anticipated.
My confidence had taken a beating at that point and I was counting on the action of building my vision to be my ego booster. To a certain extent it was, to be able to flush out all my ideas into an organized mission and curriculum was invigorating. Sharing my vision with women I admired, inviting them to be part of the organization was just as exciting as planning for my own wedding.
Then there came the time to talk money. I know this is a dreaded topic for most women, entrepreneur-or-not, for a Persian gal with old school roots and low self esteem, it was hell. I worked for $FREE.99 the first six months. I knew I was doomed, especially in New York, there is no way to work for free unless you’re a socialite. Survival trumped fear and I eventually started booking larger and larger contracts and small donations began to pour in to grow a scholarship fund (yay, we just awarded our fourth recipient!).
Fast forward 5 years and I am on my second venture with very much the same intention as my first: to empower. This time through words with an older audience. Like any new endeavor, it came time to fundraise. Going forward you have to always look back, and I immediately cringed at the thought of money and my first business. Instead of hanging onto regret, I chose to break the cycle by writing down all that I did not do — especially if I had thought of it and my trepidation kept me from carrying it out.
Most people think if you are bold enough to start a business, you must have no issues with confidence. Well, that’s just bull crap, even the International Journal of Gender and Entrepreneurship thinks so. Check this out from a study they did in 2009, “Is the lack of confidence hindering women entrepreneurs?”
“A total of 50 entrepreneurs (25 women and 25 men) in New Zealand were interviewed in a semi-structured format. Women exhibit a lack of self-confidence in their own abilities as entrepreneurs compared to men. This finding parallels results of prior research. Once in an established business, women relate to entrepreneurship less than men and do not feel comfortable calling themselves entrepreneurs. For some women, entrepreneurial self-confidence grew over their time in business. For other women, it appears to continue to act as a constraint – affecting their ability to access finance and curtailing their growth aspirations.”
This time around, I fought my fear with facts, and it proved beneficial, with 72 hours on the clock I had exceeded my fundraising goal on Indie Go Go. I was scared when I launched it, I was uncomfortable when asking for money, and I did it all anyway focusing on the value of the work I have done and will do. I learned…
1. BE TRUTHFUL: Put your ego aside and evaluate your weaknesses, grow your strengths. Be willing to share or delegate your weaknesses.
2.VALUE THE FACTS: Acknowledge what is not working. Find the connection to what is not working within your business, to what is not working within you.
3. KEEP MOMENTUM: Fundraising with a specific deadline makes for daily work. Welcome lull’s with no disappointment. Know that the daily push will grow into what you need. Keep your eyes open, something different than what you expect may award you.
Sahar Pazirandeh Being raised in the Islamic Revolution of Iran silenced Sahar before she could articulate her first words. She has dedicated her career to helping others find their voice as a transformational speaker and coach.
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