Episode 8 | Advocate For Yourself with Fatima Zaidi


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S.1 E. 8 The Power of Self-Care in Business: An Interview with Sobia Hussain

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In this episode, we speak with Fatima Zaidi, co-founder of Quill Inc and speaker. Fatima tells us her start-up story and how she navigated through a difficult year impacted by the pandemic. Her story highlights how becoming resourceful is required as an entrepreneur. She is also the founder of Listen In Podcasting Conference. Her mantra is "advocate for yourself" and one of her favorite tools is Nimble. You can connect with Fatima on Instagram @zaidiafatima, on LinkedIn at Fatima Zaidi, and on Twitter at Fatima Zaidi.


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Sophia

Transcript

Laura: 

Welcome everyone here at Boss It. We would love to hear from you. Join us in our Boss It community, by heading over to our website Bossitclub.com and join our mailing list. As we grow, we will be launching our community of fellow Boss It BFFs, and we want you to be a part of it. Okay. Sophia Noreen. Let's dig into this

Sophia Noreen: 

Welcome to another amazing episode of the Boss It Podcasts today, we're going to have Fatima Zaidi on our show and she's going to join us shortly first. I'd like to tell you a little bit about Fatima. She is a CEO and cofounder of Quill incorporated. The world's first one-stop marketplace, where podcasters can find pre-vetted experts, freelancers who can save them time and improve their podcast quality and help them grow their audience. She's also the owner of listen in conference, which is held in LA and it supports new brands that are moving into podcasting As a national member of the National Speaking Bureau, Fatima has spoken at various events around the world on media and tech trends, leading her to keynotes on various stages, alongside speakers like Gary Vaynerchuk and the most recently Richard Branson. In addition to being a commentator for BNN Boomerang, she's a frequent contributor to publications, including The Globe and Mail and Huffington post. Over the past few years, she has won two top 30 under 30 awards, The Young Professionals of the Year by Notable Life, and one of the Flare Magazines, top 100 women. Okay guys, I am so pumped to interview Fatima Zaidi today. I cannot wait to hear what she has to say. Welcome to the bosses podcast. My name is Sophia Noreen and I took an Etsy startup and launched it in big box retailers within 12 months. As a creative with an entrepreneurial drive, I left my full time career in healthcare to find better harmony between career, family and self care. We believe you can have it all. Yes, you can launch and run a successful scalable business while maintaining harmony in all aspects of your life. We believe we can learn from each other and draw on many experiences to create the best life possible. During each episode, we will share proven life hacks that will keep you on top and striving every day. There should be no hesitation. Make a plan. Take action. We are here for you. Hello, everyone. Welcome back to another fantastic episode of the Boss It Podcast. And my name is Sophia Noreen, and I'm going to be your host today and today, as you heard in the introduction, we have Fatima Zaidi. Hi Fatima, thanks for joining us yesterday.

Fatima Zaidi: 

Great to be here, Sophia. Thank you so much for having me.

Sophia Noreen: 

We are so happy and we want to hear your story and get inspired. And Fatima has a fantastic story, but as always, we're going to start off with her mantra and what keeps her motivated. What is the saying that keeps you motivated and going every day?

Fatima Zaidi: 

To be honest, my mantra is advocate for yourself. I am a huge believer in promoting yourself, asking for what you deserve; taking credit for your ideas. It's funny. I often think about all of the women that I know in my network, and I find a lot of them do a really great job of, branding and promoting their clients and their customers and even their businesses, but they often fail to take control of their own personal branding careers. And I always say that you are the CEOs of your own brand. You can call it Me INC. And, you are the only one who can ever advocate for yourself, nobody else is going to do it for you. And so always say, make sure you're promoting yourself, taking credit for your ideas and asking for what you deserve. I think it's normal for everyone to experience the imposter syndrome, but nobody else has more, less of a right to do exactly what you're doing. So why not actually go for it?

Sophia Noreen: 

Yeah. Advocating for yourself, I've learned that the hard way, because in my previous jobs, I don't know if it was just imposter syndrome or feeling like I was younger than everyone. I actually had one boss say to me, why are you holding yourself back? I mean that is a fantastic mantra. And I think a lot of women, especially minority women I think are affected by this and they probably do need to have that mantra written down and somewhere where they can see it.

Fatima Zaidi: 

Absolutely. I think it's funny because obviously I do recognize that the system itself is flawed, where underrepresented groups generally left behind. But I find that we can counteract a lot of that by advocating for ourselves. I always find it's the women who are afraid of coming across as too promotional, too aggressive, too opinionated or so apologetic, don't want to take credit for their ideas. And I think it's generationally a culture thing. And I think that is why I've just been so unapologetically- just almost brazen about my brand and making sure that, I'm really advocating, not just for myself, but all of the people on my team as well, because I think that is something that women, especially women of color often struggle with.

Sophia Noreen: 

110%. And so that's a good segue into your story. So you've built two incredible companies. And I don't know where you want to start. I don't know if you want to just go right into the juicy part of your entrepreneurial journey or if there's a prequel that happened that led you into that. But basically your story, we want to know a little bit more so we can. Tie back to your mantra and be inspired.

Fatima Zaidi: 

Yeah, absolutely. So funnily enough, I was born and raised in the middle East in a small country called Oman. Most people don't know where it is. It's between Dubai and Yemen. So the tiny little dot. Not very many people and my parents were Pakistanis. So I am first generation Pakistani. And in 2007, I decided to move to Canada because I believed then, and still do that it's one of the few places in the world where people are, rewarded based on their merit, that their hard work, rather than their gender or the color skin, their social standing and I still think we have as a country, a long way to go- of course. But I feel like this country has given me a lot of opportunity and I'm still, also really lucky that I came from a very diverse cultural background. And so when I moved here, I went to school. I went to university of Toronto and after that decided to join the startup circuit to help companies scale. And so my background is primarily in sales and hacking outbound sales. So companies hire me to come in and, take their companies from $0 a million, 2 million, 5 million in revenue and scale. It's a really transferable skill, especially when you're becoming an entrepreneur. Eventually down the line I decided, I've been doing this for so long for other people, why not try it for myself? At least try it because I know it's not for everyone. The last company that I was with, I was I'm running this agency where we did marketing for tech companies. And one of the biggest requests that I started getting towards the last couple of years is brands that were moving very aggressively into the podcasting space. It was almost an exponential growth curve -overnight. And so I started following the trend very carefully, especially because I was a huge podcast consumer, everyone comes to this content in different ways, whether you're visual or audio or written. And for me, it was 100% audio. I loved that I could listen to shows while commuting to work, going to the gym, walking my dog. I just a medium that I found I could be productive while still being engaged in other activities. So I love it that, and because I was such a huge consumer of show, and I saw the impact that it had on me as a consumer, I was like, you know what, there's something here. I feel like just like companies had a business in the nineties or a website for their business in the nineties, then, a phone number, then social media. I was like, I have a feeling in the next five years, 10 years, most companies and people will either have their own podcast or be advertising on one. So I decided to productize our services and launched Quill, which is the world's first marketplace and one stop shop for anyone who's moving into podcasting. So you can either hire freelancers on our platform to help you with your show. Or you can use our in house agency where we work with brands on getting their shows off the ground and marketed.

Sophia Noreen: 

That is amazing. I loved how you basically look the trends. You're basically looking at trends and you were very observant and you've taken something that was a need obviously in the market and you've made it into reality. When was Quill established?

Fatima Zaidi: 

So we officially launched in, January of this year. So right before the pandemic, that was interesting. It was an interesting sort of few months for us because we launched before the pandemic and then probably a couple months in, and we have traction right away because there's no, it's a niche that we're filling. There's not a lot of agencies that understand podcasting the way that we did. And then we went through, every business cycle, it has its ebbs and flows. And we went through our series ebb, which is our conference in LA, which was going to be the biggest source of our revenue got pushed because of COVID to March. And so we had to refund all of our tickets. Our conference got pushed to March and we had to refund all of our tickets, refund all of our sponsors and then our investor who we were on term sheets with, had to pull out because they were impacted by COVID. Barely had any revenue left and we're like, "Oh my goodness, what are we going to do?" And that's when I was like, you know what? Let's launch the agency side of our business. And luckily from there we just had exponential growth because brands started moving into podcasting. We started launching branded shows for companies like RBC, CIBC, Bay Street, Golden Globe Now we're at a point where like last month we acquired another company, a production company, double the size. Thank you. We doubled in size with both clients and now we don't need investments. So now we're completely bootstrapping our business and we've turned it the way those investors. So we've been really lucky, very grateful to be in this space. Understand that's not everyone's reality. So really feel for a lot of the small businesses and real estate companies. Retail companies that have struggled to get through this pandemic.

Sophia Noreen: 

I think what your story speaks to is your resourcefulness. You had to pivot very quickly. You were holding a conference that was supposed to be launched in March.

Fatima Zaidi: 

It was to be in June.

Sophia Noreen: 

I see. Okay. And due to the pandemic, we did the full refunds. And then you had your investors pull out. I'm just doing a quick high level highlight of your situation because it does reflect on your resourcefulness and then you had to quickly think, okay, what is needed in the market? Strategy to launch your agency, wasn't actually part of your initial plan it sounds like?

Fatima Zaidi: 

Not really, no, it wasn't, we did get a lot of requests the beginning, when we first launched quell from bigger brands being like, it's great that you've launched this marketplace, but what we need is a full service team around us. And to be honest, it wasn't necessarily on my radar. I was happy to slowly scale this marketplace because it is a very scalable model. But it worked out really well for us because one, someone who has raised capitol before it is extremely challenging not only just in the COVID landscape, and now the preexisting conditions that female founders face are further compounded by the pandemics. So things like lack of access to early stage capital, mentors networks, gender priorities. And so I was like, I have to get really creative with raising outside capital or bootstrapping this company to keep us going. So the service side of our business was very easily going to fund the product and technology side of our company. And raising money as a full time job. So I was like, why not focus on bringing in sales and being cashflow positive from day one, rather than. raising a bunch of capital and not being even sure how I was going to spend it.

Sophia Noreen: 

Exactly It's a very interesting problem to have when you have the money upfront and then you wonder, okay, how am I going to keep generating that income? Because if the money's there, you don't have that push, you don't have that fire under you. But when that investor pulled out, you got resourceful, you got scrappy in some ways saying, okay, this is what people need. This is what people want and how am I going to make it happen for them. So that is such a fantastic story and very motivating all of our listeners. Okay. So I want to ask another question about your conference. What's your future plans for Quill? Are you still in planning on holding a conference, a virtual conference?

Fatima Zaidi: 

Very much. So we're very excited about when we can actually execute right now, it's scheduled for March 22nd fingers crossed. We can still pull through, but given the state of California, it's not looking like it. So likely we'll push it to whenever the vaccine is wildly distributed. Currently our headliner is Sarah Caning and the co creator and host of Serial. It's just one of those podcasts that I think it has this medium on everybody's map. I love that show. I think everyone does. And so for me, it was a no brainer that I wanted Sarah as our main headliner. And then we've secured all of our speakers and sponsors. So our location is done. Everything's ready to go. We just, need the vaccine to be distributed so that we can have 2000 brands in one room.

Sophia Noreen: 

This might be a very silly question, have you thought of doing a virtual conference?

Fatima Zaidi: 

We have, and we really did want to do it, offline. I find offline tactics, the power of forming stronger relationships. And I have built my entire brand one handshake at a time. There's just not the same feeling. I'm happy to wait. I just don't want to do a virtual conference because I want to be able to meet all of these people face to face our sponsors, our speakers, our audience. At the end of the day, if this was like sixth or seventh or 10th year, I would have been fine doing a virtual conference, but, given we're just in the early stages of Quill for us, it's just about owning our distribution and building those long lasting relationships. And I feel like the best way to organically do that is face to face.

Sophia Noreen: 

I love it. You've hit the nail on the head. We've become a little bit disconnected with virtual and being able to make those relationships one handshake at a time, as you said, you can't beat that. You definitely can't beat that. So as you guys heard, Fatima has spoke at various events as keynote, and she's been alone on the stages with many big brands. Fatima, how have you been using your skill of speaking and how important is that skill of speaking to help you build your brand and build your companies?

Fatima Zaidi: 

Yeah. as someone who has been in school sales, I find that personal branding is just a really great tactic to becoming a thought leader and subject matter expert in your area of expertise. And for me, there's a few different topics that I speak to one being sales, which is like my profession by trade and the second being, challenges that female founders face in the small business community, as well as like how to create a more diverse and inclusive background. And honestly, I've met some really incredible people through commentating on Bloomberg writing and speaking, and it's just not only been a really great way to expand my personal network, but also just a really great lead gen tool because relationships are the best longterm sales pipeline. I always say that it's not just about cold calling and cold outreach. Like really build a solid brand, become a thought leader in your space, add as much value as you can to people. And the sales and revenue will follow.

Sophia Noreen: 

That is such good advice. I think sometimes they are so impatient as well, and we just want to rush into things, but relationship building takes time And then on top of that, getting out in front and not being afraid to use your voice and become that thought leader in this space, because many people who started to listen to this podcast are obviously aiming or trying to go somewhere with their brand or with their personal brand. And if you're not willing, or you don't have the courage to get out there and use your voice, then it'll be very difficult for people to discover you.

Fatima Zaidi: 

You hit the nail on the head. Building your personal brand is definitely a very longterm play. There's no instant gratification. I've been speaking, writing, commentating- I would say since I was probably 20 and now I'm 31. So it's been 11 years. And I only started getting represented by the Speaker's Bureau a few years ago. So for the longest time I did it for free. I liked didn't monetize on a lot of my tactics. It was just a, branding play. And it really did pay off in the long term, but it's taken me 11 years to get to this point.

Sophia Noreen: 

There you go guys. So nothing happens overnight and just go for it, right? Fatima.

Fatima Zaidi: 

Exactly.

Sophia Noreen: 

Okay. So now we're going to go onto advice time. Give us one piece of advice you wish you knew prior to starting your journey as an entrepreneur.

Fatima Zaidi: 

Okay. So my goodness, there's so many it's like picking just one is the hard part. I would say-

Sophia Noreen: 

Give us a couple of, give us a couple.

Fatima Zaidi: 

So the first I would say is just in general, being in sales is an emotional roller coaster. There's days when you're on top of the world, days you hit rock bottom. And you're constantly getting those nos, the door slammed in your face, constant rejection, which is great because as someone in sales who constantly dealt with that, it really helped prepare me to become an entrepreneur. I was very used to that cyclical up and down. And I think a lot of people personally, develop a fear of rejection and they lack the ability to keep putting themselves out there. And so my advice is when you're hiring either a sales person for your small business, or really any employee during the early stages of your company, hire someone with grit and resilience. I think those skills matter way more than the fancy resume with bells and whistles. That would probably be my first advice. And then my second advice would be, I think we do a really great job of profiling companies that raise capital. There's so much press and coverage, and "rara" those companies that close their Seed Round, their Pre Seed round, their Series A, but we don't nearly do enough of a good job at profiling companies that managed to bootstrap; that managed to get scrappy, retain their equity Stay cashflow positive from day one and just really grow in a very healthy way. And so don't fall under the trap that you need to raise capital. Of course, if you're a tech company, that's pretty revenue that needs runway-for sure, it makes sense. But if there's a way that you can get creative by servicing your business from day one and then funneling that money to fund the rest of your business, there are ways that you can tap into government resources and grants and get creative, like exhaust all of those options before you go to the investor, because the most learning will happen when you're in the trenches with your customers. And that phase can often get overlooked, when you're out there trying to raise capital instead. VCs will not risk, know your product and business better than you and your customers.

Sophia Noreen: 

Exactly. And we spoke to this earlier. If you have a runway of cash, sometimes you're less resourceful and less creative and Fatima story clearly highlights that. So I love that Actionable goals? How do you keep yourself moving and how do you goal set and manage your time?

Fatima Zaidi: 

How do I keep myself moving? the first is like mindfulness. I'm like very intentional about disconnecting. And and taking time for myself, I find like I sometimes work 14 to 18 hour days. And if I'm going to be doing that, then I need to find balance over the week. And balance for me is balanced over time. And unfortunately I find that because of, icons like Gary V who promote the hustle 24 seven mentality, I find that leads to a lot of burnout and people don't realize that they can actually be achieving work life balance. So for me, I need my eight hours of sleep. I will go to bed at nine. I don't care. Like I need to sleep eight hours a day. Making sure, that I'm working out and just living a very balanced life, taking time for my friends and my family and my partner and my cat, just overall being mindful, meditating, journaling. And so for me, again, like I said, balance is balance over time and because I take time to disconnect, I find that when I am working, I'm just like that much more productive.

Sophia Noreen: 

I love that.

Fatima Zaidi: 

So that is probably, I would say my biggest thing for keeping myself accountable. And then, I also have a project manager on our team- she's that person that keeps everyone organized, sticking to timelines and deadlines. So have everyone should have a Stacey in their life.

Sophia Noreen: 

Yes. I totally agree with that. And if you don't have the ability to hire right away, find a project management tool you can lay everything out and then you can manage yourself. Is there anything else that you do in regards to goal setting and managing time?

Fatima Zaidi: 

Yeah, I'm just so busy. I start working at five in the morning and I'm like working all day and, just making sure that I'm taking time in between to recharge disconnect, take my breaks. I use a CRM software tool called Nimble. And that keeps me very organized, like Nimble is a one stop shop repository for where you can track all of your time tasks for the day. So it's a combination between yeah. CRM sales tool, but also project management tool. I use it for both. all of my reminders are in there. All of my followup reminders are in there. All my clients are in there. Any new business deals that I have coming through. And if you're someone like me where there's a million things going on and it's easy for something to slip out of your brain, just put it down in a CRM tool that's mobile friendly. It's that much easier than, people who write it down or send themselves little email reminders, just use a software tool that automates that entire process for you.

Sophia Noreen: 

Exactly. So I'll link that in the show notes. Okay guys. So that's all the questions we have for Fatima today. Fatima, how are we going to find you? Where are you located on the gram Instagram email website? Give it to us all.

Fatima Zaidi: 

Pretty accessible. If you just Google my name, I will come up. My Instagram handle and my Twitter handle is @zaidiafatima So is that @ZaidaFatima. And then LinkedIn, you can find me I'm the founder and CEO of Quill. I'm honestly accessible anywhere. Like you can pretty much reach me wherever you want. And I'm very social active. So looking forward to connecting with you.

Sophia Noreen: 

You can direct message and Fatima as well. If you're on Instagram and thank you again Fatima, this was a amazing interview. It was so nice to hear your story and congratulations again for managing such a crazy year. Starting the company and then pivoting, and then being able to come out, being cashflow positive and bootstrapping and keeping a hundred percent of our equity. Like that is something that needs to be celebrated.

Fatima Zaidi: 

Thank you

Sophia Noreen: 

so much. Don't forget her mantra, which is again, advocate for yourself because that needs to be written down on everyone's whiteboard. You need to be reminded of that every day.

Fatima Zaidi: 

Absolutely. Don't ask. Don't get

Sophia Noreen: 

And remember guys make a plan and take action. And yes, you can have it all. Talk to you later. Bye. So my fellow bosses did you enjoy that episode now It's time for you to make a solid plan and take action. But first remember to subscribe and follow the Boss It Podcast So you receive a notification Whenever we drop an episode. Remember to leave us a review on iTunes take a screenshot of your review and shared on Instagram as a post or a story and tag us @BossItclub. If Instagram is not your thing no worries. Email your screenshot to podcast@bossitclub.com. As a massive thank you, we will be sending you our top 50 tips for starting and scaling a business. This list is exclusively for podcast reviewers So don't miss out. Now remember bosses make a plan and take action in all aspects of your life. Yes you can have it all.