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Women in Business – Surviving the First Two Years: “Trusting your gut more can get you a long way. ” Interview with Parmida Schahhosseini

Interview with Parmida Schahhosseini, founder of Parmida Nouri, on her experiences being a woman entrepreneur.

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Please tell us a bit about yourself, and describe your company.

I’m Parmida Schahhosseini, the founder of Parmida Nouri, a luxury hair accessories brand focused on comfort. Since I was little, I’ve been obsessed with hair accessories, specifically headbands, but most of them were either uncomfortable (causing pinches or headaches) or made with low-quality materials, which damage our hair more than we think. 

After seeing a whitespace, I decided to find a solution. I spent the first year designing, prototyping, and testing the product to make sure they were not only well made, but also comfortable enough to where it felt like you weren’t wearing anything. I tested different bases and found that some worked better than others depending on hair type and head size. In fact, later this Spring we’re going to launch sizing options, as well as share recommendations for different hair types. I also invested in higher-quality materials given the adverse effects of synthetic fabrics, specifically polyester and rayon. Because of the chemicals involved to create those fabrics, excessive exposure to polyester can also put our reproductive system and hormones at higher risk!

Community is also a key pillar. I want to make sure the business contributes to the communities we serve, so we’re committed to donating 15% of our monthly profits to an organization addressing various issues from women’s rights, social justice, poverty, education access, and more. 

What has been the most challenging thing you have faced in the first two years of operating your business? How did you overcome it?

I launched recently, so the most challenging thing thus far was making the first sale because it’s a niche product and there are many hair accessories in the market – albeit, many are made using lower-quality materials. People don’t really put hair accessories on the same pedestal as jewelry, even though high-quality items made of gold and crystals could be considered hair jewelry. There’s this perception that hair accessories should all be cheap. However, there’s craftsmanship involved in the products I create, so I try my best to communicate that to my audience. While I’ve had sales, it’s still an area I continue to educate people about because what you expose your hair to matters. 

What are some of the biggest digital marketing challenges you have faced to date? How have you overcome them?

The biggest challenge is getting the strategy right. Depending on if we want website views or sales, there needs to be a strategy in place to help us meet specific goals. It’s difficult to grow organically, especially with limited paid spending. We overcome this by trying different things. If something doesn’t work, we move on quickly and try something else until it does. Once we have the right formula, then we add some paid behind it to boost the content. 

Please tell us what led you to the path of entrepreneurship. 

I come from an entrepreneurial family. Almost everyone on my dad’s side either has or had a small business at one point, but it wasn’t until my first corporate job where I started to consider it. I remember back in high school my dad telling me that the best thing I can do is to work for myself, but I always rebuffed it because at the time I liked the idea of a steady paycheck. Additionally, despite having family members who are entrepreneurs, they all live in Iran so it’s not like they were examples in my life. I didn’t even know the history of my dad’s side until I decided I wanted to go down this path and started asking him a ton of questions. 

However, I liked the idea of creating something so I started to give it more thought. One day I was at work wearing a new headband and it started to hurt my head. I stopped wearing them for a while since they usually had to be removed in the middle of the day, but I missed how they could mask “bad hair days”. So I started looking at more comfortable headbands. The next weekend, I went to four department stores in New York and started trying out various headbands. None of them felt great, so then I figured that this could be a business and started experimenting. 

What are the three most important things every woman entrepreneur should do, when first thinking about starting a business?

The first thing one should do when thinking about starting a business, is discussing the idea with people close to you whether it be friends or family, and see if they’re receptive. It is important to take their advice with a grain of salt, but usually, they have some great feedback or point out things you didn’t think about. I’d also couple that with doing a lot of research – primary and secondary. 

Second, I recommend using resources – whether they cater specifically to female entrepreneurs like iFundWomen or Tory Burch Foundation or broader businesses like SCORE – to learn more about various business topics and how to best start the business. 

Lastly, make sure it’s something you’re passionate about. Being an entrepreneur isn’t easy. It’s very common to have doubts during the process, but you have to be able to push through it and be confident in what you’re trying to sell. Women have great intuition, so trusting your gut more can get you a long way. 

Are there actionable steps a woman in business should take to ensure that her company is successful in two years?

While I’ve heard many people say there’s no better time than the present to start a business, I think it’s important to talk to people and test ideas first before launching – maybe do a pre-launch and see what the feedback is as it can help with product development. I think also using SCORE has been helpful. I really enjoy bouncing ideas off of my mentors or even being able to talk through things if I have any questions. I think having cash is extremely important. Most businesses fail because they don’t have enough cash on hand, so being really conservative with finances is extremely important. If you can take on additional work (full-time or part-time) while starting a business, I recommend that because the stress of not having enough money can put a damper on your creativity and your livelihood. 

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