Soraya Darabi is the co-founder of Zady, a mission-driven brand described best as "The Whole Foods of Fashion." Following her tenure as Manager of Digital Partnerships and Social Media at The New York Times, Soraya served as Product Lead for drop.io, an online collaboration service (acquired by Facebook). She went on to co-found the application Foodspotting, named by Apple and Wired Magazine as an "App of the Year" (acquired by Open Table).
Soraya has been featured on the cover of Fast Company Magazine's "Most Creative People in Business" issue and Brandweek's "Digital" issue for her work in new media and entrepreneurship. In 2014, she became a World Economic Forum "Young Global Leader." She received her Bachelor of Arts degree from Georgetown University and now lives in Manhattan.
Q: What does entrepreneurship mean to you, and what underlying characteristics do you see in successful entrepreneurs?
SD: The first time I heard someone introduce himself as an 'entrepreneur', I found it very strange. I knew several entrepreneurs, including my parents, but I never thought that entrepreneurship could be a career or identity in itself. Entrepreneurship defines not a type of person, but a generation who want to generate ideas that disrupt industries for the better. They don't answer a question succinctly, but question the question itself. They reinvent their job, and think outside the box. To me, entrepreneurship means freedom, creativity, innovation, hard work, and patience.
Q: What are you most proud of in your professional career? If you could do something over in your life, what would it be?
SD: I am proud of the relationships I have built. We recently hired my first boss from a decade ago as a consultant for Zady. She wanted to express her entrepreneurial and design side, and I have known her for a decade now, so we brought her on board at Zady. I have known my fellow cofounder Maxine for 18 years, and I am proud to work closely with the same people time and time again. I regularly have dinners with my directors from New York Times, and friends from Foodspotting, and I find happiness in being surrounded by great people I have developed together with.
If I could do something over in my life? Hmm. One summer, I was backpacking in Europe as a broke college student. I had just broken up with my boyfriend in England, and took a train to France. My host in Paris bailed on me, and I was all alone crying on a bench at the train station. A kind stranger came and sat by me, and offered to host me at her place. That weekend, we went to Versailles to visit her brother who was starting a bakery. He taught me to make baguette! We had a great time together, and he offered me a job. "You should just take your Fall semester off," he said. I declined and came back to school in DC, but in retrospect, I wish I'd have stayed back mastered baguette-making. It's a skill I'd have cherished having. Though, I think I would still be an entrepreneur today.
Q: Tell us about an instance where you had to go against the flow to realize your goal.
SD: Well, we are doing it with Zady. The world is at the end of this obsession for cheap, disposable fashion. The fashion industry has offered women trendy style at bottom barrel prices, but we believe that style comes from within - it cannot be dictated. We believe in timeless pieces meant to last for decades in your closet. People should know where their clothes are made, and how they are made. Zady is a movement, and every movement has its oppressor, which is the fashion industry in our case. The fashion industry brings in billions of dollars every year, and we understand the challenges we face at Zady, but we choose to go against the flow and stay true to our conscientiousness.
Q: What's in store for your brand?
SD: We are announcing a pop-up shop and a new Zady line, which is ethically sourced entirely in the US. The sweater we are launching gets its raw materials from Imperial farm in Orgeon. The dye house, the knit house and the factory are all domestic, and we are very proud of this sweater. It is not easy to create a domestic-only sweater, but the world is ready for this!
Q: LinkedIn style - If you were to give advice to your 22 year old self, what would it be?
SD: My 22 year old self was very well-informed and audacious, and may have more advice for my 30 year-old advice, and my present day 30 year old self would have for the younger me.
At 22, I'd advise my 30 year old self to be cautiously optimistic, and to always believe that people are inherently good. At 30, I;d advise my 22 year old self to read more fiction, and to remember that it all works out!
Follow Soraya Darabi at @sorayadarabi, and check out the other interviews in Going Against the Flow series at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/charu-sharma/ or thestartupsutra.com.