Today’s Notable Young Entrepreneur is Adyam Ghebre, who created Filosofia Swimwear to celebrate the natural diversity of the female body after an inspirational journey to Brazil. Here’s where she sees herself in five years and what advice she would share with other young professionals…
Elevator Pitch: Describe your job in a nutshell.
My company, Filosofia Swimwear, offers women a beautiful, premium swimsuit product created for the natural diversity of female bodies. I strive to adhere to a more realistic approach to female physicality and offer a product that will help examine self-perception with the goal of improving self-image. Not only do I sell fantastic suits, I try to stimulate an important cultural dialogue to help women embrace their bodies.
Why did you start working at your company? What was the inspiration for this career route?
I started Filosofia Swimwear because I knew it was time to make a change. I didn’t find purpose in my corporate life and somehow always felt that it was a matter of time before ‘they’ figured out how to automate my job. So I quit, packed my bags and headed south to Brazil with a pal. I had no direction and thought travelling could provide a source of inspiration to life’s raison d’être.
During a lazy beach afternoon, I took notice of the ease and self-assuredness displayed by the local women while in a bikini. No matter what size or shape, I couldn’t detect the slightest hint of intimidation or timidity while they strutted by in barely-there thong bikinis. That was when my light bulb moment struck; I knew I had to provide fantastic swimwear to women and represent them in a meaningful and accurate light. It’s kind of funny to think that I was staring at a large woman’s butt when this epiphany struck.
What is the best part of what you do on a day-to-day basis? The most challenging part?
The best part of my day is responding to the women who write to me saying they love what I am doing for women. There is no greater satisfaction than your sweat equity being acknowledged by a sale from someone you’ve never met and who isn’t connected to you but wants to share their story.
Aside from the usual – being stretched far too thin, managing outsourced projects and constantly worrying about business-related issues – the most challenging part of my day often stems from working from home. Especially during winter, I sometimes go days without seeing anybody or leaving my place. Then when I do emerge from the depths of my entrepreneurial vortex, I feel like one of the zombies from the walking dead.
What is one sign that you’ve seen over the years to suggest that your work/life balance is off?
Being an entrepreneur is so time consuming that I find myself not being able to give the ones I love the attention they deserve. Luckily, I have a very understanding family and friends who tolerate me and my schedule, but I do my best not to take advantage of their understanding.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
Summers in Toronto / New York.
Winters in Rio de Janeiro.
Scalable business with a diversified product offering.
Partner in crime.
What is one major challenge that you’ve had to overcome in your career? How did you overcome it?
I often compare entrepreneurship to something my old pal Mo once said to me: when you have a steady job, your line of view is focused. You know your job and the expectations to perform your job are very clear. Being an entrepreneur, you have a 360-degree view of choices all bearing with them a very high risk of failure. Figuring out how to navigate the waters of entrepreneurship (and alone) has by far been the most challenging task of my career. I can’t really say I’ve overcome it, but I have a team of friends who are much smarter than I am with whom I consult and whose sound business advice I value a great deal. My parents are also extremely logical and often provide advice that is so simple, yet has the most lasting and meaningful results.
What does success look like to you? Does Money = Happiness?
Success is a journey that is always changing. My dad always reminds me “to stop and smell the flowers.” I think we are so consumed by the end goal of success that we don’t take a step back and recognize the little successes along the way. Success to me is having purpose, adding value to people’s lives, sharing my life with someone who is willing to put up with me, and recognizing the little wins along the way.
Money is certainly a metric of success but it can only bring happiness if it is coupled with what your version of success might be.
What is the most memorable milestone in your career?
Definitely the first bikini sale that wasn’t from a friend.
Do you have any advice for other young professionals?
For young professionals, I would say shine bright and go the extra mile. You have to stand out in a sea of people who are trying to make their mark.
For entrepreneurs, I would say buckle up and manage your expectations. Entrepreneurship is arduous and full of curve balls, but when people start to take notice, things get fun.
Where is your favourite place to wine/ dine in your city and why?
Ohhh, tough to narrow it down. My top three would have to be:
Mercurio – from nonna usually greeting you at the door to the fantastic Italian fare, this is my favourite Italian restaurant.
Farmer’s Daughter – one of the most personable and passionate chefs I’ve ever met, Leonie is so adventurous in her kitchen. I always look forward to devouring her creations.
Ki – best sushi and the best service you’ll ever have in the city.
When you’re not working how do you love to spend your “Me” time?
I do exactly what you think a single, 29-year-old who just moved to New York from Toronto does: stay at home, read books, binge watch Netflix and eat chips. Well, that and I usually find myself discovering the city by bike, networking, and discussing Toronto’s cleanliness with New Yorkers. Throw in some yoga and some Old Fashioneds, and that’s pretty much it.
Where is your favourite place to travel? Why?
Brazil. The energy of the country is infectious and despite its slough of socio-economic problems, it is easy to fall in love with. Go see for yourself.
If you had to choose a theme song, what would it be?
Close Your Eyes by Bora York.
If you weren’t doing what you’re doing, what would you be doing?
I’d probably be face down in a ditch somewhere along the QEW.
Do you support any charities? If so, which one(s) and why is that important to you?
Not yet. As much as I’d like to, I’m not in a position to be doing so. But when I can, I’d like to provide time and/or money to Ernestine’s women shelter and Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Toronto.
What to you is notable?
Purpose, Passion, Perseverance.
Blackberry, iPhone, Android, or Other?
iPhone – but I’m still rockin my 4S, complete with a cracked screen.