SLN Creators is featuring Eman Shahab Bachani, founder of Meraki Design House. A creative entrepreneur, Eman shares her journey and some of the resources and advice she has to offer others on similar paths.
What inspired you to create Meraki?
In my last semester at UofT, I recall being buried in essays and job applications and running from one networking session to another. I used to find solace in reading about people who had “made it.” Most of those people happened to carve their own path, which piqued my interest in having something I could call my own. I had seen my dad do it, so I knew how incredibly hard the process of establishing your own business is.
At the same time, I was also in this process of realizing how strongly North American consumer culture is driven by mainstream brands that don’t exactly allow the consumer to express themselves in a non-conventional manner. We live in a cultural mosaic, yet there were next to no mainstream options for one to dress in a way that melded cultural and conventional fashion. Getting a chance to go back to my roots and explore craftsmanship was just the icing on this cake, and before I knew it, I was knee-deep in Meraki.
And how has it been going so far?
It’s been going well. We’ve evolved in some ways and grown in other ways, but most importantly we’ve learned a lot on both good and not-so-good days!
What roadblocks have you run into?
One particular roadblock for us has been accessing certain customer groups as sales opportunities have been reserved for brands that solely work with local artisans. However, with our practice of representing artisan craft from different parts of the world, we are automatically ineligible. This has forced us to create new opportunities for ourselves.
So what’s the plan? What’s next for you and Meraki?
To overcome the aforementioned roadblock, we’re dabbling into some collaborations with Canadian social enterprises as well as launching our brand ambassador program so lots going on!
Tell us about some people or resources in your life that have helped with this.
First and foremost, my dad, who has been instrumental in helping me navigate just about everything, especially the more daunting things like customs/duties and legal frameworks. Secondly, I’ve been lucky to have come across some lovely entrepreneurs who are always a call away any time I even have the silliest of questions.
How do you deal with rejection when it comes to Meraki?
It gets easier with time, both because you learn to take it less personally but also because as you grow and earn some credibility, there are fewer rejections. However, I do feel rejection is crucial to developing a thick skin which you most definitely need in business.
What skills are helping you to make this dream a reality?
I have found there are always going to be hardships and challenges in anything that’s worth having thus the only thing that allows you to overcome these challenges is to persevere and be brave enough to keep going even when nothing is going your way. If there’s one thing I learned in university that’s helped me through this process it’s staying put even when the going gets going.
What advice would you give to a student who wants to follow a similar path?
Two key things to remember no matter what path you follow:
- Make sure you spend as much time on your back-up plan and alternatives as you do on your original plan. You can never predict what won’t go your way (and sometimes Plan B turns out better than Plan A).
- Have a deadline, but don’t get too hung up on it. Unforeseen changes come up, things don’t go according to plan, and clinging to unrealistic deadlines can have a detrimental impact on your work because you will stress more about the deadline than the quality of the work itself.
Any books or articles you’d recommend other young people/students to check out?
I’m a huge podcast geek so I’d recommend
What’s something you wish you knew before you started?
Things will go wrong and that’s ok! We don’t have to be so hard on ourselves every time something doesn’t go our way. Also, don’t buy into other peoples’ highlight reel. Everyone has their own reality. Comparing your reality to other peoples’ picture perfect moments will be nothing but distracting and counter-productive.
What advice would you give to high school students transitioning to post-secondary? And post-secondary students transitioning to their career?
Be present! I can say from personal experience that I’ve gone through one phase of life fixated on the next phase. If I could do it all over again, I would be present in the moment. I would try to make the best of whatever phase of life I’m in because everything eventually turns out ok.
What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
To remember that we tend to underestimate what we can do in 10 years because we’re too busy overestimating what we can do in one. Everything happens with time.
How do you unwind?
Occasional travelling has been so refreshing. On a weekly basis, I usually just end up binge watching mindless tv shows. It doesn’t help that we have a long winter because any other way to unwind just cannot win with the constant cold.
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*Opinions expressed are those of the author, and not necessarily those of Student Life Network or their partners.