With a few years of experience working in the corporate jungle, Fawzia Docrat decided to create a new chapter in her life by taking the plunge and opening her very own online business, whilst still progressing swiftly in her job as a Consumer insights Manager at a leading Global FMCG.
Fast forward a few months and Ziba Styles has become a household name amongst style savvy women across South Africa and if her Instagram page is anything to go by she is on her way to becoming an influential fashionista.
Today I catch up with Fawzia Docrat, about life, living abroad, juggling a full time job and her very own Business - Ziba Styles!
◆Tell us a little about yourself?I am continuously inspired by the world around me and love the heart skipping moments that are born from sheer inspiration.
Growing up, I never knew what I wanted to do but what was clear to me was that whatever it was it needed to have my unique identity. I ended up studying Business Science quite by accident which got me into the corporate world working for one of the world’s leading fast moving consumer goods company. I absolutely love my job but felt that it only triggered one side of me, so there was a creative gap that I just needed to fill. I never aspired to be an entrepreneur, however I have a strong love for all things beautiful and hence it was the beginning of Ziba Styles.
◆ You’ve lived abroad in Dubai and now in London…tell us a little about your experiences in both cities?
Dubai and London are 2 very different cities. Both have their own charm and identity and for various reasons both cities leave a lasting impression on anyone that visits.
They have also provided my husband and I a doorstep to travelling, which naturally has opened my mind to so much more. While exciting, I must admit there is no place like home, after all home is where your loved ones are!
The best parts about living in Dubai was the multicultural environment - it is such a melting pot of cultures. Loved it! The variety of food that was always available at any time of the day was another highlight for me (1 dirham Karak Chai at 3am was such a treat) and also with most flights stopping in Dubai, I would get to see family and friends often, so I didn't really feel homesick.
We are now living in London which is an amazing opportunity at this time of my life, as I get to work in a global office learning first hand from some of the industry's best, while also being in a city that is at the forefront of fashion. I guess the downside of London are the little luxuries like having a car boot!
◆ Starting a business, living abroad, pursuing goals and dreams takes guts and confidence- how do you nurture your confidence and overcome your doubts and fears?
Confidence isn't something that comes easily to me. When I started Ziba Styles, I had a pop up at a friends house. I was so scared of what people would think, that I didn't even tell a lot of my friends and family about what I was doing in case it was a failure.
People get their confidence boosts from different sources, I get mine through recognition. Whether it's a simple thank you message from a customer, a like on my posts or a promotion at work. I also would never have been able to continue doing what I do, without the beautiful ladies who have supported me. Without them, I would have closed a long time ago and I would have allowed my fears to get the better of me.
I also feel that as I get older I have become more comfortable with who I am and appreciate myself a lot more. I guess that is the one upside of aging :)
ON CORPORATE LIFE:
◆ What’s the greatest thing of working in a corporate company? And the worst thing?
Growing up, I never saw myself in corporate. I didn't think I had what it takes to climb the corporate ladder. I have now been in corporate for just over 6 years and the journey has been incredible. I get to work with some of the smartest people I know and the learning curve is immeasurable.
I didn't realize just how much I have learned about the business world until I started Ziba Styles.
Working in a global company has also broadened my horizons.
When I was based in South Africa, I worked across Africa and had the pleasure of visiting countries like Kenya, Nigeria and Cote d’Ivoire. These are countries that I wouldn’t ordinarily visit and having been in consumer's homes across Africa and seeing how they live has changed my outlook on life.
◆ What advice do you have for anyone who wants to work in the corporate world?Don’t be afraid and trust in yourself and your ability. I never saw myself in corporate because I am on the high end of introverts. How does an introvert make it in a world of suits right?
Well some of the industry's great are introverts. I have learned, that you do not need to be the loudest person in the boardroom to make an impact. Your work should speak for you. I feel blessed to have some of the most inspiring mentors and managers who saw that in me and helped build my confidence in myself.
◆ Do you think having a business degree has given you an added advantage in setting up a business?
To be honest, my degree went as far as getting me my first job everything thereafter was based on my work experience.
◆Tell us a little about Ziba Styles?Ziba Styles is a fashion forward business that offers a personal service. We strive to make accessible the latest in female accessories and clothing.
Ziba Styles vision is to be at the forefront of the style trends in South Africa, and I spend a great amount of time researching what will be the next big thing and how that can translate into products that I would personally want to wear and would have the potential to retail.
Through my Social Media platforms, I wish to empower women with inspiring stories from everyday awesome women. My hope is that Ziba Styles is not seen as just an ordinary fashion store but also reflects my deep passion for female empowerment.
◆ Many people talk of starting a business. But what really pushed you to actually ACT and dive in?
I loved my job but there was something that was missing! Then I thought, I work at a company with over 2000 people based in our office, why don’t I start by selling to them what I love.
A friend of mine, Yasmin, had done something similar and she helped me to start. I went on a trip overseas and whatever I bought for myself I also bought to sell.
Then one night, I googled a few name options and created a catalogue to send around at the office which lead to me having a pop up at my friends house.
This was May 2013 but it took even more courage to dive into the world of social media starting with Facebook in Jan 2014 and Instagram in May 2014. Social media has been a driving force in getting my brand across SA!
I also have an incredibly smart husband who has done nothing but encourage me a long the way. He has always been my voice of reason whenever I doubted myself.
◆ Did you think it’s necessary to have a proper business plan or can you steer your business using trial and error as you go along?
It probably is but in my case it was all trial and error. I am lucky because I AM my consumer and the voice of my brand so that makes it a lot easier. I am able to put the end consumer at the heart of my vision and I have strong intuition on what I love and what I don’t which has really helped me along. If something sells well then great let’s get 20 more of it, but if something doesn't then (after being heartbroken that my taste was not appreciated ;)) I know to stay 500 kilometers away from it!
◆ If you could give any muslima advice on starting a business what would it be?
Do not start a business if you are not going to prioritize it and take it seriously. That is the harsh truth.
If you do not take your business seriously then do not expect your shoppers to take you seriously. When I started, I really did not take Ziba Styles for what it should have been. It was something I did part time and I guess in a way that projected in what I was putting out there. I had no branding or packaging and was still using my personal email address. While I still run Ziba Styles on a part time basis I am slowly working my way up the professional tangent with my brand.
My own personal 5 key elements that I keep reminding myself are to:
Be Relevant. Be Personal. Be Interesting. Be Grateful. Be Human.
(I say this because, yes I did have fears in the beginning and I still do today, it never goes away but we are all human and this is what keeps us relatable)
◆ What is your business philosophy?
The philosophy for my business is intertwined with my life philosophy ‘treat people as how you would want to be treated”
◆ Who and what inspires you?
Alhamdulillah, I have been blessed to be part of a family with strong independent women so I honestly did not have to look far for inspiration growing up.
My granny, who although only schooled until Grade 2, she taught herself English and how to read and write and went on to run a business until the age of 77.
My Mum, for teaching me the value of an education by going back to becoming a full time student at the age of 40 and obtaining a Law degree with 4 young kids. She has also been voted lawyer of the year for two years and featured in Destiny Magazine.
Lastly, my sister who has taught me the value of owning a passion for what you do.
She is a Doctor by profession and a Surgeon in the making while being a mom.
I am also completely obsessed with our South African history and the strong men and women who have revolutionized this country (most go unnoticed)! Ahmed Kathrada is one of my personal heroes and an individual whom I have the greatest pleasure in meeting.
Thank You Fawzia for giving us the opportunity to interview you. You are truly an inspiration!
May Allah take your brand from strength to strength and give you success every step of the way!
◆ Find Ziba Styles on Facebook , Instagram and Twitter