People 18 May 2017
Huda Alvi's story is one that doesn't get told often enough. It's one of pain and perseverance, of a journey through hardship, and one whereby a marginalized woman turned an adversarial life around to become a successful entrepreneur and blogger, who's now encouraging others to share their difficult stories.
Having found herself in an unhappy and verbally abusive marriage at the tender age of 18, Alvi was looking down the barrel of a sad and grueling life married to an angry ex-drug dealer. Before long, she had given birth to two children and realized she could no longer accept the bleak circumstances of her and her children's lives.
Leaving the life she knew behind, she moved away from then-husband and began anew. A single mom of two for five years before she met her new husband, she grew as a person and as a businesswoman, now the proud owner of a business, blog and an exceedingly happier life. In light of her success and her decision to share the more difficult aspects of her story with the world on her blog, she began a campaign in November of last year to engage with other people's stories in cyber space. Her #iammore campaign focuses on promoting people's stories globally in an initiative that hopes to get people talking about themselves publicly and send their stories throughout the internet. Below she talks to SWAAY about her experiences with business and the campaign.
1) What inspired you to come up with the “#iammore" campaign?
I Am More is a movement inspired by the idea that our lives are our legacies. The messages that our life stories convey are lessons to be left behind for others to learn. It's a collective of honest, real-life experiences - a step out of the box that defines us through limitations, and step into our own limelight. It's about encouraging people to see themselves as creators – as powerful storytellers.
2) What was the most moving story you've heard someone share as part of the campaign?
Aghhh this is hard because all of them are so touching in so many ways but for me it would be Asha & Michele's stories which you will see soon. Asha talks about self-love and how long it took her to find that love and all the phases she went through to find it which I feel related to me and can relate to any woman who has ever looked in the mirror at herself with pity, fear or felt like she couldn't do it. It's a great one. Michele's story left me sobbing. Her story was about the loss of her daughter and how she struggled to be a mother after she lost her. It was heartbreaking but also filled with strength and courage. Truly remarkable.
3) What are you hoping to achieve with this campaign?
I Am More serves as a platform that encourages social media users to complete their online stories with their offline realities so we could get to know more people “behind the screen".
4) Do you think there should be a change with how people use social media?
People are hesitant to open up about such things because we are conditioned to only show our “good side", especially on social media. If we were more honest about the good, bad and ugly sides, wouldn't our lives be more relatable? Our life stories include messages that could support, inspire and empower others. The more honest we are, the more genuine online connections can be.
5) Do you think social media can be harmful in any way? If so, how?
From a woman's perspective, social media can be harmful if too much focus is set on one's appearance and outer qualities. I believe there needs to be a balance so that we are not just objectified by how we look. Social media has the ability to reach masses and us influencers should think twice about the messages we are portraying.
6) How do you personally balance the work / family combination?
It's all about staying organized and being mindful of my priorities. I schedule everything well in advance and reserve particular dates for tasks that need attention on a weekly basis. Before I commit to anything, I take the time to think about whether it needs my presence or if a conference call will do. I am also save time by only choosing to attend events that I will benefit from professionally. Most importantly, I keep my weekends open for family time.
7) You started your first business at the age of 18. What was that like - are you different in your approach to business now, perhaps more wary?
I was stepping into the business world and adulthood at the same time so it was definitely overwhelming. I may have been inexperienced, but to this day I never feel intimidated to ask questions or ashamed to ask for help. I highly recommend doing this because it is one of the best ways to connect and learn from others. Although most aspects of business are very technical, following my gut and intuition have never failed me. When your goals are clear, it becomes a matter of trusting what you know and feel is the right move for your business.
8) What is your personal business philosophy?
Taking the first step is always the hardest, but everything after that becomes easy. With so many tools and resources readily available, there's really nothing stopping you from finding the answers to your own questions and educating yourself. I believe in growth and movement, and if you ever feel stagnant in your personal or professional life, there is a book or seminar out there that could help expand your mind.
9) What advice do you have for female entrepreneurs trying to make their way in this industry?
Once you see how outnumbered we are you may start to question yourself, but my advice is to ignore it. I can guarantee you that there is a huge support system behind us that has been built by other women. I have found that the way we are made to nurture has translated well into the business world. I have not come across a woman who isn't ready and willing to provide support and mentorship. We may not have strength in numbers just yet, but the wave of female entrepreneurship is definitely on the rise.
10) What makes your business model different and stand out from the rest?
It is common to associate the business industry with competitiveness and being cutthroat but I have been able to uphold my belief in honesty and sharing. I'm not afraid to admit when I am wrong or when I need help, and this sets a precedence for others to do the same. The core of business is about trading, whether it is about assets, ideas, information or material goods - it would not be possible if we refuse share. I feel that accepting this is what has made me successful and stand out so far. These little things go along way in earning one's trust and making a mark for yourself.
11) What does social media mean to you now versus when you started using it?
In 2016, I joined Instagram as a fashion blogger and it wasn't long before I felt that I was meant to share more than my outfits – I was meant to share my thoughts, stories, my life. My role as an online influencer helped me find my voice and its my purpose to help others do the same. With social media's ability to reach masses, it's important to be mindful of how our messages impact others. It is a useful tool that could be better used to invest in to education and wellbeing.
12) What does 'influencing' mean to you?
To be able to foster change, in any shape or form for greater good. For me, if I'm able to inspire or change ONE individual's life by my experience, my story or my words I would think I've made a difference.
13) What would you say to aspiring Instagram/Facebook influencers - is there a smart move you wish you had made in the beginning?
The social media scene is very saturated and you could easily get pressured into following the crowds. Although that's the way I started things, I quickly realized that I wanted to influence ways of thinking/living, not just fashion. It is so important to know yourself – your morals, values and message – and to stay true to them no matter what the world looks like on the outside. When you can sync your existence and accept who you are on the inside it will exude from the outside and that's when you will truly be able to influence in any online or offline space.
Photo Credit: afewgoodclicks.com
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