The Ugly Truth About Entrepreneurship!

Shama Hyder:

… but my parents came from India when I was nine years old. We were immigrants. A lot of times the only path open to immigrants is one of entrepreneurship. Growing up, I understood what entrepreneurship truly is. And honestly, it’s gritty, and it’s dirty, and it’s a lot of hard work. There’s such glamour associated with it, the girl boss hashtags and boss life, and it just makes me laugh.

Shama Hyder:

Hey, everyone. This is Shama Hyder, here. Let’s talk about entrepreneurship and the truth about being an entrepreneur, and what it means. Because I get asked this so often about how I got started in my journey, and have I always been entrepreneurial, and to really share the truth with all of you about what it takes to build, it’s funny they call it building an empire, but yeah, building your an empire, building your brand, becoming an entrepreneur, can you become an entrepreneur?

Shama Hyder:

So here’s a very funny story about me as I was growing up and what led me down the entrepreneurial path. It’s fascinating because both my parents were entrepreneurs. So, as many immigrants who come to this country, who come to any country really, but my parents came from India when I was nine years old, we were immigrants. And so, as we came here, a lot of times the only path open to immigrants is one of entrepreneurship. Because it really requires you to be able to dig in. When people don’t take a chance on you, you have to take a chance on yourself. And I think that’s the first rule of entrepreneurship.

Shama Hyder:

And so it tends to be a natural default for people who have left their homes and are starting out in a new country. They’ve got to take the chance on themselves. And so my parents are both entrepreneurs. And it started out with blue-collar jobs and working their way up. And so, I guess if Uber had been around my dad would have been an Uber driver. But he drove taxis. He eventually saved up to buy his own convenient store. My mom has her own businesses. And so, I grew up in a very entrepreneurial family.

Shama Hyder:

But it was funny, because it wasn’t entrepreneurship like it is these days. To think about how people talk about entrepreneurship, I’m always amazed. I always laugh because there’s such glamour associated with it. You see the girl boss hashtags, and boss life, and it just makes me laugh because growing up, I understood what entrepreneurship truly is. And honestly, it’s gritty and it’s dirty, and it’s a lot of hard work. There’s not a lot of glamour in entrepreneurship. I think it’s funny that people have really upped the sexiness level of it. And I can see elements of why having freedom and having control of your own destiny can be appealing qualities and desirable qualities. It’s definitely not the ins-and-outs and the day-in-and-day-out of entrepreneurship.

Shama Hyder:

So, growing up, both my parents were entrepreneurs, and we were the type of family that when we went on a vacation, they would stop at some abandoned, God forsaken strip mall and say, “Boy, what would do well here? Do you think we could put up this store, or that store? Would a dry cleaners do well here?” And then we’d go to a restaurant and sit down and eat a meal like a normal family. So my sister and I wanted the normal family experience, and my parents would sit there and talk about, “How much do you think this restaurant is netting?”

Shama Hyder:

And it was very frustrating as a child because you’re just trying to enjoy a meal and you don’t understand everything, all this. You’re nine years old and you don’t understand all this entrepreneur business, but it really does somehow sink into your bones. I do believe entrepreneurship is in your DNA, if not through channelized through your own business ventures, that entrepreneurial spirit very much is. So it’s funny, because as much as I fought it, and I did, and I told my parents, I proclaimed, “I am never going to be an entrepreneur. This is terrible. You don’t have any vacation days like the parents of my other friends. You work all weekend. You never know when an employee is just going to get up and leave. This is not what I want for myself.”

Shama Hyder:

So I proclaimed that I was going to have a nine-to-five job. I was going to have a schedule. I was going to be home on the weekends. And that was my proclamation as a kid. But even while all this was happening, there was an undercurrent which I cannot deny, which was very entrepreneurial. My sister actually compares me to Dora the Explorer, with the monkey and the backpack. Except I guess I had a dog, and maybe still the backpack, a laptop I suppose, as I got older. But it was very much that same spirit in that I was entrepreneurial.

Shama Hyder:

I was a doer and I didn’t even know it at the time. In fact, when I was about 13 years old, one of my first ventures, not my first venture, but one of my first ventures was when I started selling through Olympia. Which, they might still exist, but it essentially let you sell from a catalog, very similar to what you might do when you’re fundraising for the Girl Scouts or Boy Scouts or something like that. And instead of selling for fundraising, you were selling for yourself. So you were selling for this company, they had salespeople and you were your own boss. In fact it was pretty cool, you got to keep your commission and then send in the rest.

Shama Hyder:

And so, I did that and I found out that I was quite good at it. I enjoyed it. Now remember, this is funny because all while I’m being entrepreneurial, I’m telling my parents, “This is not what I’m going to do. I am not an entrepreneur,” in that rebellious way that I think kids sometimes are towards there parents.

Shama Hyder:

And so meanwhile, I’ve got this enterprise going over here. I also got in trouble multiple times at school for selling things that kids needed that I wasn’t technically allowed to sell. Because it’s not encouraged unless you have some fundraiser or something that you’re doing it for. So I got in trouble multiple times at that. In fact, when I was very young I sold candy. My first employee ever was my younger sister. And at six years old, she thought I was too bossy, imagine that. So it was very funny to have all these entrepreneurial ventures. I put out a magazine when I was about, I don’t know, 12 years old, 12 or 14 years old, that I wrote, that I published before computers and printing. So I handmade these magazines. I started multiple clubs.

Shama Hyder:

And so, always been entrepreneurial. But I didn’t think about that as a career route. I thought, “Oh, no. I’m not going to do what my parents do. This is crazy.” I could see how stressful it was. And low and behold, when I graduated college and I ended up getting my master’s degree, so I have a master’s in organizational communication and technology, and I loved communications, I love technology, and when I graduated I honestly thought I would go work for a McKinsey, or a Bean or a consulting company. I thought, “That’s great.” Initially I wanted to be a journalist and then I figured out, “Oh, boy. Journalist don’t get paid anything.” And frankly, there’s not a lot of jobs in journalism. And frankly, there’s not a lot of jobs in journalism.

Shama Hyder:

So, remember this is where we’d hit a Great Recession. Journalism jobs were down. If you graduated with that, you were in for a rude awakening. So I graduated with a master’s degree. I did my thesis on Twitter. I was so excited. I thought social media was going to be huge. I thought these corporate companies would just be lining up, excited to nab a young, passionate talent. And of course, I was wrong. Just as a recession hit, something really interesting happened where enterprise companies often pull back during recessionary times. But small businesses end up getting a lot more innovative. They’re a lot more open to ideas and, “How can we engage our customers better?”

Shama Hyder:

And here I was, fresh out of school, saying, “Oh, I could show you that. I know how to do this,” raising my hand. And I had businesses who took a chance and said, “Sure, let’s do it.” And so, funnily enough, I became an entrepreneur and I guess I was always entrepreneurial, but I ended up following my parents’ footsteps in starting my own company. And it was such a mix of, I think, right time, right place. Serendipity plays a role. And I never looked back. And so, I think it’s so funny, though when people talk about entrepreneurship as something that they’re really trying to do. Because entrepreneur is not on my business card. My business card has Zen Media. It has the company I’ve started. It’s the people that I’m responsible for. It’s in the day in and day out of things that I think really defines you as an entrepreneur.

Shama Hyder:

A lot of times people have a passion, and that’s awesome, but it doesn’t make them money. And I think that’s a hobby, that’s not entrepreneurship, nothing wrong with hobbies. But when you find that you have a passion for something and you connect it to market demand, here I was passionate about technology and communication, and writing. And here was the market, hungry for understanding, how to make sense of the digital age, how to attract customers and there was a perfect fit there. So when you have that, that really, to me is the ultimate in entrepreneurship, where your passion meets market demand.

Shama Hyder:

Now if you have market demand but you don’t have a passion, you’re going to find you’re going to burn out very quickly. And passion doesn’t have to be necessarily even for the thing that you’re selling, per se. It can be for the entire process, of serving people, to building something bigger than yourself. And I think that’s the key differentiator. So I always find it funny when people, I think, think so glamourously about entrepreneurship.

Shama Hyder:

But I’ll tell you, the best thing about being an entrepreneur is that you do have so much freedom. And I love that. I love having the freedom to be able to build something that I’m passionate about, that serves the world in an awesome way. We work with so many amazing clients, so many fantastic companies and leaders. It’s really cool to be able to do that, and to give back in that way, and to know that you’re responsible for people’s livelihoods, that what you do puts food on their table, sends their kids to school, supports the lives that they love. And that, that makes me very happy.

Shama Hyder:

The most challenging thing about being an entrepreneur is that the buck stops with you. So freedom and responsibility are very much a double-edged sword. The buck does stop with you and so when something goes wrong you can’t ever look back and say, “Oh, God, that’s my boss,” or, “Oh, this person messed up,” or, “It was because of this.” No, it’s you. It is you. At the end of the day you are the rock. You are the leader. And I think that’s really interesting, too, because people talk about entrepreneurship and leadership as if it’s a given. And it’s not. It’s something you have to learn to be good at.

Shama Hyder:

So, being entrepreneurial is definitely a trait. I get it from my parents. It’s very familial. It’s familiar to me. I wouldn’t know how not to be an entrepreneur, if that makes sense. However, I think being a good leader on the other hand, is very much a learned quality. Because when I started my company, I can tell you that I was not a great boss. Honestly, because I didn’t know what it meant to be a good boss. I didn’t fully understand what it means to lead people, how you’re supposed to lead people, because no one taught me. You generally don’t learn how to lead until you do it, until you really decide this is a skill, like any other, like communication, like public speaking, like getting good with numbers. You have to learn how to be a good boss. I hope that today I’m a much better boss than I was 10 years ago. You have to ask my team members, but I think they’d agree. I think they’d agree that I’m a much better version about myself.

Shama Hyder:

And so, the thing about entrepreneurship that people miss, and they get so excited about the end goal, now I remember making my first million and being pretty excited about it, but it’s not the million dollars or that big client, or hitting that revenue goal or that profit number. At the end of the day, it’s all about who you’re becoming as you grow. So to me, being an entrepreneur is very much about the journey. And it’s not about the million dollars. It’s about who you become on the way to that million dollars, the problems you solve, the people you connect with, the things that you learn about yourself.

Shama Hyder:

The interesting thing about power, because entrepreneurship and power, I do believe, go together, you have a lot of power, especially as you grow your business and so forth, power reveals things. It reveals who you are because here’s the thing, when people are trying to get to power they conceal. You don’t know someone’s motives because they’re trying to get to some place. But when they get there, to whatever that may be, whether it’s a political office or being in that leadership role, then they no longer have to conceal their motives.

Shama Hyder:

And so power, I think, really reveals someone’s instinct, someone’s nature, what someone is actually going for. What’s the ultimate goal? So I think it’s really fascinating to understand that entrepreneurship, power, leadership, all of these things come together. And while some things are very innate, like that entrepreneurial spirit, if you put me anywhere in the world, I would still be an entrepreneur. It’s just who you are. There’s also much to be said about the things that you learn, about learning to be a good leader, learning to be a good boss, learning to handle the power that comes with being an entrepreneur.

Shama Hyder:

Thanks so much for watching. If you enjoyed this content, do subscribe. Do leave me a comment. If you want me to share more of my stories and thoughts on entrepreneurship and how it can help you with your journey, ask away. I am happy to create more for you guys.