One of my absolute favourite things about Ryerson is the amount of entrepreneurial talent we have on campus. It’s not uncommon to learn that one of your classmates is in the development stage of their startup, or is even running a wildly successful business when not in class. Ryerson students have access to a ton of resources, like our unique Entrepreneurship major and minor, award-winning startup incubators, and student groups to help them foster their ideas and talent. Ryerson Startups is a chance to showcase some of our hard working student entrepreneurs and their different journeys!
Over the winter break I spoke to Shahad Mahdi, a fourth year Retail Management student and founder of the startup Black Orchid. Black Orchid combines positive Middle Eastern and Muslim representations with pop culture elements to create a variety of fashion and accessory pieces. Shahad spoke to me about finding her entrepreneurial drive, what it’s like being a part of the Fashion Zone (Ryerson’s fashion-based startup incubator), and how she manages to balance being a student and running her business. Check out the full interview below!
What inspired you to create your startup?
I always knew that I wanted to be an entrepreneur. I come from a family of entrepreneurs. I simply found an opportunity and acted upon it. Black Orchid is my first business, and hopefully there will be more in the future.
What was it like applying for the Fashion Zone, and how has the program helped you develop your startup?
Joining the Fashion Zone was unplanned for me. I went to one of their events last year and met Andrea Romero, the Zone’s Director of Business Development and Community Management. She talked to me about joining the incubator and I applied. Ever since then I have been a proud member of the Fashion Zone!
The Fashion Zone has introduced me to a great community of entrepreneurs and has provided support when I need it. One of the biggest perks of joining the Fashion Zone is having access to the facilities 24/7. This is a huge advantage for me because it allows me to work and have meetings there before and after class, or even late in the evening.
Ryerson is often recognized for its vibrant startup community. What does being part of this community mean to you?
Being a part of the startup community at Ryerson is one of my favourite parts of being a Ryerson student. I joined multiple student groups but never felt like I fit in more than I do here! Getting to meet fellow entrepreneurs who inspire you and understand your life is simply priceless.
Being a university student and running your own business is a lot to take on. How have you been able to manage both aspects of your life?
Running my own business and being a student is definitely a lot to take on, in addition to living far from Ryerson and having to drive and take the subway to get to campus. I often find myself answering phone calls on my Bluetooth during my drive and get work done on my laptop on the subway. My study breaks include packing orders and posting on social media for my business. I think what keeps me going is my love for business and entrepreneurship. My business motivates me to do better in school and what I learn in school motivates me to work more on my business.
What is your top piece of advice for students who are considering studying at Ryerson?
I think most people feel uncertain about what they want to do in the future when they first start university. Luckily if you come to Ryerson, you are in the right place to find yourself and grow to be the person you are meant to be. Ryerson has a lot to offer: startup incubators, student groups and associations, professional events, and even entertainment events! Explore as much as possible! Join student groups! Get to know professionals and fellow passionate students! Go to events! Find a mentor! You never know where those experiences may take you.
Featured Image: Shahad Mahdi
Edit: a previous version of this blog indicated the Shahad was in the Business Management program. The content has been updated to the correct program, Retail Management.