At the age of 29, social entrepreneur and innovator Arshiya Kherani, founder and CEO of Sukoon Active and a facilitator at the Sullivan Foundation’s upcoming Spring Ignite Retreat, realized her life hadn’t turned out quite like she’d planned as a teenager. “But that’s not a bad thing,” she noted, writing about the experience in her blog on Dec. 5. Instead of being married with kids and running “a big powerhouse nonprofit,” she’s “single and building a two-woman corporate empire.”
That empire, a women’s activewear brand “designed for real women whose activewear needs aren’t being met by the current market,” has been featured in Forbes, the Huffington Post, Allure and numerous other media outlets. Specifically, Kherani’s company offers activewear, including hijabs, for Muslim women who love to exercise. Although other brands offer hijabs designed for exercise, Sukoon is the only one founded by a Muslim woman, as the Huffington Post noted.
“I am part of the demographic that needs this product,” Kherani told the publication.
Kherani is one of eight facilitators who will lead high-energy interactive workshops and activities for young changemakers at Sullivan’s Spring Ignite Retreat, to be held April 5-7 in Raleigh, N.C. The deadline to register for the retreat is Wednesday, March 20.
The athletic Kherani grew up playing competitive sports, but finding the right workout clothing to cover her head and arms wasn’t easy. She and a group of friends decided to create their own brand of lightweight exercise hijabs and shirts for women, beginning with a Kickstarter campaign that raised $10,000 in its first nine days.
Sukoon’s garments feature sustainable, odor-blocking merino wool with eco-friendly mesh accents for maximum comfort and ventilation, according to the company’s website. Sukoon offers up-do hijabs as well as long-sleeve and short-sleeve tees. The merino wool helps regulate body temperature, wicks away sweat and fights odor-causing bacteria without the use of chemicals, the website states.
Sukoon is also a social enterprise, with a percentage of its funds going to the Zaatari Taekwondo Academy, a nonprofit in Jordan that teaches martial arts to Syrian refugee children.
In her Dec. 5 blog, Kherani shared some tips for young entrepreneurs building a business from the ground up, including:
Pay close attention to contracts. “Take time to read them, write them and stay accountable to them,” Kherani writes. “Make sure you’re OK with the terms. Make sure there’s enough detail in the scope of the work.”
Don’t go too easy on job interviewees. “Don’t be afraid to make them uncomfortable,” she suggests. “Startups are the most uncomfortable places to be and seeing a candidate handle an uncomfortable conversation is far more telling than hearing them gush about why they want/deserve the job.”
Take care of yourself. If you need a good cry, let the tears flow, Kherani says. And when things go awry, take time to “pray, do yoga and eat a salad … You’ll feel so much better after this trifecta,” she writes. “These are the things you can control, and even when everything is out of control, don’t give up on the things that make you human.”
Recognize a blessing when you see one. “You are lucky,” Kherani writes, “that your dreams look different from what you thought they would be.”