Female Founders: Zarina Bahadur of 123 Baby Box On The Five Things You Need To Thrive and Succeed as a Woman Founder
An Interview With Candice Georgiadis
A Supportive Network — I’ve been lucky to be surrounded with very supportive people from whom I’ve received encouragement since the day I started the company. They will not only be able to connect you with people/resources you need but also be there when you have a problem you can’t solve on your own.
As a part of our series about “Why We Need More Women Founders”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Zarina Bahadur.
Zarina Bahadur is the CEO and founder of 123 Baby Box a monthly subscription box for babies powered by artificial intelligence. Zarina founded the company as a college student and went on to business school to receive her masters. She’s won 1st place in five national pitch competitions and has scaled her company to international markets reaching moms all over the world.
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?
Ever since I was little, I had always wanted to run my own company. My parents were entrepreneurs and growing up they encouraged my brother, sister, and I to always chase our dreams and never stop until we achieve them. It wasn’t until college that I started my company however I knew it would be difficult juggling classes and running a company at the same time. But for me, I knew I wanted to create something that helped others while making an impact in the world. And I wasn’t going to let college get in the way, rather let it be a catalyst for starting the company.
123 Baby Box stemmed from the need to help the new, working mom by conveniently bringing the right baby products to her. In doing so, we’re making the mom’s life more easier while saving precious time that should be spent with her baby.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
The most interesting and impactful story that I can share was when a mom reached out to me. She explained that she purchased our boxes and it has been one of the best decisions she’s ever made. This was because her toddler had a disability but was very excited each time his box would arrive because he really loved the items inside and would play with them for hours. She told me it’s not just about the unboxing experience but the happiness she sees on her son’s face. This filled me with so much gratitude and echoed our company message of “a box of joy for your bundle of joy.”
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?
One of the funniest mistakes I made when I first started the company was accidently typing in “1,000” instead of “100” units when ordering inventory. Once I saw a huge semi-truck backing up into our space I was a bit confused. I didn’t think anything of it until I returned to a mountain of baby teethers that I could’ve gotten lost in! Make sure to proof read your purchase orders!
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?
Someone whom I applaud and think of very highly is my former professor David Ochi. He was the executive director of our college’s (UCI) entrepreneur center and was there for the early days of 123 Baby Box. He was instrumental in guiding me and the company in the right direction. What I really respect about David is his genuine willingness to help without expectation for a return. He truly wants his students and community to succeed which is what I really value.
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 believe it has to do with the stereotype placed on women. Historically, women were known to be the caregivers; the age old saying of “stay home and take care of the kids.” Their role was premade for them which has led to a delay in female founders in the startup space. Essentially, women were late to the party at no fault of their own but because society held them back. Now that this mindset has shifted we’re seeing many companies founded by women. We’re making progress. There are many factors that’s still holding back women, but I believe the stereotype is the predominant one.
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?
As individuals we should show more support to our female founder friends, family, and colleagues. We must encourage them to work on their passions and support their businesses if possible. This can be purchasing their goods/services or even making a simple post on social media to highlight them and their company.
As a society, there should be spotlights placed on women entrepreneurs and female founded companies; whether this be in the local news or radio. The saying “it takes a village” rings in my head because it’s very true. Without the support of our communities, us female founders can’t thrive.
From the government’s side, they should create more grants for women entrepreneurs. Creating funds specifically for women will help the one’s just starting out while allowing growth for the ones further in their journey.
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?
There should be more women founders for many reasons. One being the different mindset we bring to the table. It’s scientifically proven that female and male brains are wired differently. Women are able to approach issues from different perspectives that may not have been thought of before compared to their male counterparts.
What are the “myths” that you would like to dispel about being a founder? Can you explain what you mean?
“You work less than an average job.” This is completely false. In fact CEO’s and founders probably work more long and grueling hours than anyone else. Yes, you do get to pick when you work but you certainly don’t get to pick how long. Another myth is the ease of starting a company. It’s definitely not easy or cheap. Talk is free and it’s not until you get into the weeds of entrepreneurship that you realize it’s one of the hardest careers out there.
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 don’t believe everyone is cut out to be a founder. If that were the case everyone in the world would be a founder. But I also don’t believe founders are born, they are made. It certainly does take specific traits to increase the likelihood of success. For example, if you don’t like taking a risk then entrepreneurship is not for you. If you don’t like solving problems entrepreneurship is not for you. And if you don’t like to multitask entrepreneurship is not for you. The reason I name these specific qualities is because that’s what entrepreneurship takes. It takes risk, problem solving, and multi-tasking among many other skills.
Ok super. Here is the main question of our interview. Based on your opinion and experience, what are the “Five Things You Need To Thrive and Succeed as a Woman Founder?” (Please share a story or example for each.)
- A Supportive Network — I’ve been lucky to be surrounded with very supportive people from whom I’ve received encouragement since the day I started the company. They will not only be able to connect you with people/resources you need but also be there when you have a problem you can’t solve on your own.
- To be Flexible — There will be many problems that will arise when running your own company. But as a founder you have to take them head on and adjust your plans accordingly or else the company will fail.
- A Positive Mindset — Similar to being flexible, a positive mindset is key to the success of your business. This is because there will be many problems small and large that you’ll face, but you cannot let it consume you. As soon as you’ve let negativity enter your mind it’s a domino effect and can hinder your progress. Always think about the positive and what’s next.
- Knowledgeable Mentors — Having the right mentors goes back to building your support network. Without the right mentors it’s harder to reach the next step because they are often the ones who point you in the right direction. Often times mentors have “been there done that” so they’ll save you a lot time and stress with their advice and connections.
- Strategic Partners — Whether you’re B2C or B2B company, having the right strategic partners in place to not only help you start but scale the business is crucial. As an entrepreneur, you want to leverage these partnerships to the best of your abilities because they can help you solve complex problems and become a valuable asset to your company.
How have you used your success to make the world a better place?
Early on I implemented the action of giving back to those in need, specifically babies. There are so many babies that don’t have the proper supplies to survive. Knowing this, I wanted to donate a portion of 123 Baby Box’s sales to local charities and orphanages in need.
Just to see the impact on people’s lives is very astounding and fulfilling. We often forget how blessed we are until we cross paths with someone who is less fortunate. I started this company not just to solve a problem but also to create a positive impact on people’s lives. To be able to give back and help someone encourages me to continue to grow the company because I know I’m changing the lives of others as I’m doing it. I hope to help as many people as I can throughout the course of 123 Baby Box and inspire others to do so as well.
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.
We should always help the less fortunate. Everyone is entitled to basic needs such as food, water, clothing, and shelter. However not everyone gets this. If we are able to set a date and make it a holiday where we all collectively come together and donate to the less fortunate I think this will be really impactful. We can organize a national “Giving Day.”
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.
One entrepreneur I’d love to have lunch with is Whitney Wolfe Heard. I admire the company she’s built and the steps she took to get there. Her story is unique and inspiring to many young, female entrepreneurs.
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.