Sara Fazlali is an intelligent business woman who is the mastermind behind two unique business concepts. She is the Co-Founder and CEO of Secret Me Ltd, a high-end luxury invitation-only programme where individuals learn key personal protection skills that are then also applicable to real life and business from ex-Special Forces and Intelligence personnel. Think the experience of James Bond or Lara Croft meets personal protection. Secondly she is the Founder and Director of Areté Club, a private members club that brings together different generations from the worlds of politics, military, business, law and the arts and hosts small intimate events to discuss and develop on today’s pressing issues. On top of this Sarah is studying for a PhD in War at King’s College London. There is nothing this woman cannot achieve! See her inspirational interview below.
1. What motivates you to succeed?
In the short term, loving what I do and a respect and belief in those I work with and in what we are building in Secret Me. The pleasure of seeing other people’s excitement of, passion for and growth from Secret Me. From the first moment my clients get in a helicopter on a weekend to seeing their personal development, seeing them push their limits and seeing what they can be capable of throughout the weekend. Secret Me was designed to create a safe and trusted space where clients can learn personal security and also play with their identities and enjoy themselves doing it- the pursuit of excellence for us is providing this better every time. I have a drive that is in all entrepreneurs to create, build and grow, myself and those around me.
2. Where do you think the opportunities for women in business lie in the future?
There are certainly areas that are more male dominated that women are yet to break into, but I think the opportunities are whatever we imagine for ourselves. I don’t believe there are any boundaries in what we can achieve.
3. What advice do you have for women hesitant about their own abilities?
Believe in yourself. No one will invest their trust or confidence in you if you cannot invest it in yourself. Develop your skill base, learn and increase your knowledge to increase your confidence – In the words of Oscar Wilde “The only way to atone for being occasionally a little over-dressed is by being always absolutely over-educated.” Get a mentor.
4. How do you feel women can support other women in business?
Mentor them, be a mentee to one. Help each other as we network and close deals. Build the other women you meet in business, don’t knock them down. There are many clubs and networks, like Areté Club, that are great for bringing together women in similar positions or with complimentary businesses to meet and hopefully collaborate together.
5. What top tip would you give to a woman trying to drive their career forward?
Take credit for what you do, it has been shown in recent studies that women generally take less credit for their involvement in group projects when in a group with men. Aside from that, be confident, give credit where it is due, and build real relationships with people from all walks of life.
6. In your field do you see a culture-change taking place in the boardroom?
Not so much. I am very lucky with those I am surrounded by and their attitudes. I think chief executives tend to seek out people like themselves so I don’t really see a man or woman just a capable person and someone I would like in my life or not. It wouldn’t surprise me when more women found companies or reach chief executive level that is when women would be are far better represented on boards. I’d like to see more successful women across all industries.
7. Is the glass ceiling getting easier or more difficult to break through? Any changes between now and ten years ago?
I think easier as the world is becoming better connected. There is now nobody you can’t get access to and so many more platforms for support such as, Areté Club, entrepreneur communities such as ICE or Sandbox, and so forth.
8. Who inspires you and why?
People in the world around me – every little gesture of humanity, kindness, hope, toughness, friendship, tackling problems head on, and experiencing adventures. Acts of bravery and love are everywhere to be seen. Life is about the memories we take away with us.
9. Do you think women celebrate their own successes enough or is there a need to highlight more in what they are achieving?
I think in the UK we generally don’t celebrate successes and failures enough. I would love opportunities to champion more successful people and to meet more inspirational and interesting women and men.
10. In your eyes, do you feel there is an opportunity to do more off the back of the Davies Report to progress women’s careers?
I believe in being brought into a project, a business, or a board based on performance. That being said, I think more women should lift and promote other women around themselves including cross-industry and cross-company mentoring. We can promote more women in non-executive and executive directorship roles.
11. What are the top three initiatives you feel the Government could do for women who want to succeed in business?
- Coaching, mentoring and sponsoring schemes
- Help gain access to influencers on an international basis
- Promote business skills from younger ages in schools, colleges and universities
- Find ways to encourage company leaders to bring women on as directors (both executive and non-executive)
12. What are the top three ways you feel the Government could support and push corporates who want to attract and help more women prosper into their business?
- A welfare system that supports women getting back to work after having children and managing a work-life balance
- Personal development grants in partnership with workplaces – management/ leadership courses, etc.
- Tighter control on airbrushing, celebrity trolling, and gratuitously portrayed women in advertising and the media. Many young women are let to believe that their success can be measured in pounds and kilograms. Not only does overzealous airbrushing and obsessive tracking of the size and weight of ‘peers’ in the media undermine women’s confidence, it also objectifies women in the eyes of both men and women. The idea women being predominantly ornamental is a damaging one and we all need to change this if we are to inspire the young women today to become leaders in business and politics tomorrow.
13. As a successful business woman and owner in the UK, how do you think we can inspire and support more women in their careers?
The same as what I have written above. Support, champion, promote, connect, advise.
14. If we succeed and support women in business productively, how would you like to see the landscape change in 5 years? Please state any thoughts from the boardroom to investments in female businesses.
I would like to see better women-to-women networking, collaborations, investments, and business.
15. What is the most inspiring quote you have heard?
“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did so. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” – Mark Twain
16. What are your sources of inspiration?
Exactly the same as question 8. The world around me – every little gesture of humanity, kindness, hope, toughness, friendship, tackling problems head on, and experiencing adventures. Acts of bravery and love are everywhere to be seen. Life is about the memories we take away with us.