International Women’s Day - In conversation with the CEO of Swan

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Festive body care products

By Maria Yusuf, Mighzal.com

Besides schoolbooks and sleepovers, eleven-year-old Zahra is the successful CEO of SWAN. Along with her own collection of homemade and nasty-free beauty products, she models the entrepreneurial nature that every Bohra woman aspires towards.

Take a peek into Zahra’s life and find loads of fun, fab and feminism.

I have a passion for mixing and creating things and for helping people who are less fortunate than me

Tell us a little bit about yourself?

I’m 11 years old. I love animals and my family. I have a passion for mixing and creating things and for helping people who are less fortunate than me. I love sports and spending my holidays with my cousins. My favourite colour is Green and I love desserts!

What is a typical day in your life?

I think my life is busy, very busy during the week and then there’s work and Madrasa on the weekends. A typical weekday would be like this: Wake up, namaz, trampoline, breakfast go to school, sports after school (one of basketball/football/touch rugby/swimming), additional activity (one of trampolining/Quran Class/Chinese), then home to sneak in some playtime or reading or thinking up of new products and experimenting and homework before dinner. Dinner, chatting with parents, reading and bed!

My main aim is to help people care for their skin by using products that are purely organic and free from nasty chemicals

How did you come up with this idea of selling beauty products? What was your inspiration?

I think of my products as skin care rather than beauty products, this is because my main aim is to help people care for their skin by using products that are purely organic and free from nasty chemicals. They are good for you so do eventually add to your Beauty. 3 years ago, when I asked my mum if I could buy a lip balm in a shop, mum read the ingredients and said no because she said there were lots of unhealthy and unsafe ingredients in it. I tried again a while later and got the same answer. So I asked my mum if I could make something that was safe and good to use. She said yes and helped me get the ingredients. I researched recipes and that was the start.

How did you come up with the name SWAN? Any relations to swan?

The name SWAN is not just a random choice because swans are beautiful. SWAN is actually an acronym and stands for Safe Without Any Nasties. I came up with it while brainstorming with my family about possible names during a long taxi ride on a rainy afternoon.

How do you choose the ingredients you use in your beauty products?

I spend a lot of time researching different ingredients, their properties and the benefits they have. I use this information and then get creative with how to combine them and shape them. Sometimes things work out and sometimes they don’t. When things don’t work out my brother, sister and I try to figure out what went wrong and then I try again until I get it right.

If your soaps were drowning and you could only save one product, which would it be?

I have many products including the soaps. Since I make them all they are like my family and so I would save the one that’s most at risk of not surviving… I think that would be the bath fizz because once it’s in water it’s survival is in danger.

When I get creative it makes me happy.

How do you manage to be a kid AND a businesswoman at the same time?

It’s not difficult really. My business is making products which I love to do. When I get creative it makes me happy. I get help from my brother and sister too who are Directors of my company. So, I don’t see running my business as something that stops me from being a child. Also most importantly the profits help my siblings and me do good for other people which make us feel very happy.

My advertising is through the stalls and fairs I attend and also by recommendation from people who have used and liked my products.

We were intrigued that you don’t use social media to promote SWAN. How do you make it happen?

My business is very small at the moment. I don’t use social media, in fact, we hardly have any screen time at home. This is why I haven’t really used social media for my products so far. I have asked my parents to set up and manage a Facebook page for me (I’m underage as Facebook has a 13-year entry age and it’s not very safe for children). I also want them to explore Instagram for me. I would love help from others if they feel they can help my products get popular through social media. For now my advertising is through the stalls and fairs I attend and also by recommendation from people who have used and liked my products.

Are you 100% boss when it comes to decision making?

Yes, I have the power to make the decisions I want but I always do this with the help of my siblings and parents. I don’t think one person can be right all the time.

Each time I’m very nervous at the beginning but my family reassure me that I will be ok

You recently had a stall put up selling your products. How did it go? What was the experience like?

I’ve had a few stalls at events. Each time I’m very nervous at the beginning but my family reassure me that I will be ok. When I start making my first sales I start getting excited and then I feel amazing answering people’s questions about my products and recommending different ones depending on what they want. I have been successful so far Alhamdolillah.

I am experimenting with new techniques and materials and I love it!

Is there something new you are currently working on, or are excited about starting that you can tell us about?

I’m excited about some new ideas I have about different products and different varieties of the products that I currently have. I am experimenting with new techniques and materials and I love it! I’m also excited about being able to share my products with others at some market stalls I’m going to set up soon.

I want to be able to set up SWAN Foundation to help others in need.

What are your goals for the future? SWAN soaps for when we eventually move to Mars?

My goal is to grow my business and raise more and more money to be able to support the charities I care about. I want to be able to set up SWAN Foundation to help others in need. To do that I need to keep on researching, making new products and working hard.

If you could be any planet, which would it be?

Venus: it’s associated with beauty and I want to make peoples skin beautiful with my products and peoples lives beautiful with my charity work. Also, Venus rotates in the opposite direction to most planets, that’s a bit like me because I like to do things differently.

A fictional creature you would love to have as a pet.

I’d love to have a phoenix as a pet. This is because they live forever and they have healing powers and are beautiful.

3 words you would NOT use to describe yourself.

Unkind, selfish & greedy.

If you could choose your nickname what would it be?

I really like my name so wouldn’t like to have a nickname!

A type of food you’d never willingly eat?

Mushrooms!

One thing that makes you shamelessly grin?

Raising a lot of money charity.

Chocolate or caramel?

I love them both!

Which Disney princess would you be BFFs with?

I don’t approve of almost all the Disney princesses this because they’re all waiting to be rescued and not very self-reliant. I think they need to be taught how to be stronger girls. I guess Cinderella needs the most help so perhaps if she were my friend I could help her become stronger, stand up for herself and make her own choices rather than just being miserable about her life and then waiting for the prince to rescue her. She should rescue herself!

White swan or black swan?

Both as all swans are beautiful and graceful.

One word starting with Z to end off this interview.

Zesty – like my orange and lime soaps – try them now!!

In conversation with The CEO of SWAN. Interview by Mighzal.