Meet Sahar Saidi, Founder and CEO of LUS Brands and the 2020 RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards Start-Up Recipient
Driven by motivation and a personal challenge, Sahar Founded LUS brands after feeling dissatisfied within the traditional job market. Funding a startup primarily from her own personal student line of credit — and built on a life-long struggle of not being able to find products that worked for her curly hair — Sahar wanted to prove to other budding entrepreneurs that you can start with very little and bootstrap your way to a hyper-growth, profitable business in a short time. She embarked on this path in 2017, and built a company that is valued at over $200 million in less than four years — earning her a 2020 RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Award in the Start-Up category.
My first job ever was…working as a ride operator at Fantasy Fair, an indoor amusement park for kids, inside Woodbine Mall.
I decided to be an entrepreneur because…no one would hire me! 15 years of work experience plus a recent double-MBA, and I couldn’t land a great job! I have always been entrepreneurial — this is what I was meant to do.
My proudest accomplishment is…LUS! Starting my company with less than $100K and doing that on my own was the hardest thing I have ever done. I am extremely proud to have turned that $100K into a company valued at over $200MM in less than 4 years.
My biggest setback was…not being able to convince investors to invest in me when I was first pitching the idea of LUS. No one believed a “shampoo company” would survive, let alone thrive.
I overcame it by… knocking on doors and ignoring all of the No’s. Finally an account manager at BDC understood my vision and encouraged me to apply through the Futurpreneur program for a loan. It worked. I received a loan of $45,000. I then drew the rest of the money from a personal credit line, and that’s what I used to start LUS!
If you Googled me, you still wouldn’t know…that I’m married and extremely family-oriented. Everything I do, including building LUS, I do for my family.
My best advice for aspiring entrepreneurs is…Let go of your safety net. As long as you have a “backup plan” you won’t succeed. If you’re serious about becoming a successful entrepreneur, you have to be all-in. It’s either success or failure, nothing in between.
The once piece of advice I give that I have trouble following myself is…to make sure you have balance in your life. Take real vacations where you get to unplug completely to rest and recuperate. As an entrepreneur, this is by far the hardest piece of advice to actually follow.
Success to me means…accomplishing your true goals. Success isn’t about meeting your parents’ or society’s goals, it’s about meeting your own goals! This isn’t easy though, because it means having a high level of self-awareness. You first have to know what you really want, before you can set out to achieve your goals. Learning how to set goals early on in life (I started at 18), and checking in on my goals often — because as we grow as individuals, our desires and goals should evolve too — has been one of the biggest factors to my success.
I stay inspired by…zooming my lenses out often and looking at the big picture. It’s easy to get bogged down in details when building a company — and in the details, you will find lots of challenges and problems — but when I zoom my lenses out, I can see how many customers’ lives we have touched with our products, how many people we are employing, and the bigger “why” to everything that we do every single day.
My next step is…to teach other aspiring entrepreneurs how to do what I have done. I have learned so much in building LUS and my next step is to figure out the medium I will use to achieve this objective. I want to help others build their own companies and hopefully avoid some of the setbacks I have experienced in my journey.