It takes courage to leave a job, and stable pay, to take on a challenge by opening your own business. But Nadiya Khayat did exactly the same and, therefore, became a Rule Breaker.
Born in Syria, Nadia is a mother and an entrepreneur. She came to the US for college, did an MBA in finance, and left her high-paying job on Wall Street to start a business. In 2011, with her sister Yasmin Khayat founded a unique home décor website, “Antique Farmhouse”- combining their experience in business and interior design, both sisters set out to take on the crowded e-commerce marketplace.
Let’s hear Nadiya’s story in her own words.
1. How did the idea for your business come about?
I left my previous job as the portfolio manager at a Finance/Investment company when the market crashed. My sister, who has a background in interior design, and I decided to start a little online store by putting her and my expertise together.
2. What was your key driving force to become an entrepreneur?
I was always an entrepreneur. When I was younger, I started a couple of businesses. I find it more challenging and rewarding to start something from scratch and make it successful.
3. How did you come up with the name for your company?
My sister and I really like vintage reproduction and farmhouse styles. So we did some research to find out what would work best in the online space in terms of SEO. Certain criteria needed to be met and that’s how we came up with this name. We think the name represents who we are and the look that we are going for.
4. How many hours a day do you typically work?
24! That’s not true, but I would say when you are an entrepreneur, running your own business, you are always working. Even when you are not working, you are working. But I try to limit my work to around 8 hours a day.
5. How has being an entrepreneur affected your family/personal life?
It affected my personal life positively. There are pros and cons to everything. The pros of having your own business are that you can set your own hours. I am a night owl so I tend to work more at night after my kid goes to sleep. It provided me with a lot of flexibility but it also put a lot of stress on me because now I carry the business everywhere I go. While I was doing a job, I would leave the business at the office when I left for home. But you don’t get that privilege when you are running a business because it will be constantly on your mind.
6. What challenges do you have to face at the start of the business? And what motivated you to leave the Wall Street job to start your home-furnishing company?
When we first started, the biggest challenge was to get our hands on good deals and products to sell. Being able to negotiate good contracts with wholesalers was tough because people want bulk orders but when you are just starting a business, you don’t necessarily have a bulk order. Another challenge was finding talent in the workforce.
Answering the second part of the question, the burnout at the Wall Street job motivated me to leave it. It is a very stressful job and when the market crashed, my husband and I decided to take a break and see the world. After returning from our trip, my husband decided to go back to school and I started this business.
7. What’s one piece of advice you can offer to other aspiring entrepreneurs?
My one piece of advice would be to keep your cost in check. It is a lot easier to navigate through bad times when your costs are not exuberant. Be frugal, negotiate your contracts, and don’t count on future money coming in.
8. What is your favorite mantra or affirmation that you say to yourself to keep you going?
My favorite mantra is, “There is always a light at the end of the tunnel.” When things get tough, I remind myself that eventually the sun will rise and things will get better.
9. What’s the hardest thing about being your own boss that isn’t obvious?
The hardest thing for me is being in charge and making all the major decisions. A lot of the time you have to make these decisions and you are not sure if you are doing the right thing or not. You can only hope that you are doing the right thing and making the right decision.