In today’s world, where many women struggle to balance their roles as mothers and professionals, Shazi Visram, founder, CEO and Chief Mom at Happy Family Organic Superfoods in New York City, has blended the two into one symbiotic corporation, proving that women don’t have to sacrifice quality parenting to achieve professional success.
Visram launched Happy Family on Mother’s Day 2006 with $550,000 in seed money from friends, family and investors. By 2012 the company grew to more than 60 full-time employees in New York and Boise, Idaho, yielding $100 million annual profit, while earning Visram Crain’s New York Business 40 Under 40, Ernst & Young’s 2011 Entrepreneur of the Year in the New York region, and one of Babble’s 2011 “moms who are changing the world.”
“In my personal journey as a female entrepreneur and mother, I’ve learned that in order to overcome any obstacles, it’s important to stick to your original passion behind why you started working in the first place. My desire to help every baby be a happy baby drives me to continue to make the very best organic products, support sustainability and give back,” Visram said, noting that she began creating food combinations in her own kitchen. “To me, each challenge has presented an opportunity to come up with creative solutions to better the business and help families across the country.”
When asked why she chose to quit her job at a media buying and marking agency to begin her own company, Visram replied, “While I learned a lot about how to build new business and service clients, I realized that the values of the company were not in line with my own. I then started my own business doing virtually the same thing, but realized I wasn’t passionate about marketing products or services that didn’t resonate with me. Following that, I went off to [Columbia] Business School, as I knew I wanted to start a business doing something that I was truly passionate about.”
Her passion became clear in 2003 when Visram watched her good friend struggle to meet the demands of motherhood and professional life. “Her biggest challenge was feeding time, as she was health conscious and only wanted to give her baby fresh, organic produce, but didn’t always have time to make her own baby food. The jarred options available were overly processed and under-nourished. Listening to her I had my ‘ah-ha!’ moment, and Happy Family was born,” she recalled.
As Visram’s business and has grown from the modest beginning cooking in her kitchen so too, has her family. She is a proud wife to Joe, and mother to son Zane, while currently experiencing the quest for balance she saw in her friend in 2003.
“The work/life balance has always been a struggle for me, even before my son, Zane, was born. I essentially gave up my social life and spent all of my time building Happy Family. My life was 100 percent dedicated to my company,” Visram said. “As any working mother knows, the only thing that doesn’t change when you start a family is your professional life and the expectations that come along with it. While I haven’t 100 percent mastered the perfect solution, here are three simple tips:
- “Ask for help – whether its personal help with Zane or delegating responsibilities at work, learning to ask for help when you’re overwhelmed is so important. You can’t do everything yourself!
- “Schedule time for yourself – I love ‘Shazi Time,’ and actually put this in a physical calendar. I look at this time as being just as important as a meeting with a big investor or potential customer. ‘Me’ time keeps me grounded, and feeling grounded makes me a better mother and more effective CEO.
- “Take a step back and prioritize – I force myself at times to take a step back and think about the potential outcomes of my decisions. Taking this step back allows me to reclaim some of that balance that I often lose in the whirlwind of decisions I am making on a regular basis,” she concluded.
“Shazi Time” has also included her charitable endeavors, Visram noted, working with Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship, Project Peanut Butter and FEED.
“I love working with the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship as a mentor to young and aspiring entrepreneurs from low-income communities. No one should ever feel discouraged or deterred from chasing their rainbow and accomplishing their dreams simply because of their financial situations,” she said. “I am proud of the accomplishments I have made, but none of it would have been possible without the help of smart, savvy people who provided me with guidance and advice and for the role models that my parents were for me. For this reason, I feel it is my duty to be a role model for others.
“We [Happy Family] also work with Project Peanut Butter and FEED by giving back a portion of our sales to each organization, because we truly believe that every child deserves to be a happy child, and nutrition is key to health and happiness,” she continued.
The future may be unpredictable for all working mothers in the world but for Happy Family, one of Inc. Magazine’s fastest growing companies in the country for two years running and Fast Company’s 2012 “Rockstar of the New Economy,” the quality of the corporation’s mission will remain steadfast.
Visram said, “It’s very difficult to manage growth, bring in the investment you need to find innovation and inventory and also be profitable … [since 2012] we have grown to a $100 million-plus company and work to improve profitability every day, but never at the expense or the quality of our products.”