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Reema Rafay: Entrepreneurs Need to Build from the Heart

Humble beginnings hold the potential to pave the way for glorious success, and Reema Rafay is the epitome of that. From witnessing her parents struggling with poverty to becoming an entrepreneur billing seven figures annually. Now the National Vice President and Independent Consultant, Arbonne, Rafay’s story bears testament to the fact that hard work ultimately leads to financial independence.

Rafay chatted with The Edge, a Leader’s Magazine about women entrepreneurship and how to build a successful business.

You were 23 years old when you started a business. How did your journey begin as a woman entrepreneur?

I had no intention of becoming a woman entrepreneur. I was working part-time as a beauty advisor at Estée Lauder to make ends meet, completing a broadcasting course in Toronto, working towards the completion of my psychology degree from Carleton, and recording news, weather, and sports for the South Asian Talking Yellow Pages, when an urgent need struck my home. My parents had lost a home to a fire years ago, and then lost their home again due to a double closing. I was tired of seeing my parents struggle with poverty.

A businessman, impressed with my work ethic, offered me an opportunity to start a recruitment firm from scratch with 50 per cent ownership and profits if I built and ran the business. I was naïve and I thought that was amazing instead of a salary or a wage. Little did I know, I would have to do everything…I was given a room, desk, and a pile of resumes, and encouraged to “go build.” I was too proud to say I made a mistake so I decided I would succeed. Eighteen months later, we were billing seven figures annually and I got to buy my parents a home.

The empowerment I felt as a woman when buying them a home made me fall in love with entrepreneurship and the infinite possibilities of how you can design your life should you choose to go against the norm.

As an independent consultant with Arbonne International, what do you help your clients achieve?

I help my clients look and feel better from the inside out by prioritizing a healthy gut and skin microbiome with our vegan-certified nutrition and skincare products. As a B-Corp-certified brand, we have a holistic approach to health and well-being as we believe the mind, body, and skin are connected.

What are some milestones in your entrepreneurial journey that catapulted your business to grow profitability?

With Arbonne, there have been many milestones. Being promoted to the top 1 per cent of the company was a huge one.

Our brand was mainstream and I, along with others from the African-American, Latina, and Asian communities, decided to create a community within our brand to showcase the viability of this business for everyone regardless of race, religion, colour, gender, education, or occupation. It was a win to see a body-positive Canadian-born, Muslim woman of South Asian descent get to the top.

What are some tried-and-tested ways for a woman entrepreneur who is just starting out to build a sustainable business in today’s competitive online marketplace?

“Know your why,” as Simon Sinek says. You need to build from your heart and not your head. Why are you doing what you’re doing? Why does someone need what you have to offer? Oftentimes, people think of businesses in terms of how much money can be made. Leading with how much you can make vs. leading from how many lives you can transform are two different thoughts.

Build small and keep a check on your overheads; you need to have enough to get through the first year so budget accordingly. Don’t hire for what you can do yourself. Don’t overextend yourself with loans, staff, or rent. A small and profitable company can scale quicker than a larger company in debt.

If you can build your business around a subscription-based product/service with a lower price point that one can subscribe to, you will find long-term loyalty in a client base.

Can you share a few tips for entrepreneurs on how to stay financially resilient during a weakening economy?

Diversify your financial portfolio. Always be prepared for impact. Ensure you have multiple areas you are investing/saving in and earning from including stocks, savings, GICs, real estate, online businesses, jobs, etc.

Take out a percentage of your pay for ICE (in case of emergency), put it in a separate account, and forget about it. Cut out nonessentials and unnecessary subscriptions.

Do you have any advice for women entrepreneurs on investing?It’s important to seek out the right mentor/investor to guide you on what to do with the money you are making, so find someone who knows the financial world better than you do.

Shweta Gandhi | Contributing Writer

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