What does it take to build an empire on coffee beans and sugar? Sahar Hashemi has brought Londoners her two most prized businesses: coffee and candy. Sahar launched Coffee Republic, a chain that has evolved as far north as Glasgow and as far south as Devon, with her brother Bobby after they were unable to find a quality coffee in London. Since the store’s inception the duo have branched out, taking Coffee Republic abroad to Romania, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Kuwait. Not only has Sahar established herself as a coffee queen, but she has also launched a candy line called Skinny Candy that is sold in prominent London department stores Harvey Nichols and Selfridges. Sahar sat down with the ACN and spoke about/discussed her business, while also confessing to us her favourite coffee.
1. What motivates you to succeed?
Doing something that I love doing. For example, if I have an idea I want to try and make it happen, I want to prove to myself that I can do it. I think the final sense of fulfillment allows me to take that journey to succeed. That sense of pride and self-satisfaction.
2. Where do you think the opportunities for women in business lie in the future?
Entrepreneurship, I suggest this only because you can then choose your times that you work, and it allows flexibility for women to be captain of their own ship, and write their own destiny. As an entrepreneur you can choose when you work and how you work, which can suit women quite well. Then again, that also applies to big companies; women need to find a way they can incorporate a flexible working life with their family commitment. Big companies also need to address the work life balance for women, as it is often women who opt out of working as they contemplate how they are to juggle all their demands. It is nice to see however the advancements with technology enable women to work from home and succeed in big corporations.
3. What advice do you have for women who are hesitant in their own abilities
I think we can be our own worst enemy as women, we doubt ourselves. I don’t think anyone has full confidence about their abilities, but if you just go for it, your passion or business idea, and immerse yourself in it you can surprise yourself.
My motto is ‘leap and the net will appear’ and I think once you take a leap, you say to yourself you can do it! Your confidence increases by a percent everyday from then. You don’t want to sit around pondering that you want to do it, you must go and do it! That’s what I do.
4. How do you feel women can support other women in business?
I think what we need is more role models, I don’t think women need any direct support, but just some role models that young women can look up to. I think as long as girls can believe that whatever they want they can achieve. I think that’s all you can really do. If there is enough women role models for young girls to look up to then they will be inspired to achieve their goals, at least it will set the groundwork. If women share their stories and share their secrets that is a good start.
5. What top tip would you give to women who are trying to drive their career forward?
Be authentic, be genuine, stick to what you like doing and always play to your strengths.
6. Is the glass ceiling getting easier or more difficult to break through? Have you noticed any changes between now and ten years ago?
For me, I have never had to see the glass ceiling so to speak. I have been told by people, who are on great authority, that it is there, but I have not seen it in my career. I think there was a glass ceiling 20 years ago and 30 years ago, but I think now it really no longer there.
7. Who inspires you and why?
Every single person in my life I get my inspiration from. I see inspiration in things all around me. I might go and see a movie and get inspired by a character in it. Sometimes the articles I read, if a new shop opens, these are all sources of my inspiration. I have been really lucky to have a courageous role model in my mother who is my mentor; she has encouraged and inspired me to achieve my goals. Constant forms of inspiration are everywhere and that’s a good thing. I don’t believe you need one role model or one mentor, I think you can take a little bit of everything you see and these can piece together your dream.
8. Do you think women celebrate their own successes enough? Or is there a need to highlight more in what they are achieving?
I think women don’t celebrate it enough, things are quite different now then how they were ten to fifteen years ago. Again there is a lot of that talk about glass ceilings and ‘what’s wrong, why aren’t there enough women in business or on boards?’ there is not enough talk of the women who actually do succeed in business. I think in a way we need to put more inspiration on women who are doing it, achieving their goals. We need to share their stories. Women are achieving goals throughout the country and it is great to see.
9. What are the top three initiatives you think the Government could do for women who want to succeed in business?
Top three initiatives would be the same they have for men, ie: tax breaks for starting a business, low National Insurance for hiring people and less red tape to make it easier to start a business. There is no real difference in these for women or men. The one specific for women would be subsidising child care. Child care is extremely expensive in this country and I think this is a worthwhile investment for women if they can subsidise it or make it tax deductible will make it worthwhile for women to re-enter the workforce by having that option there as a relief and not a financial burden.
10. What is the biggest hurdle you have overcome as a business owner?
Getting people to buy my product can be seen as a hurdle, introducing something new to the world. In all honesty, having a business and seeing it from an idea to fruition is a series of hurdles that you need to overcome. There isn’t just one hurdle; there is a series that you overcome. The journey is overcoming the hurdles.
11. What is the most inspiring quote you have heard?
“Leap and the net will appear” – John Burroughs (American Naturalist)
And another one I absolutely love is
“Do your best and let God do the rest” – Ben Carson
That was one my dad used to say
12. What are your sources of inspiration?
I have a series of inspirational books and self-help books; these are always accessible on my Kindle. If my mind is feeling a bit negative I will turn to one of these books that bring be back on track. Living life is an inspiration. Sources of inspiration come from images on the internet, movies I see, books I read, conversations I have. They are endless.
My mind has a recording light; you can’t control what goes in and what will inspire you. Sometimes it can be the oddest thing that comes up with the greatest inspiration.
13. What is your favourite coffee?
Skinny late. I cannot start my day without it.