Have good boundaries with yourself. Most things are not to be taken personally. There are going to be lows and highs, and you’re not going to please everyone all the time. Goals take time and effort to attain, so it’s important to take everything in stride. This is something I had to learn in my previous job as well as in my current journey as an entrepreneur.
As a part of our series called “My Life as a Twentysomething Founder”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Simone Ispahani.
Born in Colorado, Simone Ispahani became acquainted with the world at an early age. At a young age, she moved with her family to the Netherlands, and studied at the American School of the Hague. Then her family moved to Sydney, Australia and later Hawaii, where she completed her high school education. Simone eventually made her way to Los Angeles, where she attended Biola University, graduating with a degree in Sociology that emphasized Criminal Justice, with a minor in Biblical Studies.
Being biracial and growing up around a diverse array of cultures, Simone was gifted with a unique understanding of the world, and a deep seeded desire to help humanity. At Biola, she first learned about the issue of human trafficking when an expert speaker on modern day slavery challenged her to get in the fight. With a newfound perspective, she started to learn as much as she could about the issue. As Simone read articles, screened documentaries, spoke to both non-profits and Federal agents about their work on the front lines, she also put her shoulder to the wheel, working at internships in anti-trafficking non-profits and co-leading a trip to India her senior year to work with survivors. As she did this, her passion for the cause expanded.
As she toiled through this grueling schedule, one little thing became a constant comfort, as well as a passion: coffee. Her first vision of Social Brew was a brick-and-mortar store created to turn out a great product and create sustainable job opportunities for human trafficking survivors. That vision has since expanded, with Social Brew’s humanitarian outreach touching every aspect of the issue, from rescue operations to rehabilitation, education, and reintegration. Simone’s greatest hope for Social Brew is to create a community that creates a place where trafficking victims are seen, known, loved, and given practical tools that help them take back their lives.
In her free time, Simone enjoys sipping her coffee at one of her favorite local spots in Santa Monica. She also likes hanging out with her dog, painting, baking to feed her sweet tooth, listening to vintage vinyl recordings, and spending time with family and friends.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! What is your “backstory”? Tell us about your background.
I was born in Colorado, but we moved when I was 3 years old to the Netherlands. Then we moved to Sydney, Australia and then Hawaii. I ended up moving to Los Angeles for college, and after graduation decided to make it my home. I’m biracial — half Indian and half American — so all of these moves and varied cultural experiences made me adaptable, resilient and had a lasting impact on me. Some of these experiences influenced my vision for my life, and the difference I want to make in the world.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
When I was a child, my family established a foundation, doing service work in India and Romania that included everything from providing basic care products to helping get better medical equipment. I realized at a very young age that at a human level we all just want to be truly seen and truly known. These experiences have shown me that you always receive more than you give, and as a result have shaped me into the person I am. You may give of your time or of your resources but the deep fulfillment of seeing others get the benefit of what you give, can’t be matched. That’s why when I established this company, I decided to give away 50% of our profits to a cause that is overlooked and underfunded… human trafficking. In addition, we source and sell high quality gourmet coffee beans — mostly from Hawaii — which is a product that almost everyone loves.
None of us can 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?
My gratitude goes more to a being than a person. I have a close, personal relationship with God. He is the first one I think of when I think of how I got to where I am. God gave me this vision for Social Brew 4 years ago — a time that was challenging for me personally, because like many, I was dealing with physical health and mental health problems. There were many times I felt lost, wondering if I would ever find my calling. God came into my life, and reminded me that I had already found it, when I first heard of the issue of human trafficking from a speaker at a conference. This was where it all truly started. Also, I don’t feel like I have or ever will “arrive.” Success to me isn’t making as much money as possible or being known by others, but rather deeply loving what I’m doing and helping other people to love who they are. Even if it is just one person I’ve helped — that to me is a success.
What excites you most about Social Brew?
I’m excited to see how it grows. I want to provide a gourmet cup of coffee that gives Starbucks a run for their money. I also hope to continue to contribute to the practical needs of various anti-human trafficking organizations around the world and educate people about the issue and how they can help.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world? Tell us how.
Our company is all about bringing goodness to the world through the donation of our profits back into the fight against human trafficking, a scourge that is growing stronger and more prevalent every day.
Do you have a favorite book that made a deep impact on your life? Can you share a story?
I would have to say the book “Love Does” by Bob Goff. I read his book after hearing him speak while I was in college. It had a profound impact on me. There is a quote from the book which is really his reason for writing it that I really like. It says, “Simply put: love does.” Being engaged is a way of doing life, a way of living and loving. It’s about going to extremes and expressing the bright hope that life offers us, a hope that makes us brave and expels darkness with light. That’s what I want my life to be all about — full of abandon, whimsy, and in love.
Can you share 5 of the most difficult and most rewarding parts of being a “Twentysomething Founder”. Please share an example or story for each
1). It’s hard to balance being respectful vs being respected.
I’m often working with people older than I am who have way more experience than me. This can be super intimidating at times. But I have to remember that I am the CEO of my business and I need to be confident in that. Otherwise I will get in the habit of letting others tell me what I should want instead of trusting myself and my vision. When you know what you want it is up to you to give others directions on how you would like to execute. Collaboration is part of it, but you’re steering the ship.
2). Self-care both physically and mentally are equally as important as the work you’re doing.
This is something I think I will forever be working on. It’s so easy to neglect this, especially when you’re in the first phase of your business. The idea is to create one general self care plan that can be a loose guide to taking breaks, doing something you enjoy, getting outside, etc. Then, create a crisis care plan for yourself. This is more of an emergency guide to remind yourself of how to do the things you already know how to do when things are about to go off the rails. They’re usually more strict, i.e. “Go to bed at 11pm every night for the next 5 nights.” I have a tendency to stay up late working because I have insomnia but it actually makes it worse. I might be more productive at night but it makes it extremely hard to shut off my brain after I’ve closed the laptop.
3). Have good boundaries with yourself. Most things are not to be taken personally.
There are going to be lows and highs, and you’re not going to please everyone all the time. Goals take time and effort to attain, so it’s important to take everything in stride. This is something I had to learn in my previous job as well as in my current journey as an entrepreneur.
4). Take a moment every so often to celebrate the wins.
It should be fun, so if the bad is outweighing the good, you need to recalibrate. When I first launched (not that long ago), I was so incredibly stressed that I almost wanted to collapse. Thankfully, I have great support from my family and friends who celebrated this accomplishment when I found it hard to. Sometimes it feels like it always has to be “nose to the grindstone,” but it doesn’t.
5). You get to be your own boss.
Almost everyone can recall a time when they had a difficult boss. It’s a lot of responsibility to be your own boss, but it’s also extremely liberating because you control your own hours.
What are the main takeaways that you would advise a twenty-year-old who is looking to create a business?
Know your “why” before you start. This will be something you will have to come back to a lot because there will be many ups and downs. But it will make it all worth it. Also, believe in yourself. It sounds like a cliche, but there will be many people who will have their opinions about whether or not you should do it or how you should do it. But you can do it if you really want to.
We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why?
I would have to say the poet Amanda Gorman. I feel like the power behind her words inspire change makers. It would just be so cool to meet her, and talk about what inspires her.