Sharmila Soosaipillai & ShariffaMubarak
The foundations of our long friendship has helped us to succeed in business
Interview: Nika Jazaee – Photo Credit: Rinaldo Sata
Sharmila Soosaipillai and Shariffa Mubarak, are best friends and business partners, who came to the UK in the hope for better career prospects and increased travel opportunities. They certainly achieved that by working and travelling for global firms such as, Ernst & Young, Pricewater house Coopers, Goldman Sachs, Banco Santander, AXA and Northern Trust. In our exclusive interview, we talk about how raw honesty in communication can be a valuable input to manage beingbest friends and business partners, andtheir mission to empower more women leaders of the future.
You are not only business partners but also best friends. They say that friendship and business do not always turn out well, what is your secret to making it work?
This month we celebrate 20 years of friendship.We have been through life’s ups and downs, births and deaths, marriage, we have lived next door and oceans apart. We’ve had people be jealous of our friendship and try to break us apart. The foundations of our friendship have helped us survive and thrive over the years. Those foundations are based on loyalty, integrity, mutual love and admiration and most importantly, strong communication. We communicate with such raw honesty with each other that at times it shocks others but we know it comes from a place where we hold each other to a higher standard. With such solid foundations, this is how we transitioned to business partners.
Both of you have built successful careers in the corporate world, spanning 20 years and across 4 countries. Being women in a male dominated industry, has it ever been a challenge and if yes how did you deal with the challenge?
Life wasn’t always a bed of roses. We’ve had a few challenges in our careers from lack of job opportunities, being in the wrong role, moving countries to get exposure to our preferred industry, dealing with difficult colleagues. The reality is these challenges are prevalent in any industry and impact both men and women alike. We see challenges as the catalysts for growth and always focus on understanding where we need to improve instead. Each challenge we faced was an opportunity to prepare ourselves, to build our resilience for the next level.
Having broken through the glass ceilings in your careers, what prompted you to leave your careers to pursue entrepreneurship?
Over the years, we have come to realise that we had individually held desires for growth and achievement as standards to live by. Our professional lives had provided so much fulfilment, significance and opportunity and one could be fooled into thinking that life was really as good as it gets. But when we considered other aspects of our life – personal, spiritual, the feminine – we decided to separately explore what else would make our lives more fulfilled. Something that very few people know about us is that we had also asked ourselves that age-old question “is this all there is in life?” (notwithstanding it was a good life). The first time we asked this question, we individually thought – our life is pretty good. It took us another 10 years before we asked this question again and then did something about it! Through our personal development journey and discovery, we came to a decision that the pursuit of time and lifestyle freedom was the next evolution of our desires. This decision, of course, was contrary to our respective parents’ desires for us to be in a stable job and career. We explored many business ideas whilst working our full-time jobs and found property investment to be our preferred route.What we came to realise is that sometimes you may not know where your zone of genius lies so you want to give yourself the opportunity to discover what lights you up.
You’ve transitioned to entrepreneurship by building a multimillion pound property portfolio in a span of 18 months. What are the keys to your success?
In the early days, we tried different property strategies and also considered numerous locations all over the UK to hone in our business strategy; we were open to learn and flex our approach which served us well. By far what made us successful was the speed in which we were taking action to build our property business. We were also introduced to the concept of “speed of implementation” by our wealth coach, JT Foxx, who taught us the fundamentals of growing our business. Another aspect of our success has been our approach to analysing opportunities. We used our risk management experience to developour proprietary system. Our aim is to ensure the deals stack up today and in the future. This means where others may want to make it work, we will walk away from deals that do not stack up. Our investors and business partners benefit from this same rigorous approach allowing us to deliver on our ethos of building wealth safely, securely and profitably.
Accountability and establishing strong business relationships are part of our success model. Our business coach, Arnon Barnes, worked with us to hold us accountable to our goalsand taught us how to have those tough conversations to get the best from our service providers. Property investing in the UK remains inaccessible to many. Our strong desire to simplify the property investment process led us to create a programme for women entrepreneurs who wish to access property as an investment class.
Our strong desire to simplify the property investment process led us to create a programme for women entrepreneurs who wish to access property as an investment class.
Tell us about your journey since leaving your corporate careers?
Sharmila:This past year has been one of deep transformation. I have grown not only as an entrepreneur but also spiritually and emotionally. As a result, I gained clarity on my long term vision – to empower as many women leaders as possible so that they can share their gifts with the world. I have discovered a unique way of quickly discerning your gifts and building a business and life that allows you to use your natural abilities. Sharing this unique discovery, working with clientsto bring them clarity and ultimately achieve success, is one of my most fulfilling moments. Through my gift of speaking I am able to empower moreleaders.I started with a fear of public speaking and now speak on international stages to large crowds. That in itself has been a challenge for me and something I continue to work on. I give credit to my communications coach, Larry Gilman, an actor and an award-winning director, who worked with me to confront and disempower my fear. I share this to convey that when we are powered by our vision and feel on purpose, with the right coach, fears can be overcome.
Shariffa:When I hung up my corporate suit and walked away from the safety of my 9-5 (or in my case, 8-6) job, I found entrepreneur life to be a blissful adventure!The time freedom meant I could explore my different roles without constraints. First and foremost, as a mum this is the Holy Grail!It allows me to leisurely walk my daughter to school, for example. As a spiritual person, I traded rush hour commute for meditation and transformational mind feed. As an entrepreneur, the CEO of my business, I became the visionary, coming up with new ideas. As a strategic planner, despite having a robust financial plan in place, I continue to strive to up level my lifestyle freedom. As a woman, I relish reconnecting with my feminine spirit. Through transformational coaching I have realised that my desire is to create a movement of inspired and empowered women (especially mums) who want to rekindle the dreams they have denied themselves. This is why I developed my signature programme, Get Paid To BeYouTM.It helps women tap into their dreams, create a compelling vision and launch their big idea into the world.
How would you describe each other?
Sharmila:Shariffa is loyal, caring, fun loving, and very supportive. She is a creative, pragmatic, strategic planner with a gift for simplifying complex matters. She keeps me grounded, focused and challenged. We share a camaraderie that is instantly noticed by others. I am blessed to have her as my best friend.
Shariffa:Sharmila is the most loyal and patient friend a girl could ask for. She is a visionary, practical, out of the box thinker that keeps me inspired at her genius. We’re on the same page on many opportunities and push each other to grow.
You’ve said all women should aspire to have multiple streams of income. You’ve successfully created, and are continuing to create, this for yourselves. Tell us why you believe this is so important?
We believe true power for women comes from having choices. Those choices come when women are educated and financially independent. We have continued to invest in our education through coaches and mentors. As a result, we have seen our confidence and businesses grow with their guidance and input. In our corporate jobs, our primary income was our salary. Whilst we were fortunate to always be employed, some of our colleagues saw their only source of income wiped out through redundancies. This is why when we created our property business; we also created other sources of income for ourselves. This is important because multiple streams of income give you choices.
We are strong advocates for collaboration as we believe together we can make a bigger impact in the world. By sharing our secrets, shortcuts and lessons from our mistakes we aim to help others succeed faster than we did; it is our way of giving back.We will continue to build on our income streams by forging alliances with other business owners who share our values of loyalty, integrity and authenticity.
What has been the biggest challenge you have faced and how did you overcome it, or how are you dealing with it?
The growth of our property portfolio plateaued at an early stage due to lack of funding. It was a frustrating period as we were hungry to grow our business. All challenges present opportunities for growth. It was at this point that we met our business coach, JT Foxx, the world’s number one wealth coach. He helped us overcome our hurdle of raising capital and as a result we tripled our portfolioover the next 9 months.
We continue to invest in coaching to propel our property and coaching businesses forward.
What advice do you have for female entrepreneurs who are just starting off building their businesses?
Invest in yourself. Invest the time to ask yourself whether your business is aligned with your purpose, your personal vision. Ultimately, your success is linked to understanding your purpose and legacy.Find a coach or a mentor as this will help you avoid costly mistakes along your journey.
And don’t be afraid to take action. Failure is the road to success. When you fail, fail fast, fail forward. Take the lessons and implement them. To quote Thomas Edison, “I didn’t fail 1,000 times. The light bulb was an invention with 1,000 steps.”
Lastly, surround yourself with people who inspire and challenge you to be the best version of you and support you through your journey. That has been a cornerstone to our success.
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