I feel my entrepreneurial spirit has been a part of my identity since the very beginning. I was born into a lower-middle class family and right from the start, I’ve seen my parents struggle and work really hard just to make ends meet.
Thankfully, my parents always understood the importance of education and no matter how many jobs they had to take on to pay my school fees, I never saw them complain about it.
As someone who has never studied in an expensive private school, I was always aware that hard work will not be enough if I wanted to change things for myself; I knew I had to think outside the box. So, even before I completed my studies, I had already made up my mind that I wanted to set up a business. I didn’t know what kind of business but I knew I wanted something of my own.
As soon as I was done with my studies, I picked up a few small jobs here and there and started saving money. At this point, Pakistan was in international news for all the wrong reasons. International media was making it seem like Pakistan was the epicenter of extremism and terrorism.
As someone who’d spent his entire life in Pakistan, I knew that the perception being promoted of my country was really wrong. From that point onwards, I got interested in promoting Pakistani culture abroad and showing people what my country was actually like.
My close friend Jamal was already aware of my plan to start a business and when I talked to him about promoting Pakistani culture in foreign markets, we decided to setup an online store where we’d sell traditional Pakistani shoes to people from all around the world.
Before I could quit my job, I had to convince my parents. It took some time for them to come around but once they were on board, Jamal and I immediately started work on setting up a website, hiring the best craftsmen and finding a place where we could make and store shoes.
As with all businesses, it was quite difficult in the beginning and orders took quite some time to start coming in but then came COVID-19 and it totally messed up everything. No one saw something like this happening and when it did, it really hurt everyone’s livelihood.
At first, the government implemented a strict lockdown for 2 weeks and even after that, it took them a few weeks to allow small businesses to resume work. Once our business opened up, I remember, the workers were really scared to come in and even though the business was cash-strapped we had to spend money on making sure the workshop complied with social distancing measures.
The only silver lining to this whole thing was that because schools and offices were closed, people were spending time online and more orders started coming in. And it us a while to start working at optimal level again but, we got there.
Looking back, I feel the past few years have a really learning experience for me. As an entrepreneur, I know that I must always prepare for the worst and when things go south, I must adapt quickly.