Thinking Big: Kanwal Ahmed

We spoke with the Founder of Soul Sisters Pakistan, and Facebook Community Leadership Fellow, Kanwal Ahmed!

Interview

1) What inspired you to launch Soul Sisters Pakistan?

The circumstances of many women around me. I was abroad at the time and running a beauty/makeup group. People had conversations about wedding makeup, which would often deflect to broader discussions about issues after marriage. I began to notice the many problems women faced in our society, and how badly we needed other people to talk to and relate to.

2) What are the pros and cons of being an entrepreneur?

I love being an entrepreneur, and always have been. From real estate, to make up artistry, to social media – I’ve been the kind of person who has dabbled in many things. I have been able to do that solely because I’m a free bird as an entrepreneur. The kind of freedom entrepreneurship brings is unmatched. I’m not driven by money – and I’m not going to lie, entrepreneurship brings a lot of financial challenges – but because I’m driven by purpose and not money, I find that it is something that hardly comes in the way.

3) Describe the most exciting part of your entrepreneurial journey so far. 

Acknowledgement, funding, and support from Facebook. Five years of tireless work resulted in being part of the first ever Facebook Community Leadership Program, something I never imagined in my wildest dreams.

4) What are your top three growth marketing tips?

I just have one. Be authentic. If you are true to yourself and your audience, you’ll grow. People can see right through fake, and honestly, it’s not a pretty sight.

5) What is your definition of success?

Being someone who can empathize with other people, and being someone other people can relate to. Even as a community leader, being a manager/authority figure has never been the mission. Being someone who can inspire and be loved has.

6) Life motto?

To spread love and kindness in times that need it most.

Thinking Big: Maryam Arslan

We spoke with Pakistan’s rising visual artist, Maryam Arslan, as a part of our Thinking Big interview series! Maryam specializes in creating bright and bold contemporary paintings. Her energetic, loose style gives her work a striking effect. If you head over to Maryam’s Instagram page, you’ll see that her paintings are literally popping out of the canvas! Even though she is based in Karachi, she has displayed her art in both local and international exhibitions. You should definitely check out her eye-catching work! 

Interview

1) How did you start making art?

The day I realized painting is a medium that helps me produce my ideas eloquently. I was a shy girl until I had a brush in my hand. A brush gave me power to express myself, be courageous, and pour my heart out.

2) What themes do you mostly work with?

As it is classically the ‘fate’ of an artist to work alone, I use the most readily available subject to produce paintings that represent me/myself. I make semi-autobiographical works that encompass my observations, explorations, and speculations.

3) Which artists have influenced you and your technique the most?

I am infinitely influenced by my colleagues and mentors, as well as other leading artists who create art I find challenging.

4) How did you turn your art into a business?

Visibility is the key to run any business. Thanks to social media, I did not have to completely rely on others to promote me. I attend art exhibitions, upload images of my work on social media platforms (e.g. Instagram), and refuse to shy away from daunting opportunities.

5) What advice do you have for artists who want to turn their passion into a business?

Read! Read the news, do anything that could enhance your art. Read to feed your research, read to stay in the loop about the art market. Investment in reading has been, and always will be, the prime way to run and grow any business.

6) Life motto? 

I want to inspire others to paint.

Thinking Big: Abeera & Nida

We talked to the founders of Pakistan’s up-and-coming skincare brand, Primary Skincare. You can check out their products here.

1) What inspired you to make your own skincare products?

The complete lack of options for good quality skincare in the local market! Imported products are often available at ridiculously high prices, from dubious sellers, and often sold close to expiry. With regards to the local market, we found that most brands focused on completely natural products. People were not making hybrid products like ours, which combine natural ingredients with skin-loving active ingredients. Also, local laws don’t require cosmetics companies to list their ingredients, which means most local brands are not transparent. We wanted to create a brand that our consumers can trust. 

2) What were the first few steps you took to get your business up and running?

Lots and lots and lots of research. Researching the market, the competition, possible suppliers, possible retail avenues. You have to know your business before you even get into it. Then we tested our formulations on friends and family, and finally once everyone was happy with the results, we started the business. 

3) What makes Primary Skincare unique and special compared to other skincare products in Pakistan?

Our “clean beauty” motto sets us apart. We ensure that the ingredients we use are non-toxic, safe, and backed by the latest scientific research. We also have a holistic approach to beauty, which focuses on feeling and looking good from the inside out. 

4) What are the benefits and challenges of running your own business?

Running your own business allows for a lot of independence (financially and with your time), and a wonderful creative outlet. It’s also incredibly rewarding when things go right. The challenge is, when things go wrong, you have nobody to blame but yourself. 

5) What are your top three skincare tips?

Hydrate, get enough sleep, and wear sunscreen.  

6) Life motto?

It’s not happy people who are grateful, it’s grateful people who are happy.

Thinking Big: Hira Fatima Rizvi

We talked to the founder and creative behind Zair Zabr Play, a company that strives to produce fun and innovative products to teach young kids about Islam. Hira is a Smith College graduate. She is a trained stem cell scientist and worked at a hospital before launching her own business. You can find her products, along with tips and tons of freebies, at www.zairzabrplay.com!

Interview

1) What inspired you to start Zair Zabr Play?

Growing up I learned about Islam in a passive way, through my parents, culture, and community. I assumed I’d pass it on to my daughter the same way. When I moved to Napa, CA, I lost that strong community to rely on. What’s worse is when I looked online for products to teach kids Islam, most were outdated or developmentally inappropriate. So Zair Zabr Play was born. 

2) What do you enjoy most about your work?

Seeing the change. When you push the industry standard you will see the change. I have seen amazing and innovative products pop up in the Islamic books and toys field in the last couple of years!

3) How did you handle the transition from working at a hospital to working from home? 

Horribly. I had no intention of ever wanting to be at home. I have always craved social settings and thrive in competition. But it’s made me gain some essential skills in self control and time management. 

4) What are your top three work-life balance tips? 

• Before closing up work for the day, make your to-do list for tomorrow. It helps you dive into work focused.

• Have a designated place to work. 

• Treat home chores as a job. Schedule them in. 

5) What is your definition of success?

Success = happiness, and happiness is being satisfied with your efforts. 

6) Life motto?

“Learn while you play, and play while you learn.”

Thinking Big: Momina Sibtain

We talked to fashion and lifestyle journalist, Momina Sibtain, about her new YouTube show, Momina’s Mixed Plate. Momina is the former Managing Editor of T-Edit Magazine. She recently launched her own fashion, lifestyle, and entertainment YouTube channel. In just a few months, Momina’s Mixed Plate has gained 14,000+ subscribers. She also scored interviews with mega-actress, Mahira Khan, music sensation, Jimmy Khan, and Brazilian football legend, Ricardo Kaka!

Interview

1) What inspired you to launch Momina’s Mixed Plate?

I felt that there was a major gap in good original content. YouTube was a fairly untapped market, especially for fashion, lifestyle, and entertainment. I started developing a show for television and soon realized that our mainstream networks weren’t ready for what I wanted to do. My now business partner suggested that we take the show digital, so we decided to take it to YouTube and didn’t look back.

2) How did you come up with the name for your show?

The name was the trickiest part. I wanted something quirky that was very eastern, and yet, wouldn’t be lost in translation to those not from the sub-continent area. It took us 6 months, but Momina’s Mixed Plate stuck! ‘Mixed Plate’ is a super popular street snack, and a staple for everyone growing up here. It became the perfect blend between the east and west!

3) What’s the most exciting part of your job?

Constantly meeting new people, engaging in conversation, and having fun all day long. It has been exciting setting up my own company and tackling new challenges that come with it.

4) What piece of advice would you give to people who want to become entrepreneurs? 

Follow your instincts and be true to yourself. If you emulate or copy others, you will only go so far, but If you bring your individuality and spunk to any project, no one can take it away from you. 

5) Life motto?

Be yourself, be yourself and then be yourself some more!