For this month’s issue, we decided to hunt down some of the fastest and most diverse women on the planet, and find out exactly what drives them to success. One of them, Farah Nanji – is a dynamic serial entrepreneur from London, who made a serious business out of her passions and who will also be writing for us regularly.
Tell us a little about yourself and where your fascinating passions came from?
I was born in the 80s and my roots stem from two continents. I’m half Indian, a quarter Pakistani and a quarter East African. It’s slightly controversial when you consider the types of industries I’m in, I know! Yet irrespective of my background, ever since I can remember, racing cars and music have been two of the most significant and influential things in my life.
I began racing at the age of twelve in Rotax karts and became hooked instantaneously. I was always an adrenaline junkie in pursuit of the wildest stunts ever, much to my mother’s annoyance. Sadly, lack of funding and educational commitments halted my progress in reaching the pinnacle of our sport, Formula 1. However, whilst I was studying Global Business Management at Regent’s University, and before I had to enter the ‘real’ world, I decided to do whatever I could to make a business out of my passions and I haven’t looked back since!
I was always an adrenaline junkie in pursuit of the wildest stunts ever, much to my mother’s annoyance.
What is your big idea?
Whilst I was in my second year of university, I pioneered the concept of a private automotive racing club (Regents Racing) where members could focus on really advancing and honing their skills, whilst also networking under an informally high-octane environment. One of our core objectives is to connect members from Generation X to Generation Y and teach them the importance of teamwork, mindset and vision. Racing is one of the sports that truly embodies mind over matter. For this reason we also offer our services for corporations wishing to organise something bespoke like team building, product launches, road trips, client entertainment etc.
Simultaneously, I try to spend as much time as I can in the music studio and travel as much as I can around the world spreading my music to educated listeners. I work really closely with live musicians such as electric guitarists and percussionists, and love showcasing them at my gigs.
What type of music do you play?
I hate pigeon-holing myself into a genre but I’d describe my music as a mystical blend of eastern instruments with deep bass lines and pulses of hypnotic electronic and techno sound waves. I’m very inspired by my roots and the mesmerising rhythmical sounds of the Indian and African subcontinent.
I’m very inspired by my roots and the mesmerising rhythmical sounds of the Indian and African subcontinent.
What made you want to become an entrepreneur?
Whilst there might be some things that catalyse, shape and spark the long road to entrepreneurship, I believe to a large degree that you are inherently born with the spirit, mindset and outlook. I’ve always looked at the world differently, never wanted to do the 9 to 5 thing and am a big risk taker. I think this creative DNA definitely stems from my grandfather who was a very successful entrepreneur in his time and his impact has lasted through generations.
Are there parallels in the music and automotive industry?
To be honest, there really aren’t many similarities other than the importance of teamwork, a minute female proportion and perhaps the feeling that both give you. Like many creative industries, music is a very difficult one to crack and to be taken seriously in. I’m constantly undermined, objectified and blocked by industrialists and getting paid on time is possibly what I spend half my life chasing.
Whilst there is a little bit of objectification in the racing seat, for most of the time my experiences with the industry have been very pleasurable. At the end of the day, once you put your helmet on, the only thing you’re being judged by is your performance. Being in that seat has really taught me the fundamentals of having a strong mindset and that has applied directly to music and staying strong when people knock you down. As with many things in life, having a strong team behind you is also crucial. I’m still working really hard to overcome this challenge.
Apart from time, what is currently your biggest obstacle in progressing with your businesses?
The biggest hurdle for me is the financial barrier. I took out a start-up loan, which has gone a long way, but it’s still nowhere near enough. I use a lot of my DJ earnings to invest back into the club and this is hard sometimes because it means I have to seriously sacrifice on personal expenditure but also as mentioned, there is no regularity or predictability in payments. Clubs are almost always late with payments, leaving you with no clue on when to expect funds and when you have to pay suppliers for racing, so immediately it becomes very difficult.
Do you have a set routine that you try to follow each day?
To be honest when university was in my life, yes! But in essence being a freelancer in a very turbulent industry, as well as a business owner, makes it hard to have a replicable day. For example, I might be given two days notice that I’m flying to New York for a gig and that puts an incredible strain on my schedule if I have important meetings planned for Regents Racing.
That’s why I try to tailor my business schedule around my musical life. Generally I try to keep RRS meetings from Monday – Wednesday and leave Thursday – Saturday open for DJ (disc jockey) gigs. One of the main things I try to keep consistent every day is making sure I get to spend at least one hour of my day with music, even if it just means making beats on the fly. I also greatly enjoy practicing yoga when I wake up, as it really helps to set clarity in my mind for the day ahead.
Wow! It definitely sounds like not one day is alike in your busy schedule! Do you really believe that you can be an expert in multiple things or do you think its better to stick to one thing and master it?
I honestly don’t believe we should be confined to one passion. These questions have always in my mind for a long time and my parents taught me I should be really good at one thing and do that one thing each day. This was the mindset they grew up with and thought this was the key to financial stability. With my parent’s generation you worked for the same company working your entire life building loyalty. However after the notorious recessions that occurred, I truly believe it shook up all of those preconceived notions from the last two decades.
I might be given two days notice that I’m flying to New York for a gig and that puts an incredible strain on my schedule if I have important meetings planned for Regents Racing.
Personally I want to be a living example that you can actively pursue two things at once as long as you are really focused on it and don’t give up. I was lucky enough to commercialise on both my passions during university and this was intrinsic to catalysing my career path.
Do you think you’ll ever have to choose between one or the other someday?
With the documentary we are producing right now, this is one of the major themes we are exploring. We can’t predict the future but we want to see where this journey will go. Will there be opportunities I have to turn down because of racing? I’m sure there will be and I definitely know if I was just doing one, I’d be even more ahead than I am now. However I believe this also gives me my USP and I love both equally so I really hope I’ll never be in a position to choose!