Meet the Founder: Zhanara S

Meet the Founder: Zhanara S

Do you have any nicknames?
 People call me Zhaka!

Where did you grow up?
It’s a little dynamic. I was born in Turkey and lived there for a few years. Then, I moved to Kazakhstan where I grew up. I moved to the US at thirteen.” 

What are you passionate about?
Honestly, learning! Things like psychology really interest me, people's behavior really interests me. Art too! Not learning about art history necessarily, but art as a hobby and now a career! Exploring is also a passion of mine. I love exploring and traveling because I’ve lived in so many areas that I've really seen a lot of different locations around the world. Spending time with family and friends is also really important to me.” 

What was your education like?
I attended my first boarding school when moving to the US. It was called MacDuffie. There I remember we were driving with my parents, and I was thinking about what I wanted to do. I’d moved to such a new area and I was already thinking about my career like that back in the day. I knew I wanted to do business. I then went to NMH, where I was applying to business schools for college.” 

What college did you decide on?
I applied early decision at Babson for Business Administration and that was an easy decision for me. There were a couple schools I liked but Babson was well ranked for entrepreneurship. I could explore marketing, finance, analytics- it was such a mix of things that would be good to immerse myself in and really explore different areas of business and see what I liked more. It was a small school, around 2,000 kids in total. It was tiny but I liked that because it was similar to my smaller boarding schools. It had a good sense of community.” 

What was your college experience like?
Immediately I loved it. I met a lot of people, and everyone was super interesting and had their own passions and things they liked doing. There were kids who already had their own businesses at that point, which was surprising! We had this class called FME. Basically, you get put into groups of fifteen students. And what you had to do was start a business from scratch. First semester your group got a max amount of money, and you actually had to go in and create a strategy, go talk to the manufacturers, and coordinate things. You had to build a business plan, and implement it. Then in the second semester, you start actually selling your product. We actually sold a good amount! My team was great. I was assigned and voted in as the role of CEO on my team. I learned a lot in that year: organization, leadership, public speaking, team work, and communication.

Did you have internships during college?
In the next couple of years I dove into finance a little bit more, while still taking entrepreneurship classes. I had a sales internship, and I hated it! Then I had a finance internship, more like thinking about investment and stocks. That internship I really liked because I did a lot of research, presentations, and learned a lot about other companies and what they do- their strengths and weaknesses. It taught me critical thinking skills the most, as well as research skills. The last internship I had was investment banking. It was a really good internship, it was challenging and taught me a lot. I learned perseverance. I didn’t know a lot of things at first, but I continuously learned and grew. At the end of that internship I got a full time offer.

What did you do after graduating college?
I didn’t take the full time offer from the internship I was offered. I had another full time offer at the same time for a corporate finance job. So I worked in corporate finance for eight months. I didn’t really like it. The company was almost too big for me. You were in your own little team, so it was hard to feel like you were part of the company. Each department had hundreds of people. It was hard to feel like you were part of something bigger. The company does great, it just wasn’t a good fit for me. I didn’t have that sense of community I was looking for.

What inspired you to start the brand?
I was scared after leaving my corporate finance job, because I wasn’t sure what direction I was going. I was more anxious all the time. I always knew what I wanted to do before, and this was the first time things didn’t work out the way I thought they would. I felt lost in general. The brand was the first thing to help me focus. I was learning again, feeling inspired, being creative and artistic- I hadn’t had that in a while. I took small steps, like registering the business and things took off from there! The community I had from college and the things I learned at Babson definitely helped. I knew other people who were 22 starting a business, and that made me feel like everything was going to work out and be okay.

What has been your favorite part of having Vinadi so far?
My team! I love talking to them, collaborating, brainstorming together and sharing ideas. It makes it more exciting! It makes it feel more real! When it was just me, it was just me in my head. Now that I have a team it makes it feel real. You’re talking about it, you're making it, you're doing it. Having a team also brings more to the brand in general. It builds it more. It has more personality. I also like the organizational part, making a plan, designing how everything looks. Taking a step back and figuring out what needs to be done or changed is one of my favorite parts too.

Where do you see yourself in five years?
That’s a hard question! Let me think. Well I hope Vinadi is successful and we have a loyal community that we built. Hopefully seeing the clothing in stores! Whether that is our own or other retailers. Kind of getting out there more and getting more recognition. In terms of where I see myself, I want to be more independent and still learning. I hope I’m always curious and on my feet, hustling. Being independent financially and emotionally. I hope I’m continuing to explore myself and my possibilities and opportunities. Growing generally!” 

What are your favorite fashion trends right now?
I like how people are more expressive these days. I feel like fashion overall is such a huge part of your personality and how you express yourself. I love seeing people express themselves more through their clothing with colorsunique fits, and cultures. It’s inspiring! Now, I feel like more than ever, people are comfortable wearing unconventional clothes and that’s really exciting.

Anything you can share about Vinadi’s upcoming collection? 
"It’s going to be very exciting. I can say it’s the fall/winter collection. That’s all I can say right now, but there will be more info coming very soon!