Thursday 26 May 2016

2inspire Inspirational Woman: Shaherazad Umbreen, Founder of 18 Hour Heels

Meet Shaherazad Umbreen the Designer and Founder behind The "18 hour heel" shoe Brand, created to empower women with shoes that take them painlessly from day through to evening.

Shaherazad Umbreen

Please tell us what is a typical business day for you?
My day is all about discovering ways to make women and girls happy. This is in many different ways such as:

· Designing new shoe styles

· Designing new "shoellery" (jewellery for shoes)

· Finding projects to support women and girls through our profit share scheme. Currently we’re working on 5 projects on 4 countries

· Creating social media content

· Understand my customers and the markets in which they live

What made you start the business and how did you get started?
I’ve seen many women work long days in painful heels and there’s no need for this. With the right heel architecture, a woman can work a full day and not be in pain! So that’s where the idea for empowering heels came about. I also wanted the shoes to transform into something sparkly for the evening, so I invented my "shoellery" concept to go with the shoes. And finally, I knew the business would be even more fulfilling if a chunk of the profits went to support the education of women and girls living in poverty. So, in essence, empowered women who buy my shoes are directly empowering others to follow in their footsteps. I strongly believe that when a woman lifts up another woman the world becomes a stronger place to be.


What would you say has been your greatest accomplishment in the business world to date?
Helping 200 women to gain an education through the profits of the shoes I have sold so far. It’s so amazing to see the difference education cam make in allowing women to take charge of their own lives.

What has been your biggest challenge in business so far?
Product Development! It took me two years to develop the 18 hour heel. It’s all in the maths! As a result I have developed the world’s first 18 hour heels. Pain free all day.

What are your future plans for the business?
The designs have been very popular in the UK and I’m now looking to expand into Qatar, Kuwait and UAE. The women I can support, the happier I will be. My target for the business this year is to support 1000 women to gain an education who are currently living in poverty.

If you had to do it all over again, what would you do differently?

Remember to stop being in a rush all of the time. Developing a great business takes time.

Why is it so important to inspire young women in particular to follow their dreams?
Women have such a huge impact on Society as a whole and yet are so often held back. We have so far to go yet in achieving gender equality that it’s really important to get more young women to believe that they can be the drivers of change.

What advice would you give to somebody who wants to start a business in your industry?
If you can dream it, then you can do it. Go for it and “turn your can’t into cans and your dreams into plans”.

What or who inspires you in business and why?
My mum. Her name is Zurren and she’s a focused business woman and has always broken the boundaries in terms of her thinking. She made me believe that I can do anything. In turn she inspires me to cheerlead other women. My “women empowering women” philosophy comes from her.

What is your favourite inspirational quote?
It’s one of my own which I always live by:


Shaherazad Umbreen

@18hourheels (Twitter / Instagram )

Shoes by Shaherazad (Facebook)

Tuesday 10 May 2016

2inspire Inspirational Woman: Georgina Fihosy, Founder of Special Touch Designs

British-Born Nigerian Georgina Fihosy is the creative entrepreneur behind the African Inspired greeting cards company Special Touch Designs which seeks to celebrate the diversity of the UK. Her gift for designing and hand-finishing greeting cards, which merge bold African wax print fabrics and quality textured boards, was realised in the summer of 2015. Whilst on maternity leave from her profession as a Pharmacist she made the decision to nurture her creativity and create a brand that would celebrate her Nigerian heritage and culture, showcase her love for fabric and design and recognise the diversity of Britain. Read her inspirational interview below and be inspired!

Image By A-Picture Photography

Please tell us what is a typical business day for you?

I wake up at 5am everyday, I have two children under four years so everything
has to be carried out like a military operation. I currently run the business
alongside my full time job as a pharmacist so before I set off for work, I start
by checking my emails for orders and queries that have come through. I get all
the orders packaged and ready then set off for work. I usually post the orders
during my lunch break. Most of the design aspect of the business is carried out
after I have put the children to bed, since they are earlier risers, they're
typically in bed by 6.30pm which means I can spend my evenings putting designs together for the new range and sorting out the business administration. People always ask me how I do it and my response is always the same, my mother was a single parent with five children, she worked full time, made sure the house was tidy, that we were fed, ensured that we were never in want of anything, therefore I have no excuses.

What made you start the business and how did you get started?

I remember trying to find a card for a Nigerian friend who had just had a baby.
Cards are so personal, so I wanted to give her a unique card that upon opening
she could really identify with. I searched for a cards that had images of black
families or new born black baby but could not find anything in the major
mainstream card retailers. I was so disappointed that I decided to make the card myself and that was basically how the business began, out of pure frustration for the lack of diversity in the British card industry. 

We are such an ethnically diverse population, and I believe that consumers need to feel included as opposed to segregated when making purchasing choices in any type of industry. Retailers need to think about expanding their range of cards to be more inclusive. I wanted to be able to go into a card shop and see a diverse range of cards for all ethnicities.

I have always had a creative spirit, l made all my own stationery for both my
own and my sister’s wedding. I love the beauty and vibrancy of African fabric
and wanted to infuse this into my card designs. I started by making cards for
friends and family and found that the feedback was amazing and demand started to increase. So it was whilst I was on maternity leave with my son that the concept of Special Touch Designs was born.

Image By A-Picture Photography
What would you say has been your greatest accomplishment in the business world to date?

Making the move from being a retailer to a trade supplier had been a major
achievement for me. I knew that I had tapped into an amazing market, but getting my cards into an independent retail store and then hearing that they had sold out within the first few weeks definitely confirmed that I had a unique product that could sell. 

What has been your biggest challenge in business so far?

Managing a full time career alongside motherhood and the business is a great
challenge. My days are extremely long, but I truly enjoy what I do and it really
never feels like work. I try and make sure that I manage my time efficiently and
so prioritising workload is key. When you first start out, you can be so
overwhelmed with excitement that you may begin to neglect the other important aspects of your life so It’s important to try and find the right balance.

What are your future plans for the business?

I am working on increasing the trade side of the business and getting the cards
into larger retailers. I really want to celebrate the ethnic diversity of the
nation through my cards and believe that they have a place in larger stores. I
would also like to move into other gift stationery products such as gift bags
and wrapping. It’s amazing how much you can do with paper!

If you had to do it all over again, what would you do differently

I probably would have started a lot sooner, fear and self-doubt was such a big
hindrance at the beginning. I wondered whether anyone would by the cards and
worried about not having enough money or time to sustain the business. After
facing my fears and writing a business plan, I realised that there was always a
solution to any problem I thought might arise and the process was a lot easier
that I had initially thought.

Why is it so important to inspire young women in particular to follow their

As women we are so quick to pigeon hole ourselves into thinking that we can only be one thing, whether it be a mother, a wife, a career woman or an entrepreneur.
We choose and then dedicated ourselves to that one thing and subsequently
sacrifice our dreams. Young women need to be surrounded and inspired by women who are making positive changes in their chosen industries and who are wearing many hats and making it work.
Every day brings a windfall of choices that have to be made, so each day I
choose to be the best wife for my husband, the best mother for my children and
the best person I can be for me. My business is an extension of my personality
and expression of my creativity, It is one of the marks I hope to leave in this
world as the part I played in the promotion of diversity. Women need to know
that they can be leaders in their field and that being a women should never be a
hindrance to success.

Image By A-Picture Photography
What advice would you give to somebody who wants to start a business in your industry?

Join an association that represents your industry. I joined the Greeting Card
Association and it was one of the best early business investments I made. They
have members at every stage of their business from start-ups to those who have been trading for 20 years or more and have a wealth of knowledge about the industry and plenty of insider information about the greeting card market. I was able to network and source quality specialist printers and supplier which
definitely helped me to keep costs down.

What or who inspires you in business and why?

I have to say that my family inspire me and a lot of my card designs are based
on my children and husband. My mother is also a huge inspiration to be and I am always encouraged by her strength and resilience. Her children have been her business and I use the teaching she has given me through every aspect of the business.

What is your favourite inspirational quote?

‘The creative adult is the child that survived’ Ursula K. Le Guin