Where it all began

Since I was very young, I knew I wanted to be ‘the boss’. As a young girl growing up in a migrant family, I was always dreaming big. My family wasn’t very well off, my dad worked two jobs to make ends meet. My parents came to this country and had six children! I was the middle child of five girls until my little brother came along many years later.

The Garden Cafe

Having six children meant a lot of fun times trying to come up with games and activities that were ‘free’ and could work well for all of us. When I was seven, I recall my first experience running a business (even if it was pretending) was when I opened a ‘Garden Cafe’. We had a large yard, and in the yard, my employees (my sisters) would create the most creative dishes from mud, sticks, and bugs. Anything we could find to make a tasty treat that we would then ‘sell’ to our cousins. We’d use one-cent and two-cent coins to sell our meals for money. Our specialty was a tasty mud and sand crumble wrapped in a green leaf….you could say it’s a bit like a betel leaf that you’d get in a Thai restaurant today (except ours wasn’t edible!). This business clearly didn’t take off (although bugs are being more readily available today) and so maybe we were onto something!

Taking the lead

In fact, I always remember being the ‘bossy’ child for as long as I can remember. I don’t call it ‘bossy’, I call it ‘taking the lead’. I recall many times my entrepreneurial spirit coming out including the times I would:

  • Make and sell cupcakes at the local fete
  • Lining the children up at birthday parties in an orderly fashion to take turns playing with my imitation barbie dolls
  • Won a competition to ‘be the teacher’ when I was in grade 6 and taught the class for just over two hours
  • Working in the school canteens

My biggest entrepreneurial experience

I was passionate about taking on new challenges. Fast forward a few years later when I was eleven years old, my younger sister, cousin, and I were playing in the yard and we noticed an injured bird. A pigeon. The bird seemed to have a damaged wing and was unable to fly. Overwhelmed with sadness, we carried the bird and placed it into a shoebox. We then ran inside and demanded our parents helped the little bird. “The bird needs help!” we exclaimed. The bird needed a Vet! Our parents could see the concern on our faces and promised to take the bird to the vet the following day.

‘The next day, we awoke to find the bird had died’

We were very sad. I wanted to do something to raise money to help other birds that were injured. So that school holidays I decided we’d set up a fundraising concert in honor of the bird’s memory and to raise money that could be used to help other birds.

We decided to name the bird after the first two initials of our names Fa-Sa-La, pronounced (FAR-SALA). I then proceeded to write the show which included a Mario and Luigi comedy sketch, dance numbers by Michael Jackson, and some singing. I then choreographed the dance routines and taught the other performers. We had to make money so decided to sell raffle tickets for a month before the show.

In addition to the show, I knew we needed food and drinks. I convinced the mothers of our family group to cook delicious Lebanese treats and the fathers cooked a barbecue for our guests. My mother arranged for several raffle prizes, many were donated by our parents.

For the event day, we had set up the stage, music was ready and costumes were made. We sold tickets to our local community group and other parents who were attending the show, by event day we’d sold around 50 tickets!

The end result

The show was a big success, the performers were great and in the end, we had raised around $100. It was a great event and at eleven, my biggest entrepreneurial experience.

‘I guess I was born to be an entrepreneur’

Final thoughts

There is no doubt I will fail many times before I succeed, but with great leaders to aspire to, mentors I work with, and a great team supporting me. I get to ‘lead’ and be the entrepreneur I always wanted to be. I hope you continue the journey with me.