“You need to focus, strategize, and believe in yourself even if you’re the only person believing. If you give yourself the option of failing; you are bound to fail.” – Sidrah Nadeem
By reading the motivational story of the young entrepreneur Sidrah Nadeem, you will realize that females are just not simple entrepreneurs, they are rock stars. From facing all the challenges and hurdles with her thesis, she made it all the way through to set up her own business, ‘All Tied Up.’
It’s all in the name itself, ‘All tied Up’ provides aesthetically appealing accessory designs for men and women including scarves, ties, cufflinks and bowties.
Since the completion of her O/A Levels, her mind was focused on making textiles a career. She recalls “ I used to joke about how I’d grow up and design Pashmina Ties for P.Diddy, open up a small men’s store in Karachi- go global with my Made in Pakistan’s eventually.”
We are grateful for her valuable time as she shared her successes to inspire other women entrepreneurs around Pakistan. Let’s take you through her journey as an innovative entrepreneur.
How interesting has your academic life been? What was the most memorable moment?
Interesting, the convent of Jesus and Mary has played a major role character building and producing well-informed individuals.
My academic life has always been pleasant, but I’ve never been the typical ‘’my life will end if I don’t get straight A’s sort.’’ So of the superfluous wonderful memories I have of school are first and foremost of people, friendships, pranks and moments stand out more.
I vaguely remember sitting through a Geography class with Sister Andrew and the Convent of Jesus and Mary in ninth grade. In between yawning/passing notes and praying for the class to end, something that day stuck around because it seemed so very fascinating. The bit about Pakistan being an agricultural country with 65 percent of its exports being Textile based (mainly fabric and yarn).
What inspired you to start this business?
By the third year of studying Textile Designing, all I wanted was to graduate and head out to pursue a MA in Fashion Entrepreneurship. We went to few field trips and the fabric range we saw, the fabric construction methods we had and hadn’t read about were probably the most motivating occurrences that year.
(Girls! Tell yourself that you can reach your goals if you trust you brain.)
My brain told me we could use e=mc2 and further explore a million more possibilities and come up with a range of fabrics produced locally and target the international market. What our fabric weaving community always has had is skill, and the potential to produce new and interesting stuff. What I felt back then, and my team realizes and accepts now (four years from when I first started harassing them with queries) is the missing link.
There’s just so many yards of shalwar kameez’s and sari’s one can produce, but there’s an entire range of products that could have/can be explored with the same formulae and a different set of variables. With a little more professionalism, lot’s patience, focus and an enormous talent pool- the result? The world became our market! Hence my graduating year goal shifted from getting a distinction to being a one.
Was it scary?
Instinct is a tricky trait, but it felt right to begin my range of ‘Made in Pakistan’s with a twist’ during the final year at T.I.P., and that is how my thesis concept was drafted.
How do you maintain work life balance?
That used to be a lot harder in the earlier phase of setting up ALL TIED UP because there were so many firsts, and so much energy required to tackle newer, bigger issues. But gradually I’ve learnt to take time out for family, friends and fitness; absolutely love doing yoga and hope I can become as religious about my swim sessions too.
What are the struggles you had to face while establishing ‘All Tied Up’? Did some people try to bring you down too?
As I’ve mentioned ALL TIED UP was a final year thesis concept and although the majority of thesis viewers were very kind in their praises, a jury member who happens to be a very famous women’s wear Designer taunted me, possibly because he knew no better:
‘Tou kya howa agar aap nein kapra bana liya? I design dresses for a living, and they sell very well. I don’t bother ‘making the fabric’. Your customer doesn’t care if you’re making hand- woven ties. They probably won’t even know what it is. Door sey acha lagay ga tou they’ll buy it. And then again, why would anyone want to buy ties from YOU and not all the other menswear brands in the market?’
How did you deal with that?
I’m assuming he was unaware of how rare it is to find hand woven silk fabric. And how insane people go now when they find out exactly how our fabric is made, and how absolutely amazed they are that we continue to grow bit by bit each year. Unfortunately such people limit themselves to printed textiles and embroidery, and believe textiles and fashion start and end with a bimbo wearing a dress.
Keeping the spirit up is important!
So true. Some years later a classmate of mine (noticing that ALL TIED UP had started doing well) insisted that I should share my craftsmen with him so he could sell my idea to his boss and set up a similar setup at their factory. A couple of walk-in customers who again, didn’t understand the concept behind our products would insist that I should visit corporative market and see the affordable tie range they had, Rs.300 versus our Rs.5,000. I could go on!
Would you describe yourself as a unique leader?
I’m an innovator and a believer by birth with a tremendous dollop of focus and the ability to steer people with me to believe in the end result.
‘Vision is perhaps our greatest strength. It has kept us alive to the power and continuity of thought through the centuries; it makes us peer into the future and lends shape to the unknown.’ (-Li Ka Shing)
Tell me about a project or accomplishment that you consider to be the most significant in your career.
From a failed thesis concept and a business that was undergoing losses year after year we were nominated for Pakistan’s top 100 and Arabia’s top 500 business in 2012.
What motivates you to carry on so wonderfully?
The end motive.
Where did this motive lead you to?
Almost seven years from a basic idea genesis, ALL TIED UP is now producing predominantly silk ties for those who understand and appreciate the art of Hand-made fabric and hand-made ties. That remains the long term goal, my contribution to a positive Pakistan, more employment opportunities with Pakistan and global expansion.
Heading a clothing business, what is your ideal employee like?
I have great admiration for all-rounders, so flexibility and the right attitude are keys traits I look for. Pre-requisite of applying would obviously be a Textile/Apparel based degree in most cases, but one should always hire passion and train skill.
What have been some of your failures, and what have you learned from them?
When I started over post-graduation I wanted too many things all in one go from ALL TIED UP. I wanted a brand that originated in Pakistan, employed primarily women, was hand-craft based and made money. Too many variables and too many firsts from one project.
Less is more.
If you had the chance to start your career over again, what would you do differently?
I’d teach myself to be more patient and less of a control freak so that I could enjoy the journey of reaching each stepping stone instead of getting stressed over things that didn’t happen on time , but I’d do things the same way.
Would you like to share one of your proudest moments being Sidrah Nadeem?
Absolutely love how people choose to wear ties by ALL TIED UP over foreign brands especially on their wedding/reception, job interviews, important meetings (days/moments in life that count). That’s always been the core reason ALL TIED UP was created, so that people could eventually wear our Made in Pakistan’s with pride.
What’s the strangest thing you have ever done as an entrepreneur at ‘All Tied Up’?
Walked in during a pp meeting at the head office of a very famous menswear brand in London and blended in so well that the team thought I was a regular feature. (There was some sort of confusion while I was waiting at the reception to drop off sample ties from ALL TIED UP for the menswear buyer and I was told to join the team)
If you could be anything other than an entrepreneur, what would it be and why?
A New Product/Iniatives Development consultant peharps. I love making dreams/concepts a reality, so if it wasn’t for myself I’d probably be facilitating other people.
Being a young entrepreneur, what advice would you give to women to pursue their dreams?
In most cases, you’ll have no idea what you’re getting yourself into, be open to change & eager to learn. Ignite the optimist inside you by keeping healthy and proactive, yoga, kick-boxing, dance classes; find a physical activity to divert your attention from becoming an absolute workaholic.
When you’re an entrepreneur, you’re the only one who really knows what the end goal is. So you’ll need to focus, strategize, and believe in yourself even if you’re the only person believing. If you give yourself the option of failing; you are bound to fail.
How can women utilize their talent and make a good living at the comfort of their homes?
It’s become so much easier for women to work, and from their homes now. One hears about exciting new initiatives every day from food deliveries, dance lessons to kids’ reading classes. All of which are manageable and financially rewarding with little or no startup budgets.
What are your words to live by?
‘Let the beauty we love be what we do.
There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground.’
Wow! Thank you for your time Sidrah! We hope there are more and more Pakistani women like you!
Inspired yet? You can be the next entrepreneur too. Register with HerCareer.pk and we will help you every step of the way.