Today on the blog: Interview with Soraya Hadjar. Entrepreneur and writer Soraya focusses on writing about the urban culture when it comes to her online magazine. She makes a fine combination of fashion, music and various other topics like mental health. Read the interview to learn more about this power woman, her book and online magazine!
TELL ME ABOUT YOUR CURRENT BUSINESS. WHAT ARE YOU DOING EXACTLY?
I am the CEO of That’s What She Said NL. TWSSNL is an online magazine for young women who dare to speak up. We offer a combination of writing about urban culture (fashion, hip hop music, etc.) and writing about real life, with blogs about topics as mental health, dating, etc. Our blog is a safe space where taboos don’t exist. Besides writing blogs, I also write books, the last of which, The Last Generation: Love, dropped in October 2019.
HOW DID YOU COME UP WITH YOUR BUSINESS IDEA?
I started TWSSNL because I was going through a depression and I felt the need to express myself. I started writing as a kid, to process the divorce of my parents and I never stopped. Seeing as I didn’t find any platform fitting for my content, I decided to start my own platform. I’ve always wanted my own magazine and now that everything is online, a blog felt like the natural thing to do.
WHAT WERE YOU DOING BEFORE THIS, AND IS THIS YOUR FIRST BUSINESS?
I have had a million jobs! Literally any job you can imagine, I’ve done. Never anything serious though, I’ve worked in customer service, like a sales advisor, an employee at a store, anything. I’ve always been blogging and writing stories on the side and in 2019 I decided to fully focus on writing. This is my first business!
WHAT SPECIFIC ADVICE WOULD YOU HAVE FOR YOUNG WOMEN WHO WOULD LIKE TO BECOME AN ENTREPRENEUR?
Well, first, I’m still figuring this whole entrepreneur thing out myself, so I have a lot to learn myself. What I can tell you is to be as determined as you can be! You’re probably going to be experiencing a lot of setbacks, things will go wrong, you will be broke and you will probably make more hours than you’ve ever done as an employee. That’s why determination is so important. You have to push through all the BS to prove to the universe you really want this and that you can handle this. Look at your business as something you’re willing to work on forever. Don’t give up!
MY GREATEST OBSTACLE AND HOW DID YOU DEALT WITH IT:
My greatest obstacle is by far doing it all by myself. I’ve lost two team members at the beginning of the company, and I was extremely anxious I wouldn’t be able to do it all by myself. A blog is more than just writing, it’s social media strategies, it’s marketing, it’s technical stuff, the list goes on and on. Doing it all by myself became a need because I don’t make enough money yet to pay others for their services. How I still deal with this is by teaching myself everything I need to know (how to build a website for example, which was definitely one of the hardest things ever) by YouTube and reading books. Now, I’m lucky to have people on my team who can help me every now and then, but I still do 90% by myself. I’ve really had to create structure and discipline myself to be able to do this every day. That’s also one of the reasons I decided to do this full-time. Doing this besides working as an employee obviously brought in more money, but it was draining all of my energy. And energy is important as an entrepreneur!
MY PROUDEST ACCOMPLISHMENT:
My proudest accomplishment is by far my consistency. I literally never finished anything in my life, so I was very anxious I wouldn’t be able to pull through with TWSSNL. In April 2020, I’ve been doing this consistently for two years! Writing every day, posting on Instagram every two hours, looking for business opportunities, you name it, I do it! I’m very proud of myself to have been so consistent in my work. It has brought me and my company to bigger audiences. Specific things I’m really proud of are all the organizations that allow me to write reviews about their events, like Woo Hah! festival.
HOW I BLEND LIFE AND WORK TO CREATE THE LIFE I WANT:
This is a hard one. To be honest, I’m still struggling with finding balance. The way my life is right now, I’m just working most of the time, to really make a name for myself. I don’t ever take days off and I will literally work until I fall asleep behind my laptop, lol! I try to find balance by planning out little breaks during the day. I’ll have alarm clocks on my phone, telling me I need to relax for a while. I will say that by doing what I love most, work doesn’t feel like work. Sometimes I have to go to an event after my workday. On days like that, I can be working for over 12 hours. However, because I like the events I attend, because I like creating content, because I love writing more than anything, it doesn’t really feel like work.
I AM INSPIRED BY:
I am inspired by anyone who’s fearless enough to follow their dreams, whatever that dream may be. My biggest role model is Rihanna. I look up to the way she continuously elevates herself as a businesswoman while staying true to herself as a human. I also love how she doesn’t care about the labels or pressure society can put on women. That’s something I relate to on a spiritual level.
WHY I CHOSE THIS CAREER:
When I was younger, I fell in love with writing because it offered me the possibility of creating new worlds, better than the ones we live in. As I got older, I started to realize I could influence people and actually change the real world, by writing. I’ve gone through many traumatic experiences in life and I truly believe that with the lessons I had to learn the hard way, I can help others. Everything starts with a story. I love writing stories.
HOW I PREPARE FOR SUCCESS:
Affirmations! I continuously tell myself that I was destined to be great, that the universe has proven to be working in my favour and that I wouldn’t have taken this huge leap if I didn’t think it would make me successful. I also think of my ancestors and all the women who’ve made sacrifices for me to be here today. I feel like I have a responsibility towards them as well as to the younger generation of women to be the best I can be, so I can inspire others to carry on the legacies of successful, black women.
DID YOU WRITE A BUSINESS PLAN? WAS IT AN EFFECTIVE TOOL FOR YOU?
I did. I don’t think it’s essential to write a business plan, but I like having things written out, it brings structure in my head. So, that’s what it did for me. The most effective part of the business plan was the financial part. Knowing how much money you need and what for really helps you in working goal-oriented.
ARE THERE SPECIFIC ADVANTAGES, DISADVANTAGES TO BEING A WOMEN BUSINESS OWNER?
I’m sure there are, but I haven’t experienced any. Maybe I did and I just wasn’t aware of it. I do have to say, I get a lot of support from women, which I think is an advantage of being one!
MY FAVOURITE BUSINESS TOOL IS…
My planner. I think for any business, one of the most important things is consistency. You show up every day, that’s what’s going to make your company grow. That’s why I think it’s important to plan, so you can do more and not keep everything cramped up in your head! I write everything down in my planner, words of encouragement for myself, to-do lists, things that inspire me, new ideas. Having everything written down makes working a lot easier for me.
THE BEST PIECE OF ADVICE I HAVE EVER BEEN GIVEN IS…
When I was in high school, my Dutch teacher told me: “Whatever you decide to do in life, please choose a profession where you can write.” He saw my talent and my love for writing at a young age. That’s what I would advise everyone, is to do what you love! The love for your craft is what will keep you going when everything else is working against you.