Ali Zar moved to the United States from Pakistan when he was 11, intent on following in his father’s entrepreneurial footsteps. Several businesses later, Zar has shown that with action and purpose, any dream can come true. With his focus on family, Zar and his brother have set up successful small businesses across Long Island. Their first, a series of gift and greeting card shops, is still running strong. Then, they kicked off their own restaurant, Zar’s Chicken and Burgers, a halal eatery focusing on American favorites that’s racking up excellent online reviews. But most recently is Ali Zar’s passion project come true: A sports equipment store specializing in cricket, an uncommon sport in the United States, but one that is rapidly growing. Zar seeks to cater to this market, regionally in Long Island with his Zar Sports USA storefront, and then on the internet as his website reaches out and finds more customers.
With a bachelor’s degree in business from Baruch College, and a brother with a business degree from St. John’s, the Zars have all the education it takes to succeed, but it’s their relentless drive and broad understanding of various business marketplaces that will put them over the top to stay.
Why did you decide to create your own business?
I came from an entrepreneurial household, and my brother and I followed our father’s footsteps. My father had a motel in Manhattan with his business partner. He was in real estate as well. He worked in real estate from a young age and inspired us to be entrepreneurs ourselves. Working so hard to make someone else rich never felt right when we could do it for ourselves.
What do you love most about the industry you are in?
I played sports from my high school days and had an unmatchable passion and craze for the game of cricket. Cricket is not played so much in United States, but it is widely loved around the globe. It is fascinating to see it grow so much, and it is now being played in more countries than it was even a decade ago. We played cricket all over the United States, but predominantly in New York, New Jersey, Virginia, and Texas. It is rewarding to see a lot of leagues and tournaments are being organized to promote the game. Now our goal is to provide the tools the game needs to grow, which is why Zar Sports came into existence.
What does a typical day consist of for you?
My brother and I are both entrepreneurs, managing a few gift cards stores. I also have a newly opened restaurant and a sporting goods shop, so I have to do my best to distribute my time to where it is needed the most.
What keeps you motivated?
Being able to do what I love and earn a living at the same time, as well as serving my community, are the main sources of motivation for me. I want to continue to do just that. I have plenty of work ahead of me in order to grow my businesses.
How do you motivate others?
I motivate others by being a leader, not just because I am the business owner or the boss. I take pride in the work that is done at my businesses, and I try to show appreciation towards the team members that make it happen with incentives that are both tangible and intangible. I try to help them realize their true capacity and equip them to utilize it to the fullest. I motivate them to set goals personally and professionally, so we celebrate their milestones together like a family.
How has your company grown from its early days to now?
Zar Sports has had a good first year. Summer is when we do most of our business, but by rightfully executing our marketing plan and being able to provide quality products, the company hopes to achieve much more so we can dominate the industry in the coming years.
Where do you get your inspiration from?
Fortunately, I am blessed with great friends who believe in quality living and thriving wherever they are. They inspire me by sharing their success stories and they always seem ready to help me with my goals as well. Whether it is a charity, a sporting event or a business opportunity, I have good friends that are always there to make it happen.
Who has been a role model to you and why?
My parents were first generation immigrants. They came from middle class households and with little to no resources they immigrated to the United States, the land of opportunity. They worked tirelessly for days and nights to put food on the table and finance my education. They are the sole reason that my brothers and I have been doing so well.
How do you maintain a solid work life balance?
I must prioritize my tasks each day. I always choose the things that are more productive and make sure I get them done.
What traits do you possess that makes a successful leader?
I am a hands-on leader. I do not tell our team what needs to be done but I show them how it is done. I try to be an effective listener, affirm others with my actions, and share positive stories to motivate and encourage those I am working with. I always make sure there is positivity and friendliness on our side of the counter.
What suggestions do you have for someone starting in your industry?
Patience is the key. You will be met with so many challenges and denials, but they are only here to shape your success. Having patience and resilience will help you to thrive in the current market. Your hard work and patience will pay off in the long run. Work hard! Luck is a chance, but hard work is an assurance.
What has been the hardest obstacle you have overcome?
One obstacle has been people telling me that the things I want to accomplish cannot be done or that I am setting myself up for failure because no one has done what I am getting myself into. Those were hard things for me to hear from people when I was planning to create Zar Sports. The less travelled path does not necessarily mean it is headed nowhere, and I refused to accept those negative viewpoints.
What is one piece of advice that you have never forgotten?
Work hard and be humble. Give back to society and keep moving forward.
What is your biggest accomplishment?
Being able to do what I love and make a living at the same time has been a big accomplishment for me. I loved playing cricket, and now we are not only promoting the game in US, but also providing quality gear to other lovers of the sport.
What’s one piece of advice you would give to others?
Be patient and take one day at a time.
What is the biggest life lesson you have learned?
Life is full of ups and downs. One minute, life is supporting you, and the next minute it is against you. You have to enjoy both the ups and downs of life. This is what makes or breaks a person. You have to be strong and keep moving forward.
Outside of work, what defines you as a person?
I am a humble and friendly person.
What trends in your industry excite you?
Trends in the sporting world that excite me are new innovations and new products that are created to help improve a player’s cricket game. The improved quality of cricket bats is an example of this. It excites me that the size, weight, length and the shapes of the bats can improve a player’s game and that I can provide these options through my store.
Where do you see you and your company in 5 years?
I see Zar Sports growing to different parts of the world where cricket is played. Hopefully our products will be used by many cricketers who love and play the game. I would like to have branches opened in more cricket-playing nations.
For Zar Foods, I would like for us to grow into multiple locations in five years. The food industry is a big industry, and hopefully we can expand to more states. If we work hard, hopefully we can become a franchise.
Explain the proudest day of your professional life.
The proudest day of my life was when my first child was born. It is such a special feeling when one becomes a father.