Zahra Al-Harazi: What It Takes To Be A Successful Entrepreneur

CanadianSME Small Business Magazine

The Civil Wars Survivor 

One must endure civil war, live amid chaos, make the difficult decision to migrate to a foreign country, resolve to persevere and survive even in the face of hurdles, and work tenaciously to achieve success to become Zahra Al-Hazari.

Zahra Al-Hazari, the co-founder of Skillit, overcame two civil wars and a great deal of adversity to become who she is today. She was born in Uganda in 1970, but when internal unrest broke out, she was forced to flee the nation and seek refuge in Yemen. As the civil conflict grew serious, Zahra, a mother of three who had been married at the age of 17, made the decision to yet again migrate to the possibilities and safety of Canada in 1996.

Arriving in Canada as a refugee and migrant with no higher education or connections and very little understanding of the business world, Zahra had only the determination to thrive on guiding her out. Her only work experience was teaching English as a Second Language at the Yemen American Language Institute until 1995. Shortly after she arrived in Canada, she enrolled in a Bachelor of Design in Visual Communications from the Alberta College of Art and Design in Calgary, Alberta.

Beginning of the Entrepreneurial Journey

After graduation, she began her entrepreneurial journey by founding her first company, Foundry Communication, in 2006. Foundry offers a full range of design and marketing communication services to a solid portfolio of private and public clients. As the CEO, Founder and Creative Director, Zahra has led Foundry to be recognized as one of Canada’s Top 10 up-and-coming entrepreneurial companies by Profit W100 magazine and one of the most profitable companies in Canada on its W100 list. In addition, with an impressive client list, Foundry won many international accolades, including The One Show, Hermes International Awards, Graphis, Print International, HOW International, ARC International, LACP International Awards, and the Marcom Awards. 

Zahra currently focuses on her co-founding startup, Skillit, a marketplace for sharing knowledge and building skills. It is a place where people can explore their interests, find new passions, and develop connections with like-minded people. In current times, it is essential to be a learner and teach yourself new skills, ways and approaches to build a life worthy of living. 

Skillit helps learners discover new passions and friends by taking classes with real people and becoming the person they’ve always wanted to be. By providing live, in-person social learning experiences that don’t just teach skills and make each occasion a fun, memory-making event, Skillit provides a platform to learn new skills hosted by Skillit Masters and helps earn badges for each skill completion. 

Image Courtesy: https://myskillit.com/

For individuals who are masters of their skills, Skillit provides an opportunity to become Makers in Skillit, where they promote your courses, lessons, and content to people who love to learn. It helps build deeper relationships between the master and the learner by providing easy ways to manage lesson plans and communication. In addition, they handle the scheduling and payments and offer business support at every step to help create exceptional experiences. The classes can be scheduled by hosting live, in-person skill-building classes disguised as fun experiences. They provide opportunities to chefs, stay-at-home grandmothers, or financial experts, as long as they are exceptional in their skills. 

Skillet works on giving back to the community. While joining Skillit is free, every Skillit you offer has the opportunity to change someone’s life. In addition, it allows you to donate a seat in your class to underprivileged youth as part of the Skillitforward program. Thus, Skillit offers perks to collect rewards, badges, accolades, and feel-good moments.

Through all her initiatives, Zahra helps people and organizations realize their potential and find their purpose. As one of Canada’s top designers and creative experts who draw on her life experiences as a refugee, migrant, and entrepreneur, Zahra shows her clients how to take advantage of the full power of design across the business through her unique approach to attitude, leadership and success. She works on a simple but powerful framework to bring transformative growth to your business and life.

Achieving the Limits of Sky

As a life worth telling, Zahra initiated the writing of her book, What It Takes and published it in January 2020. The National Bestseller talks about the trajectory of Zahra’s life beyond expectations. The story is about a young girl’s journey from a small village in Yemen to becoming one of Canada’s most successful businesswomen. The book is an honest and courageous narration of Zahra’s struggles in finding her way between the contrasts of culture, religion, and self. What It Takes is the story of persistence that leads to happiness and courage to build the life we want. 

Image Courtesy: https://myskillit.com/

Zahra understands the complexities required for building a smart, skilled multi-generational workforce and has worked for The Royal Bank of Canada, Ernst & Young, the University of Toronto, and the Government of Canada, among many others. In addition, she has spoken to audiences in more than 20 countries and Fortune 500 companies, entrepreneurs, government agencies, and professional organizations.

For her initiatives and success, Zahra has been honoured with many awards, including Canadian Woman Entrepreneur of the Year by Chatelaine, been described as one of the most powerful women in Canada by Women’s Executive Network, and became the recipient of the Top 25 Canadian Immigrant Awards presented by Canadian Immigrant Magazine. She is also one of Calgary’s Top 40 Under 40 who has received the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal for contributions to Canada and the RBC Top 25 Immigrants to Canada Award.

Zahra also served as the Canadian Ambassador to UNICEF for four years, raising her voice to advocate for women and children in conflict struck countries. A worldview derived from her experience growing up similar situation. 

Image Courtesy: https://www.speakers.ca/speakers/zahra-al-harazi/

As a successful entrepreneur with clear and confident thoughts on entrepreneurship and human rights, Zahra Al-Harazi has what it takes to be the changemaker of the world. To know more about her company and their initiatives, visit their website,  https://myskillit.com/

The stories of survival and success can inspire small businesses to move forward. To read more about these inspirational entrepreneurial stories, subscribe to CanadianSME Small Business Magazine https://lnkd.in/dbqmSKN. For the latest updates, visit our Twitter page at @canadian_sme.

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