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Successful entrepreneurs share stories of perseverance at Global Leadership Summit

Like millions of business leaders around the world, Erik Smith attended this year’s Global Leadership Summit and was particularly inspired by British entrepreneur, Sahar Hashemi.

Smith, the owner/operator of Chick-fil-A’s Grovetown location, watched the annual live broadcast event at TrueNorth Church, one of more than 500 host sites throughout the United States, on Thursday and Friday. The summit featured 14 speakers, including Hashemi, co-founder of Coffee Republic.

She told her story and shared her motto: “Anything worth doing is worth doing badly.” That resonated with Smith.

“The learning process is really important, so it’s OK to take calculated risks,” he said.

Sahar Hashemi

Hashemi never thought she had what it took to become an entrepreneur, so she became an attorney, a profession she jokingly refers to as “the opposite of being an entrepreneur.” But a trip to New York City completely changed her career plans.

While visiting her brother, Bobby, Hashemi went out to find a good cup of coffee. She discovered a coffee bar and found her new favorite drink: a skinny cappuccino.

Hashemi told Bobby she wished London had coffee bars like the one she visited. He came up with the idea of them opening a New York-style coffee shop in Great Britain. Hashemi said she had envisioned someone else opening it and her being the customer.

Bobby convinced her to pursue the idea, but they were turned down by numerous bank managers who questioned their idea to open a coffee business in a country where tea is the most popular drink.

“We got rejections from 19 bank managers, and the 20th bank manager said yes to us,” she said. “I have no idea why he said yes to us.”

When they opened their business, the U.K.’s first coffee bar, in 1995, they had almost no customers for the first six months. But Hashemi and Bobby didn’t give up, and within five years, the company grew from one store to 110 stores.

“I don’t believe in overnight success,” she said. “We love the idea of overnight success, but actually, it takes 15 years to become an overnight success.”

When the company culture shifted, they left the Coffee Republic.

Like Hashemi, Vanessa Van Edwards, another of this year’s speakers, overcame major rejection. Van Edwards founded the Science of People, a company that helps its clients develop stronger professional and personal relationships by improving their social skills.

In 2010, she was an aspiring writer who submitted articles to numerous publications before landing a book deal. Van Edwards spent a year writing the book, which she describes as a total failure. Van Edwards sold very few copies, and it received negative reviews.

“I was told to stop writing,” she said. “I was told I would never publish again.”

Vanessa Van Edwards

Van Edwards was devastated, but her husband and editor encouraged her to continue writing. In 2017, a publishing company asked her to write another book, but she initially refused and told her editor she didn’t know how to write books.

“She said, ‘write the book you would want to read,” Van Edwards said.

In 2017, she published a bestseller: “Captivate: The Science of Succeeding with People.”

“Behind every success, I’ve had many, many failures,” Van Edwards said. “But every failure I’ve had has led to my successes.”

Hashemi learned to embrace rejection.

“Expect rejection, welcome it, and see your life change,” she said.

Other speakers included Bob Iger, former CEO of The Walt Disney Company; Deb Liu, CEO of Ancestry; film director and actor, Ron Howard; and Lynsi Snyder, President, and owner of In-N-Out Burger.

For more information, visit globalleadership.org/global-leadership-summit/?locale=en.

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