Photo Source of Naseem: Cheri Roohi Photography
Boss lady. Hustler. Creative entrepreneur.
All of these are labels I’ve placed on women I’ve known or looked up to my whole life, yet I never dared to even think for a second that would be me. Not that I felt inadequate, but being a risk taker and stepping outside my comfort zone was never my style. Until 2016 hit.
I can confidently say that this year has been the most life-changing year for me to date. In both the best way and hardest way. Throughout my 20’s (which I’m officially in the latter stages of now haha), I was always working towards this goal of “making it” in the Bay Area. And what that meant to me in my social media-obsessed, living-for-likes bubble was being successful working in the tech industry. After all, I went to a UC in order to land a job at one of the big guys, right? The Facebook, Google, Apple, Cisco’s. Well, when I was 23 I decided to try out the start-up world -- it was in the height of its heyday with a ton of amazingly intriguing ideas and companies all on the horizon, I wanted to jump right in.
To make a long story short, the next three years were a whirlwind. I became completely invested in my job, and if anyone out there has worked for a start-up you know what that means. Late nights at the office, answering emails at any given hour, and becoming almost closer than family with your co-workers. We were all so invested in the mission and vision of the company that it felt like our baby that we wanted to see succeed. At this point I felt like I had made it. I felt respected by my peers and started caring about topics I never really thought twice about; like data, engineering, and metrics. The ingredients that make a start-up succeed.
Flash forward to the end of 2015, a year ago exactly, and our company went through a transition that many start-ups go through. An acquisition. A messy one to say the least. Overnight, our roles were dissolved and everything shifted. My world turned upside down. It made me realize how much of my identity I had placed in my job. Here I was at 26 and in a state of shock, confusion, and dismay as to what my next move would be.
Cue some soul searching, travel across the globe, and a ton of journaling. I was at a crossroads. My auto-pilot mind was steering me in the direction of the big companies I mentioned above (obviously). Why wouldn’t I gravitate towards those? Good paying salary, job security, and bragging perks like the free food. But then I felt it. Slow at first, but then a piercing grip at my heart that was too strong to ignore. That choice felt empty. It felt easy. I started wondering instead, “What makes my heart come alive based on my talents, strengths, and the skill set already ingrained in me?”
I always had a deep passion for events (especially weddings). I also grew up being the “planner” or “hostess” of the bunch when it came to my friends and getting people together to celebrate. That, paired with the extremely Type A-organized-structured-ESFJ personality I am, I felt this desire to simply try starting my own business. Of course, my immediate thought was “Wait, me? Am I serious? Where is this going to go?” But as I’ve grown older, especially in the last year or so, I’ve learned to cut myself some slack. To be more confident in my decisions and desires. I used to care so much what people thought. It’s almost like I needed the go-ahead from 10 different people before I felt like my decision was valid enough or worth making.
But with this new venture on my heart, the journey started with such fluidity and peace. I officially started my wedding planning business in April 2016. Now that we’re at the end of the year, I look back in so much awe and pride over this baby I’ve watched grow over the last few months. I was able to book more clients than I ever would have dreamt possible and already have more than a handful on the books for 2017. I was published in two major wedding publications and made some irreplaceable bonds with fellow creatives in the industry who I now consider true friends.
Which brings me back to where we began, dear reader. This journey was nothing short of hard. The word hustle took on new meaning for me in 2016. It’s taken so much sacrifice that no one knows about (both physically and mentally) to do what I’ve been doing and yet it’s been paying off in the best way possible, simply by seeing the fruit of my labor and the amazing feedback that complete strangers who became my clients have given me.
As someone who never thought they’d be a business owner, I want to speak to anyone out there reading this who has also been taught to stick to the status quo and follow the path that our Silicon Valley bubble has trapped us into. Break out. Take a risk. Be your own boss. It is so worth it to look back and see something you’ve been able to create from the ground up that’s now thriving on its own.
And while this is only the beginning of the journey for me, I felt inclined to share my story thus far because I feel so accomplished leaving 2016 behind me knowing that I’ve been able to tackle some huge giants in my life. Growing in confidence. Being unapologetic. Learning to do ME -- and taking great pride in that.
And most importantly, unleashing the #girlboss that was always inside.