Happy Women’s Month!
You may have read some of this phenomenal woman’s posts right here on World Moms Network. One of our own contributors, Nancy Sumari, has agreed to be interviewed for my Phenomenal Women Series, and it comes right on time as we keep celebrating Women’s History Month and women’s excellence (something, I believe, we should do every month)
#WorldMom, Nancy Sumari
Sophia Neghesti-Johnson: So, Nancy, tell us a little bit about your self. Where are you from, do you have any siblings, and anything else you might want to add about your foundation’s details; so to speak.
Nancy Sumari: I come from a beautiful family of Arusha, Tanzania; one of the most beautiful cities of the world. I have 5 siblings – two boys and three girls. We grew up on a small farm house in Mererani, the world’s only known source of Tanzanite gem! It was filled with adventure, animals, and mischief and I loved it! My parents are both hard working middle class folks. My dad is a geologist naturally, coming from Mererani, while my mom loves to cook and runs her own catering business.
S: That sounds like a fun childhood! I know, you wear a few hats, and it seems there is much more to you than meets the eye. What are your favorite hats and why? (I’m referring to business, modeling, etc)
N: Hahaha I was about to say Berets… hahahahaha! (*I love Nancy’s sense of humor!*) I enjoy my family a lot, I am highly fueled by the work we do through our family foundation that promotes literature and technology through children and youth, I enjoy teaching, very much, and more importantly working with the dynamic team of content creators at Bongo5. As you can tell I enjoy service to children and youth because I also have been afforded chances and opportunities that have allowed me the chance to be the best of who I can be. I believe paying it forward is standard procedure for me and I enjoy it so much.
S: You were Miss Tanzania in 2005. How was it to be in such a pageant that year, in Tanzania? Was it much different than late 90s, much different from now?
Nancy Sumari, Miss World Africa, Miss Tanzania, 2005
N: I think it’s a lot different now because pageants are more frowned upon and viewed more as working against the women empowerment movement. In the 90s I think it had more flare and glam and overtime, especially here in TZ (Tanzania), it has not changed with the times and therefore lost a lot of momentum. We however have fresh leadership now and hope that with that we will get a fresh approach to pageantry altogether.
S: What has been your view of the business world, both locally and globally, as a woman and/or an African woman?
N: I try to focus on excellence and what I bring to the table in terms of my business-offering and my work ethics. Of course challenges are ever present in terms of stereotypes against women, challenges of equality and equal terms of pay etc. but I strongly trust and believe in excellence propelling one beyond the walls that man creates. I therefore focus on giving excellence and allowing that to fly open all doors of opportunity.
S: That is definitely a progressive way of thinking! A few years ago you published a children’s book, Nyota Yako, which was such a pleasure to read and own. What inspired you to write this book in particular?
N: I was uncomfortable to not have enough local content tailored to children on bookshelves in Tanzania. We didn’t have enough stories that honored our history and allowed these stories of our culture, color, vibrancy and awesomeness be told to children. I felt it was time to reach out to young girls and boys with stories of their mothers, grandmothers, aunts and women they know of, (or don’t know of,) but are from their communities, to awaken and inspire, and challenge them to rise above and reach their highest potential.
S: Now, you and your husband are both quite active in the community in one way or another. How do you balance marriage, parenthood, the many other responsibilities, and working together in the community?
Nancy Sumari’s community, where she works for children’s education
N: I think we treat it as a way that we continue to bond and spend time together doing things that we are passionate about and drive us. We don’t always agree but we definitely count our blessings to be able to run projects together that we care about and bring impact. We involve our kids also in the work we do, so it also is very fulfilling to have causes we share as a family and work towards together.
S: If you could streamline the top three things you deem necessary in a successful relationship, what would they be?
1. Unconditional Love
S: Let’s switch gears a bit. As you have had the chance to travel, tell us, what has been the most pleasantly surprising thing you have experienced?
N: I am constantly in awe of the rich history of the cultures and peoples of different nations and the great effort and steps taken to preserve their history. I am captivated by stories and I think it I may take up anthropology at some point in life. I love traveling in Africa, Europe and Asia. There are many parts of the world I am yet to visit, but I certainly keep a rather long bucket list. I recently returned from Amsterdam which was really beautiful. I rode a bike down a highway and had way too many saucijenbroodjes, patates and poffertjes. It was surreal!
S: Hahaha! They are pretty tasty! With the varied experiences you have, what have you learned about your self?
N: That I am an old soul. I thrive through old stories, cultures, diving into the past with hope that it may inform and build up on my present.
S: If there was anything you could tell young African girls, what top three things would you tell them?
1. Bloom where you have been planted – We don’t have the choice of our beginnings, but if we take charge of our narratives and focus on excellence of self and others, we bloom and consequently others do so too.
2. Trust in your journey – With the rise of social media, we often are enslaved with other people’s lives, their achievements, way of doing things, and often fall victim to questioning oneself. You are unique and so is your journey. Be the best, you can be, and let God do the rest.
3. Serve – in whatever capacity you are, we should all be able to give back. It is good for your soul and good for the world! Do everything in service.
S: The last question I have for you is this: if you could tell your younger self anything, what would you say?
N: Relax and stop worrying so much. Move with the flow of life and not against it. Pay attention, Show up and Show out and enjoy the surprises that await along your path!
~~End of Interview~~
Thank you once again, Miss Sumari, for allowing us in your world.
To the reader: If you’d like to see more of what Nancy Sumari does through The Neghesti-Sumari Foundation, Bongo5, JengaHub, and other exciting things, please click on the links below.
The Neghesti-Sumari Foundation
Jenga Hub’s Instagram
Jenga Hub on Facebook
Photos credits to Nancy Sumari
Happy Women’s Month!
A few days ago I had a meaningful and fun conversation with international Tanzanian model, Miriam Odemba. If you have Instagram you might want to pop on over and see what she is up to, as she is always inspirational, motivational, fun, and has the kind of beautiful smile that makes you want to smile as well!
Ms Odemba has agreed to answer some questions for us through this interview, as we celebrate women by showcasing phenomenal women who pursue their dreams and encourage others to do the same.
S: Hi! Please tell us your name and a little bit about where you are from.
M: My name is Miriam Odemba and I come from Tanzania.
S: First of all, I want to congratulate you on your success as an international model! What are some countries where you have modeled?
M: I’ve worked in Tanzania, of course, but in a lot of countries in Africa for various Miss competitions. I’ve been to Angola, South Africa, Senegal, Nigeria, Namibia, Kenya, Uganda. That’s mainly in Africa but I worked as well in China, in the United States with Elite Model Agency, in Europe, (Italy, France, Germany, Switzerland, U.K, Portugal), and of course in the Philippines for Miss Earth. I hope to visit more countries because my career is not finished yet.
S: Wow! Having seen so many places must have been very exciting! So in your travel and experience within the modeling industry, what are some differences you have noticed in how modeling is viewed in Tanzania and in other countries?
M: In Tanzania we need to have more things (in modeling). We need to develop this business. We don’t have that many modeling agencies. It is difficult to go international for models. This is why on long term I want to open my own model agency. Countries like Sudan, Senegal, Uganda they have more models. This is part of the Fashion Industry development. I think Tanzania has a role to play. We need to work hard to become international. Models are Ambassadors of their countries.
S: Well, let me ask you this: what was it like 20 years ago when you were one of the very first models there, and what changes have happened until now in 2018, for modeling in Tanzania?
M: I’m still a legend because I opened the door for next generation. There are a lot of changes because right now the young generation is more on social media and it is a good way to get some awareness. Before, when I was there (in Tanzania) it was only newspapers. Now you can be famous via Instagram. There are a lot of opportunities for African models because the African market is developing.
The industry has started to recognize African models. Naomi Campbell, Iman, Tyra banks started the move but now there are many African models (models of African descent, and directly from Africa).
S: Okay, let’s switch gears a little. You are more than a fashion model. Please tell us about your health initiative
M: What I’m doing with this initiative and with my foundation, Run with Odemba, is trying to give education for our young generation, and to help the Maasai people. I think we have a treasure in our country, we have a specific culture and we need to bring that to the world.
S: What has been the response from the community in Tanzania in regards to your health initiative?
M: Run with Odemba is a very good project. As for me, I love to exercise. I think it is both very good for health and to feel fine. That is why I’m trying to transfer that philosophy to the young generation and I think it should be a part of education. For myself, I’m a trailblazer and a warrior. I’m unstoppable!
Exercise is key for human beings. It should be a habit from the beginning. We need infrastructure as well. In Brazil for instance they have a lot of places for training. We don’t have that in Tanzania. I think it is very important to have a sport culture in Tanzania. Once more, models they represent an image, but they are as well ambassadors of projects and countries. Running with Odemba first edition was a good success, but I intend to develop it in the future; maybe with partnerships with schools.
S: So, what are your thoughts on being a woman and being in shape? Do you think it matters and why?
M: As a woman you need to love yourself. To be proud of yourself. Wake up in the morning and think you are beautiful. It is not only about being a model but being a woman.
If you do that every morning every day you will be grateful. I’m not a perfect person but when you believe in yourself you become perfect.
S: This might be one of the tougher questions for you, because you love people, but I must ask: if you were to name your top top top most influential woman and most influential man who you see as role models, who would you name?
M: Oprah Winfrey because she has a strong speech, and she always gives good advice. For men I say, Barack Obama, because he was the first black president of United States and …he’s classy!
S: If you could tell your younger self anything, what would it be?
M: I would encourage myself to study hard and when I get a chance not to waste it, Education is the future for everything, and most of all, I would advise to appreciate everything!
S: Please share three tokens of wisdom with young girls
M: Respect, appreciate, and love yourself.
We sincerely thank Miriam Odemba for spending some time with us here at World Moms Network! We wish her all the success possible!
This is an original interview by Think, Say, Be for World Moms Network.
If you’d like to see more of Miriam, her modeling journey, and her health initiative, please find her on
April 29th will mark President Donald Trump’s 100th day in office.
As a foreigner, I have watched the news feeling extremely grateful that I gained American citizenship during the last administration. As a foreigner who looks of ambiguous origin and definitely not of any Caucasian descent, I wonder if I will ever be in the wrong place at the wrong time. As the mother of three children who mostly look African American, I wonder how their lives will be here in their own country. As the mother of one of my children whose last name is Arabic, and who could pass for Arab or Indian, I wonder if she would be red-flagged during travel. As an American citizen, I wonder where we are headed for, and to be honest, I feel like the magnitude of the situation is beyond our spectrum of understanding.
I do not tend to get into politics very often. I do my best to look at the character of the candidate before voting, without paying attention to the party she, or he, belongs to. However, this time the outcome of the presidential race was quite different than what most people expected, and so far President Trump has been in the news so much that even small children know his name, and some have not yet spoken or been too aware of the name ‘Obama’. It’s remarkably impressive.
With President Trump in office, it feels necessary to stay up to date with news of his actions, because one does not know what extreme thing will have happened between one day and the next.
A number of decisions that President Trump has made, ensure that some of us sit at the edge of our seats, or walk around the living room in circles with our hands on our hands, wondering if this is all an episode from the twilight zone.
If I may be honest, I really held, and in a smaller fraction still hold, hope for President Trump to be a great president. Why? Because he is not a politician, and being a politician is not a constitutional requirement to be a US President. When he was elected I thought that here is a person, specifically a white male in America who has money (so he won’t have to pay as much attention to lobbying influence), who sounds bold enough to make decisions that could cause some serious good change! A person who is a bit eccentric in his own ways, but that is not a bad thing. A person who gained the love of many Americans by showing them love and value. I felt that maybe his rhetoric was more on the side of … wrong, but that he actually will make things right, or improve upon what President Obama’s administration built.
However, with changes on the government’s take on climate change, health, internet privacy , immigration, travel from certain countries; but really the reasons behind the Travel Ban, separating the United States from Mexico, despite environmental issues that will arise (not discussing separation or blocking of people from entering the country), issues to do with Natives/First Nations and the bit of land over which they have sovereignty, I am no longer an idealist about what is going to happen.
(One can see a list of things President Trump has worked on as of January 30, 2017, by clicking here).
I wonder about the relationship between Americans of various ethnic backgrounds now that we are under this new presidency.
I personally know two people (one a child) who was insulted based on race, the day after President Trump was named president-elect.
I wonder how much the choices, that President Trump is making will impact American soil and the planet at large.
Planet Earth will always take care of herself, but I feel in her doing so, we may not fare that well.
So now, 27 days away from President Trump’s first 100 days, all I can think to do is pray. Sincerely pray for him every single day. I admit it sounds cliche, but I think it can only be so if it is not meant. I do not intend to hold prayer meetings for him, or ardently and with much effort be in prayer for him. I just mean, that every single day, I want to suggest to this amazing universe to put the thought in President Trump’s heart to make the right decision. Maybe it sounds like I care more about this president than others, but I really don’t. I do care about how they all make decisions. I just feel that as being one of the major players in how the world works, it is imperative that we all make a daily, prayerful suggestion that President Trump make the right decisions.
Have you faced similar feelings about the new president in your country?
Do you have any fears or concerns with regards to President Trump’s actions thus far?
Do you feel he can do a great job in leading this country and as a global team player?
Photo Credit: Flickr
This is part II of the two-part interview with Victor Kannan. Part I is also on World Moms Network’s blog, and some of Mr. Kannan’s own written work can be found Here and Here.
S: When you observe today’s youth, from a child of about 8 years to early 20s, what are some of the traits you’ve noticed that seem ‘new school’ that are good and different from traditions we have had before? I know that’s a wide spectrum, but based on your own experience, what are some of the new traits you’ve seen that are good and some that seem to be detrimental to spiritual growth?
V: You know, they have to be looked at in the context of their environment. If I take a broad stroke, I’d say that on average families are smaller. On average the continuity of flow between grandparents, parents and children is getting weak, if you think of it as a river, where the water flows, where the whole thing has the flow of love and life, of knowledge, of caring relationships. There would be four grandparents present for every grandkid and maybe 15 grandchildren for every grandparent. That kind of a breadth of continuity is becoming thinner and thinner.
If you take this river as the flow of energy, of love, of knowledge from grandparents to grandchildren, that river contains less water today than it did before. And naturally what happens is the children have to look externally for their emotional fulfillment. Both of the parents work these days, and many of them are single parents; it’s like a river with very little water.
So somewhere this generational flow of the river of knowledge and love seems to have dwindled. No single person can take the blame, but it is ,unfortunately, the generation that is evolving, because of our value system and because of our excessive materialistic orientation. So, I think that these children are really starved for love and togetherness with their grandparents, and if the parents are both working, the quality of their time with the children is also limited.
Naturally, they are looking for external things and, unfortunately, or fortunately, there are plenty of them. Now, what does that mean? They get lured by the things that gave them company when parents were not available.
The children are with their parents because they are dependent. They can be from a wealthy family, where they may be hanging around for inheritance or expanding the family business. However, if they are born in a poor family, the modern generation will leave the house. There is nothing in the house for them to hang on to. So, under the circumstances, children are struggling to find their groove.
Suppose you take the so-called typical middle-class family: the children go to school, both parents work, and there is not much time, right? The time spent with the children is also compartmentalized with vacation and programs and schedules. There is no free time singing in the garden together on a Tuesday evening. So, I think the children are becoming more and more isolated. Their behavior is not rooted in some kind of value system, whether of a material ambition, or a family where they have given and taken and sacrificed; look at parents having sacrificed, the grandparents sacrificed, the wealth of upbringing, the richness of upbringing… If the children do not see these sacrifices, they take life for granted and become more materialistic in their orientation.
I am thinking that even though today’s children are isolated and feel lonely, and they are more responsive to the senses and the world around them, the situation can be changed around, by parents and schools adopting a value-oriented education system and a value-oriented relationship system, where you begin with spiritual values. You highlight the spiritual values, and not the material success as what you talk about at the dinner table. Then it will slowly change. So the children can be reoriented and possibilities exist because the 30/ 40/ 50-year-old parents today are more exposed to the science and spirituality combination. Not the religious dogmatic type of thing, or rituals without meaning.
In the modern era, due to stress in life, more and more people are adopting meditation. More and more people are beginning to realize that there is neuroplasticity; that it is never too late to grow. It is never too late to change. These kinds of established new scientific facts are giving hope to people. And again, many of these processes are trans-generational in nature, so it will take 20, 30 years before it changes the society.
So the trend for the youth today, is, that they go after what satisfies them sensorily. They lack a depth in their goals that they want to achieve for themselves. There is also a lack of a properly meshed fabric of love, care, duty, responsibility, and relationship in their lives. They are in a very nebulous, tricky situation, But the families that have spiritual values and can inculcate them into the children should be able to quickly reverse course and become stronger individuals in the future.
S: The analogy of the river was quite impressive, I must say. It helped to visualize what you were saying in a very tangible way. Thank you for putting it that way.
V: I do feel worried and anxious for them. They need direction and inspiration to sustain them. Love and care are the roots of such inspiration from parents, teachers, and role models. So when moms embrace spiritual values and spiritualized material existence, including putting meaning behind activities, and have one or two aspirational goals to shoot for and a few practical positive values they can adopt, they will create a solid foundation for their future and hence the future of any society.
S: You said you have a daughter. Does she practice heartfulness meditation?
V: Yes she does. She is also a trainer. We never forced anything on her, but she was part of what we did. When she didn’t like it, we didn’t force her, and fortunately she came back with a lot of interest, and she has expressed some of her thought and experience in articles on meditation.
S: Where could we find them?
V: If you go to heartfulness magazine, you can look for Dr. Swati Kannan. She has written two articles for the Heartfulness Magazine. So, we are quite happy. But again, I take everything with gratitude. Not with expectation. See, the other thing in our association with any type of meditation system is that expecting an outcome is a seed for disappointment. Especially when it is not rational. What I mean by that is if I go to the gym and if I have a trainer, and if I do the routine I am supposed to do, I will see results in myself. That is the correct expectation. But if I go to the gym and do exercise, and then think that I am going to find a star to marry, or that I will swim across the Amazon, that is not a realistic expectation. So in many systems, including the heartfulness system, you will come across people who say that thanks to the meditation system, or the teacher, or their blessings, “my child became a valedictorian” or similar things. I cringe when I hear that. I cringe when I hear that, because we also know that tragedies happen. In any association or group of people. Things we don’t like happen. Right? If we don’t take these things as milestones in our journey, then we have a wrong understanding of life.
Let’s think about the day. The day starts cool, it gets hot, then it becomes cool again. It starts dark, it becomes light and it gets dark again. But if we don’t accept the seasonality of a day, seasonality of life, the ups and downs, we have a wrong understanding of life, a wrong understanding of the systems that we follow to expand our consciousness. So, I don’t know which question I have answered right now, but it’s very important that we don’t have dogmatic, religious overtones to our expectations from a meditation system. In some way, as our consciousness expands we shoot ourselves in the foot less often, and that is a tangible benefit. As our consciousness expands we develop a 360 degree–vision – a wider view of life in its wholeness. This makes us less volatile and reactive and calmer and better responsive. And this alone will make for growth, progress, happiness and joy in life.
S: I can see how what you just said also translates in how we raise our kids or however we live our lives, whatever practices we have and our expectations in what we want our children to do.
V: It’s like saying that if you go to temple, or a church, or a synagogue, you are a better person. But if you make that statement to the children, and they take it seriously, they will either look at others who are not doing that as bad, or they will look at parents and say, “Hey, it doesn’t work.” So it’s a problem.
S: Switching gears a bit, again: Being that you are in finance, what are three things you would tell a child, that could help a child be financially aware, or money aware. For instance, I wasn’t told anything about money. I was given a piggy bank but didn’t know about managing money.
V: Sure. Money is a means of exchange. Exchange things. Sometimes time is measured in money, and the value of products and services is measured in money. So a child needs to know that the things that they use cost money, and that to make money, one has to put in energy. If they waste things, they waste money, and they waste energy. And suppose you say that if the parents go out and put in the energy to make the money to bring in the things that they enjoy, then if they waste that money, they are wasting their parents’ energy. Then you can say that if you don’t waste, the parent can save that energy, spend that energy with the child, going out for a football game, or you know, going out to a movie, or otherwise spend time together. This is how some level of appreciation of what the parents do is inculcated in them that will, in turn, help them when they grow up. The child can tell the parents to spend more time with them and make less money for both require energy to be spent! Energy spent with the children is the greatest investment parents can make. So automatically everything gets balanced with that perspective. So saying money is energy. Save money, save energy. Spend it wisely where it is needed.
S: If you could tell your younger self, anything, what would it be?
V: I don’t know. I am quite content today as I am where I am. But if I were to go back and tell myself anything, I’d say “just think twice before doing anything”. It’s not that I have wasted a lot of time doing this, that, or the other, but I think that would be a general statement that I could make to myself. I could have avoided a few mistakes, and I could have definitely saved time, money, and energy, and that could have been put for my own personal growth, my family’s happiness as well. So that’s what I would tell myself. Think twice before doing anything. Not to procrastinate, but to pause; have a reasonable awareness of the decision that we are making. After doing the best, we accept what comes afterward.
End of Interview.
This is a post for World Moms Network by Sophi at ThinkSayBe. Photo used with permission from Victor Kannan.
As a mom, and as a person who is not entirely into downloading apps (albeit being technologically savvy), I am quite excited when I find a useful app. I mean, I use Snapchat because I have a teenage daughter and because the filters add a unique element of fun to my day; but besides that, a language app, and a couple of photography apps, my list of applications is pretty low. However, I had to make room for Milofy. Why? Because it’s awesome!
Okay, first of all, Milofy is awesome because it addresses a few of the questions, or concerns, I have when wanting to engage with other adults to go out & have fun. For instance, as a business person, I have to meet people. I have made the better friends in the people with whom I was able to interact on a human level, and not necessarily on a ‘business’ level. So, for instance, the couple you meet at an arts’ gala, with whom you end up talking about the South Carolina low country shrimp and grits hors d’oeuvre, or the wine from New Zealand, and with whom you find a common interest in economics, bar-hopping, and… I don’t know… cooking, may end up being the couple with whom you conduct business, as well as partake in fun activities. Milofy lets you see all of that in a couple before you even meet them! So, my husband and I create a profile, we answer a few questions cleverly created by the Milofy team, and then the app matches us with couples (so that’s already safer than having 1-on-1 meetings with strangers) who are like-minded (taking out the guesswork and the 21 questions we want to ask when meeting new people), and Milofy also matches my husband and I to acti…. you know what? I think you should just read this interview with Arshya Lakshman, a beautiful soul, brilliant person, and creator & CEO of Milofy. We had an extensive conversation in which she answered my questions in detail, and showed her love for humanity and healthy relationships amongst all sorts of people. Please read on to find out just what is Milofy and why you’d want to Milofy, too.
S: So, what is Milofy?
A: Milofy is an app that answers a very simple social problem – making life more REAL – the way it used to be. Have ‘real’ experiences, by connecting couples/families with each other for memorable social experiences, creating healthy balanced lives.
Even with partners/families and with technology making it convenient to keep in touch, people are still quite lonely and struggle to meet new like-minded people. Very often they have this facade on social platforms – a performance of what they want others to believe their life to be. They say: “this is my life”, you know, “I have these selfies and these stunning pictures”. Gone are the days of making spontaneous plans with ease and finding like-minded people who are free to hang out when you want to.
With Milofy we’re getting people to meet offline, with the help of online technology. We are using technology to bring people together and do so in a safe environment. We help couples connect with other like-minded couples. We match them with an algorithm by asking some interesting questions – it’s a ton of fun but also truly solves the social problems for couples.
Not only do we match couples with each other, we also match them with fun, interesting local activities happening in their city. One of the cool things about it is that you can choose the same couples to meet with again, or you can choose new other couples to hang out with.
S: That’s a beautiful concept! So, I am curious about the name. How did the name come up?
A: Hahaha! Milo in Hindi means ‘to meet’. I felt that it had a nice zing to it. Also, it’s an easy name to say.
S: Has Milofy launched already?
A: Yes, actually. We are so excited!
We did a soft launch four months ago and gathered a ton of feedback from couples in New York. People loved the idea and we were getting users organically every day. However, they wanted the app to be even simpler – so we removed some features, made the interface super easy and simple to use. Research suggested that we also give couples a chance to connect on the app first before they meet offline, to help break ground. So the app now has features to chat, send stickers, and engage before meeting offline. We launched Milofy Version 2.0 on the 4th of January. Please do download it from either the Playstore or the Appstore and send us feedback.
Now that we are live in NYC we plan to launch in San Francisco soon! And though there are apps out there for couples, there isn’t an app like Milofy. It’s exciting that we have no competition, and that we are the first ones doing something like this – while we aim to solve a real life problem.
S: Trailblazers! So, my next question is: do you have education, or experiential background in this, in bringing people together, either couples specifically or otherwise, or is this a new venture for you?
A: Completely new. The only thing I have experience in is business, strategy, marketing, and startups.
I did my undergrad in visual communications and a Master in Business from the UK. I worked for startups and large organizations across Northern Europe and Asia Pacific. I started my first startup in London which was an ROI-based marketing firm and then did a short stint with Kalaari Capital (venture capital firm) before I jumped into being an entrepreneur for the second time.
While, I don’t have any background in couples/people or psychology of people; education and work allowed me to live in various cities – in Europe, in the US and finally back home in India. This made me and my partner feel the need to connect with like-minded people – spontaneously. It was difficult to create a social life in a new place and find new couples. Sometimes, even if we had couple friends, things like traffic, availability of time or a mismatch of interests would be an issue. This is how I came up with Milofy – it answered a personal problem for me and hence I set out to create this app.
S: I think it’s important to talk about age because of young women who may want to take on something new. Has you being young, and a woman affected the creation of your app, particularly in India?
A: Well, I am 33, which is not young (sigh!) when it comes to start-ups, you now see 21-year olds doing so well with their own firms. My first startup was at the age of 27, again – not so young in this industry. I do believe age is just a number and it’s about the energy, drive, and passion that you bring to an idea.
Now as far as me being a woman I should give a disclaimer that I have been very fortunate. I have a very supportive family – which really makes a huge difference, helping me focus on my work. My husband, parents, parents-in-law, grandparent have always said: “do your thing!” and just want me to be happy in whatever work I do.
There have been some rare moments when my parents asked if I was sure I wanted to be an entrepreneur again (because of the amount of time and energy they saw me pour into my previous startup), or when my grandmother asked why I worked so hard and that maybe it is time for me to have a baby (which I believe is a question men do not get asked), but overall, they always have encouraged me to go do my thing.
I think the question of when to have a baby is probably in the back of most women’s minds. As a founder of a start-up, random people have asked me sensitive questions like – oh does it mean you can’t start a family if you start your company? Can I not do both? I remember having a heart to heart conversation with my mentor about these questions. He simply said, “Why is it anyone’s business”. He also said: “Look, who said you can’t do both. My best entrepreneurs have been women entrepreneurs. They are more hardworking, better with their money, and somehow, do everything that a CEO should be doing”.
This really made me feel okay. I realized there are some glass ceilings to break, there will be some sexist questions that get asked. As long as I work hard and believe in what I am doing from my heart – I will be OK.
In terms of executing this idea in India… well, the thing is this: In India, the moment something does well in the US, like Tinder, they might just take it up. (Laughs heartily) They might say: “hey, that’s cool!” So the moment I said Milofy is doing a bit well in the US, now suddenly I am seeing so many installs in India! In India, people may have this thought: “I don’t know, I don’t want to meet someone strange and new”. But then how did Tinder work out here? It’s a huge case study because in India people are more traditional and guarded! There is a cultural shift that’s happening, and I think that’s really going to help me with the introduction of Milofy in the country. Technically, building the app from India has been just awesome – I am so proud of what the team has created here. They are completely at ease taking instructions from a so-called ‘young woman’ entrepreneur.
S: Have you always had an entrepreneurial mindset (even as a young girl), or when did it begin?
A: Good question. To be honest, I had a dream when I was young. I remember it being very funny, very childish, that when I grow old I’d have built this business empire. Fairly egoistic dream, when I think about it now. I’ll be Arshya Advertising Agency, Arshya Production House, Arshya this, Arshya that. (Laughs). I didn’t pay attention to that dream and forgot about it. When I started working, my goal was to be a senior-most employee at a Fortune 500. I didn’t even know I had the entrepreneurial bug in me, at all, to be honest. I never thought that one day I’d aspire to start a Fortune 500. Now you know my plans for Milofy (giggles)!
When my husband and I moved to the US, I decided to take some time off. However, within three months of my so-called sabbatical, I knew I couldn’t stay so dependent in an absolutely new country. I was used to being drastically independent and this wasn’t working for me. I was conflicted whether to look for a job or dive into starting something on my own. My husband encouraged I should try the latter. This decision just felt right!
I did have the initial hesitation, but within a few days I knew I would combine online-offline marketing (bring more numbers and ROI to marketing), I knew my company’s name, I started attending webinars, and learning how to start a company – it was just so exciting and felt so right!
S: My last question for you is this: Do you hire both women and men?
A: Milofy is an inclusive company through and through. However, it just so happens that a lot of my team members are women. My head of operations is a lady in NY who has been with Ernst and Young and other large companies, my CTO is a lady who has been the head architect for Unilever and worked for McAfee, Oracle, and Intuit. My social media is run by another organization, which is run by a lady. My current project manager is a lady and so is my iOS developer. Most of my interns are women. Almost all of them are married and have children too! They’re just awesome. They work super hard.
We have a couple of men working on tech and as interns – they are fantastic too, but honestly it’s women all the way at Milofy!
It’s not that I designed for it to be that way, but I have been lucky that I have the most hardworking ladies, and so balanced with their duties towards family and friends.
It’s girl power all the way. We have to take care of each other. We have to help each other. Some people say that women don’t like working with other women. I really believe that’s one thing we should change because women have to support each other. We have to make it easier for each other. I think we should have a more mature attitude focused on empowering each other. It’s not a competition.
I aspire that Milofy can become an organization that empowers women from all walks of life!
S: If you could tell young girls anything, as a woman and as the CEO of your own company, what would you say?
A: I would say that you need to really (really) work hard and dream big. And I wouldn’t say be ambitious, I would say be aspirational. You know?
Don’t power your dreams with ego.
Power your dreams with aspiration.
Anybody who wants to be the best they want to be; the universe just works with them to give them what they want. And this whole idea of positive manifestation, positive attitude, I know it sounds really cliché, but it actually works!
I see a lot of interns and I hire a lot of older teens and young grads in their early 20s, and I feel what they really benefit from is by spending a lot more time on serious research and understanding of concepts instead of just shallow things. The new way of reading stuff is so… bullet points, gifs, quick 5-point blogs, etc… People have lost the ability, perhaps, to read long journals.
I truly believe if young girls believe in something, do their research, work super hard, read, keep their eyes and ears open and see what’s going on around them, they can literally do and become anything. And when it comes from a position of love and aspiration, it’s amazing what miracles can actually happen; how mountains can move. It’s beautiful! The world is their oyster.
Be Courageous, Don’t Be Shy! Get the App and Milofy!