…That is a great question! The ultimate movement, if given the opportunity, would be to come up with an educational system that would promote young kids to start thinking outside the box and get inspired to start something of their own. Furthermore, giving them access to the resources when they are a bit older would further drive them to bring countless value to the world!
I had the pleasure of interviewing Muneeb Mushtaq. Muneeb Mushtaq is a Canadian serial entrepreneur and a keynote speaker who has launched three successful tech companies. His latest venture is called Airzai. Airzai is a CPG company that recently launched a patent-pending smart home fragrance diffuser that uses premium scents meant to uplift mood and promote mental wellness. Most recently, Muneeb decided to shift the focus of the company to do something meaningful in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. AIRZAI is focusing on contributing to the shortage of sanitization products in the market and has introduced a new line of products called, AIRZAI Care. Muneeb also devotes his time to share motivational and thought-provoking content on his social media. You can follow him on his official instagram account @muneebmushtaq.
Thank you so much for joining us Muneeb! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
Sure, so it all started when I came to Canada when I was only 15. I got into business school at the University of Toronto and I planned on becoming a CPA. But towards the end of my undergrad, I realized that I was truly passionate about technology. Since my brother was already studying computer engineering, we decided to start an online marketing company. The best part was that we ended up selling the company within two years — when I was 20 and my brother was still 17. This gave us the confidence to start a company on a larger scale and impact many more lives.
Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey?
One of the biggest challenges we faced was the concept of product market fit. We invented this one-of-a-kind product and thought customers were just going to come rushing to us instantly. Of course, that’s not how the world works. Because we were so young, we had not had any experience in running a company. To me, the realization that nobody cares about our brand or product was very hard. This was when we decided to seek out mentors and have an advisory board to gain more experience and set ourselves up for success. That is one of the best decisions we made in order to progress our company.
Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?
The drive always comes from knowing why you even started in the first place. I come from a developing country where people rarely have access to the basic essentials of life. This made me realize how privileged I was to be in a position to not only create something for myself and my family, but also countless other people that I owe this privilege to. That’s something that keeps me going no matter how hard the times get.
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?
Hmmm, that’s a unique question! One of the earliest and probably the funniest mistakes I made that gave me a very hard lesson as well was when I made my first ever TV appearance. Being the shy kid in school and starting a company at an early stage, I wasn’t exactly sure how to handle interviews — let alone being broadcasted on television. It was only the first month of launching our second company when I was invited to a TV show in Canada, which is similar to Shark Tank where you pitch your business idea to a panel of investors. The show had a last-minute slot open so they checked with me to see if I would be able to come by on a day’s notice. Rather than preparing for the pitch, I decided to wing it. When the time came and the camera started rolling, I just froze. Literally froze for a good 20 seconds. It was supposed to be a one-take shot and unedited. When it started to get way too awkward, that’s when a director called it off and asked if I would like some water. Needless to say, it was embarrassing and an awkward moment. However, it made me realize how important it is to prepare ahead of time. The second take went better, however I went over the 90 second time limit!
If you could go back in time and talk to your younger self regarding life lessons, things you would like him to know, what would they be and why?
The first thing I would say is to work hard in maintaining work-life balance. I sacrificed all of my twenties building businesses and now I realize I have lost some precious time. The second lesson would be to read more non-fictional autobiographies from a very early stage rather than just reading a school textbook. The amount of knowledge I gained from reading the experiences of the people who have already achieved so much gave me an amount of knowledge that no school can teach.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
I think the biggest competitive advantage we have had from the get-go is not compromising on the quality of talent in our team. Despite the fact that we had very humble beginnings and we bootstrapped, it was very important for us to go with quality over quantity. The product that Airzai is creating, a smart home fragrance diffuser called the Aroma, is a prime example of that. The first stage for any product is its industrial design. We decided to partner up with one of the finest and the most award-winning industrial designers in the world, Fred Bould. He is the genius behind GoPro cameras, Nest by Google, Roku TV and more. Since then, we have only had the best people in the industry work on the product. We have raised over $3.6 million and invested millions in just R&D to create a world class product.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
The most important tips I have for colleagues in the tech industry that are looking to avoid burnout are to schedule free time and make your work environment as comfortable as possible. Getting a tech startup off the ground is no easy feat and the long hours and hard work can be overwhelming. It can be hard to remove yourself from your work, especially when it is something you are passionate about, but having free time to relax and unwind is of the utmost importance for your mental health. Additionally, making your work space comfortable with an ergonomic office setup and a pleasant fragrance will allow for optimal focus and productivity during work hours.
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?
Absolutely! Success is nearly impossible unless you’re actively seeking out and receiving help from countless people along the way. In my case, the most important person that I would like to thank is my co-founder and brother, Nabeel Mushtaq. Having the right co-founder when you start anything is hands-down one of the most crucial things. Keeping aside the fact that he’s my brother, our opposite nature, opposite education, and an opposite temperament is the most complimenting thing and a huge factor for our success.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
One of the biggest reasons, as I mentioned above, for why I am so dedicated to building companies is giving back. We have done countless collaborations in the lifetime of our companies where we have been involved in non-profit initiatives and given back to communities financially. However one thing that I feel is equally important, if not more important, is the philanthropic contributions. That’s why I dedicate time on social media to share my insights, failures and experiences with as many aspiring entrepreneurs as possible — especially the entrepreneurs living in underprivileged parts of the world.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I started my company” and why? Please share a story or example for each.
- Find something you are truly passionate about. Starting a company means dedicating a significant amount of your life to it, so make sure that this is something you absolutely love.
- Failure is inevitable. No small business is built flawlessly from the ground up. It is normal to have a multitude of struggles. Dealing with some failures is going to happen regardless.
- Persistence is key. In regards to dealing with inevitable failures, the ability to persevere despite the circumstances is vital to the success of your business.
- Have patience. A successful business is not built overnight and it’s important to realize that it is a lengthy process going from an idea, ultimately to production and sales.
- Choose the right people. Hire people that share your passion and are as driven as you are to make the business a reality. Additionally, if you value your employees and can trust them to fulfill their responsibilities, it takes an enormous weight off your shoulders.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
That is a great question! The ultimate movement, if given the opportunity, would be to come up with an educational system that would promote young kids to start thinking outside the box and get inspired to start something off their own. Furthermore, giving them access to the resources when they are a bit older would further drive them to bring countless value to the world!
How can our readers follow you on social media?