… a founder has to be a leader with vision, integrity, strength and have a cause or a passion that she or he wants to pursue. It’s very easy to be swayed in many directions if you are not strong enough to stand your ground. It’s important to have a vision so you can lead the people that are working for you in the right direction. A leader has to have integrity. I believe only with good morals and good intention can a company or a vision come alive. I don’t believe in the game of manipulation or any other mind games. Truth will always prevail.
As a part of our series about “Why We Need More Women Founders”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Sima Azadegan. Sima Azadegan was born from an immigrant family, and at a young age, she failed to find a voice. She grew up wanting to do the right thing, and most of all, to please others. Today she has taken on the mission to empower other women through her clothing brand Sima Collezione, of which she is the founder and CEO.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?
I have lived a complete life! At 9 years of age I started my classical piano training. At age 17 I went to University of Southern California and by the age of 20, I was married. I became a piano teacher for 20 years. Worked on board members of four major charities here in Los Angeles. Raised my 2 children who are now 25 and 27 years old. Adopted another child. I participated in many charitable organizations and did a lot of inner journey and self discovery work on myself. At the age of 50, I was ready to step into my own shoes and follow my dreams and passion. That is when I created my company, Sima Collezione!
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
Yes! The funniest story, which right now is funny but at that time it wasn’t. When I first told my family that I was going to create my clothing company. They thought I had gone mad and that I was delusional. First time ever, I went to meet a business advisor at a coffee shop and my husband thought that I was having an affair!!! He couldn’t believe that I could actually go and meet a man at a coffee shop just to get business advice.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
Yes, At the beginning of my journey, a lot of people wanted to work with me or in another word lead me on their own wagon. One reason is that they thought I am a housewife going after her passion project and thought they could use me to make a lot of money for themselves. During Covid, while staying at home, a lot of things were made clear to me. The most important lesson I learned was not to trust people blindly. I have to give people a chance to prove themselves. For me, action speaks louder than words! It is through people’s actions that I can trust them.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
Yes! I would like to give all the credit to who I am and what I have achieved so far to my grandmother Susana Cohen! She is not here with us now but her genes and her demeanor are alive and well within me. She was a holocaust survivor who at the age of 14 came to live in Iran. Not knowing one word of English, she met my grandfather and lived happily. Even after my grandfather passed away, she lived a life with strength, integrity, grace and humility. She was a warrior and a survivor and I definitely have inherited her genes.
Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the primary focus of our interview. According to this EY report, only about 20 percent of funded companies have women founders. This reflects great historical progress, but it also shows that more work still has to be done to empower women to create companies. In your opinion and experience what is currently holding back women from founding companies?
I think the most important concept for women to achieve in their lifetime is to have a strong sense of belief in themselves and their own capabilities. We experience challenges and resistance at all times but we have to be strong enough to face our fears and overcome our difficulties to reach a point where we can follow our own dreams and passions in our lifetime.
Can you help articulate a few things that can be done as individuals, as a society, or by the government, to help overcome those obstacles?
Yes, In order to look outside to find solutions for our lives, we need to look inside and work on creating a better person out of ourselves. We need to first focus on our own flaws, weaknesses and our own demons. We need to deal with them first in order to become better people for our families and our society.
This might be intuitive to you as a woman founder but I think it will be helpful to spell this out. Can you share a few reasons why more women should become founders?
I believe that no matter what, women should follow their own passions and dreams. We all have so many innate talents that we have to manifest in this world. We all have a responsibility to follow our dreams and make them come true.
What are the “myths” that you would like to dispel about being a founder. Can you explain what you mean?
I am not sure what you mean about “myths” I believe anyone who is driven, hard working, focused and disciplined can pursue their dreams and reach their full potential as a person.
Is everyone cut out to be a founder? In your opinion, which specific traits increase the likelihood that a person will be a successful founder and what type of person should perhaps seek a “regular job” as an employee? Can you explain what you mean?
I think a founder has to be a leader with vision, integrity, strength and have a cause or a passion that she or he wants to pursue. It’s very easy to be swayed in many directions if you are not strong enough to stand your ground. It’s important to have a vision so you can lead the people that are working for you in the right direction. A leader has to have integrity. I believe only with good morals and good intention can a company or a vision come alive. I don’t believe in the game of manipulation or any other mind games. Truth will always prevail.
Ok super. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)
I really don’t have “ The 5 things I wish someone told me before I started. “ I thought for a long time about this question, and I am very happy that I learned all my lessons on my own during this journey. I am glad that I had to face my own challenges, because that was the best way I could learn and grow through this process. Even if people had told me before, I still had to learn the lessons by myself and all alone.
How have you used your success to make the world a better place?
When I started my company, my mission was to help empower women and help charities as long as I live. This is my vision, my mission and my dream!
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
I would like to make a change in the apparel industry. I want ladies to instead of being so concerned about the superficialities of the outside world, instead to look inside and shine their own individual light to the universe. I would like to empower women to stand with strength, hope, love, light, compassion, peace, charity and all the positive forces of the universe.
We are very blessed that some very prominent names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.
Yes!!! I would love to have breakfast or lunch with Anna Wintour who is the editor-in-chief of Vogue Magazine. I would love to share my ideas and insight about the apparel industry. I would love to share my vision of my collection and how it can bring positive consciousness to all the women on the globe.
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.