Entrepreneur shares stirring motivational message

Heather Latter

Award-winning entrepreneur Zahra Al-Harazi shared her secret to success with local residents last Thursday night during an event at La Place Rendez-Vous in conjunction with International Women’s Day.
“I really enjoyed it,” enthused Angela Halvorsen of the local Professional Women’s Network, which, along with funding from the province, helped the Northwest Business Centre bring in Al-Harazi.
“I thought she had a lot of great messages to take home to get everyone thinking,” Halvorsen added.
Al-Harazi is the owner and creative director of Calgary-based Foundry Communications, a Top 40 under 40, and a winner of Chatelaine’s Canadian Women of the Year award.
Despite the small turnout for the event, Al-Harazi recounted her story about how a girl born in Yemen became a leading entrepreneur in Canada.
She survived two civil wars, agreed to an arranged marriage at age 17, and had three kids by age 25. Then in 1996, she came to Canada in search of a better life for her children.
“I needed to find confidence to become part of society,” she explained, noting one day she went to the mall and came back with a job at Danier Leather.
From there, Al-Harazi returned to school and received her Bachelor of Design in Visual Communications from the Alberta College of Art and Design in Calgary.
“I had found my passion and desire for success,” she remarked, adding upon graduating, she worked for a small company and then a larger one before beginning her own business with a partner.
“It was a crazy, steep learning curve,” she admitted. “[But] we topped a million dollars in sales our first year.”
When she made the decision to divorce her husband, Al-Harazi began thinking about designing her own unique path.
“Live the life you want to live, not what you think you’re good at,” she stressed.
She explained in marketing, she builds brands. So she decided to build a brand for herself—starting with a creative brief just as she would on the job.
“I wrote one for myself—success by design.”
Using these six steps, she wrote down her plans and goals, and how she would work to fulfill them:
1. Find the truth
Al-Harazi said “you can’t make a road map if you don’t know who your are.”
She added you must answer many questions about yourself, such as what do you want, when do you want it, and what do you want your legacy to be.
“Consider there is two answers to every question,” she noted, warning that you need to stop seeing the same options for every situation.
2. Make a team
“Surround yourself with people who are going to love and support you on your journey,” she stressed, encouraging the need for mentors.
“Mentors will inspire and encourage you.”
3. Target your audience
Al-Harazi said you need to know who you are talking to, whether it’s mentors, clients, etc.
“The more you understand your audience, the more relevant you can be,” she explained.
“And consider who deserves your attention the most.”
4. Set some mandatories
She said these are the things you are unwilling to compromise on. For example, her values are to keep good company, laugh, never tolerate “okay” anything, be curious, and to leave something behind.
5. Focus the message
“This is the key selling idea,” Al-Harazi noted, citing hers is to “live a life you can be proud of.”
6. Live your brand
She stressed you have to live it every day. “It’s important to know the truth about yourself,” she said. “Be real.”
As a secondary point to that, she talked about packaging your brand—being aware of how you are perceived be other people.
“Are you what you say you are?” she asked.
In conclusion, Al-Harazi conceded self-analysis is not easy but worth it.
“Now you have a plan—run with it and believe in yourself,” she urged.
Halvorsen said she heard a few people say afterwards that they were motivated to do some soul-searching.
“Her message was well-received,” she added.
“It’s more about your journey in life and are you doing what you really want to do.”
“Zahra said almost every person came up to her afterwards and just said how much they enjoyed it, what they got out of it, how they connected with [her message],” echoed Diane Schwartz-Williams, manager of the Northwest Business Centre.
“And that’s what we wanted.”
She noted about 20 people were on hand here in Fort Frances while 30 turned out in Kenora for a similar event the day before.
“I wish we had triple that because I think everyone would have walked away with something,” Schwartz-Williams lamented.
“But the people there did get something our of it,” she stressed. “And if it makes a difference for even half the people who were there, it was a good thing to do.
“I had hoped that if everyone had one ‘aha’ moment during the course of the evening . . . that would be great,” Schwartz-Williams continued.
“I think it’s fair to say that everyone had a few ‘aha’ moments,” she noted. “What she said resonated with so many people.”