Meet the Founder: Farah Azmi
For the past couple of weeks, I have struggled to take the time to write a blog post solely about myself. When someone suggested a “meet the founder” story for Instagram, I honestly brushed it off. I have been pushing it off for quite some time because I dislike talking about myself and my past. However, after push comes to shove – and the want for our customers to know our story– here I am today.
I’ll start from the very beginning. I was born in Malaysia and came to the U.S. when I was one. I lived in random places throughout the U.S. from Memphis, Tennessee; to Magnolia, Arkansas; to Cedar City, Utah. When we first moved to the U.S., we were quite poor, to say the least. My dad was getting a Ph.D. to become a professor and supported a family of four on zero income. As a current student myself, I am completely in awe reflecting back to see how much my dad sacrificed to get all four mouths fed every day.
Being a child of immigrants – and being a poor one at that – stemmed my love of fashion. As you can imagine, Utah is nothing like Arkansas and southern Arkansas is nothing like Memphis. However, fashion allowed me to connect to each of those different cultures. When I was 5, I remember looking at girls with big bows in their hair and cute dresses and wanting my own oversized bow. As a pre-teen in Arkansas, I loved the sequined Limited Two tops and hoped for my own. However, given my socio-economic status, I could never afford any of it. Instead, I frequented garage sales and the clearance rack at Wal-Mart to try to fit in among my peers. However, to the credit of my mother, she made my clothing. She was my personal fashion designer growing up creating all my pieces just so I can keep up with my friends. The same sewing machine that she used for my clothes as a 5-year-old was the same machine I used when I was 16 to sew my own clothes.
When it was time for college, my parents played typical Tiger Parents and did not let me dare think about majoring in fashion design. At the University of Utah, during my freshman year, I joined every club to understand the different majors from accounting to marketing to finance. When I went to the finance club, I was introduced to the advisor, Professor Liz Tashjian. Under her guidance, she introduced me to fellow students venturing into this world of investment banking. She even introduced me to amazing alumni who would later become mentors and help me get into investment banking myself. Without her, I’m not sure if I would even be at Harvard Business School. Liz kickstarted my career and single-handedly helped me be where I am today.
To be honest, I was one of those that had a five-year plan post-undergrad: work in banking, work at an apparel company, go to business school then start a company. I thought these skillsets would set me up to be able to run an apparel company well – so that’s exactly what I did. While my journey may seem seamless, it certainly didn’t feel like it in the moment. During my darkest moments in banking pulling several all-nighters, I remember talking with my best friend from undergrad who pushed me and encouraged me to keep fighting. She constantly told me I was strong enough to power-through the awful days for a better tomorrow. Then at Tommy, as I started to lead my own projects, I’m thankful for my manager who was patient and mentored me to teach me how to lead a room, present my materials confidently and stand-up for my position. These women are just some of the women who have pushed me to be a better female leader today.
Therefore, in reality, I can’t talk about myself without speaking about these incredible women. My story is only a by-product of them. I am the daughter of Nur Azizah Yahaya, a student of Liz Tashjian and a friend to so many others. All these women shaped who I am today, and I’m forever grateful to them all. When it comes to building a startup, it is no surprise that I wanted to build an apparel company that supports female leaders. IXORA Apparel is dedicated to all these women that have supported me to chase my dreams, and I hope IXORA Apparel can help you achieve yours.